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More than half in B.C. say downtown cores have declined in past year: poll

Click to play video: 'New survey suggests major concerns about declining downtown cores in B.C.' New survey suggests major concerns about declining downtown cores in B.C.
From mental illness to drug addiction and homelessness, many British Columbians say their downtown cores have become less safe. As Paul Johnson tells us, the findings could be a catalyst for change with municipal elections just months away – Aug 11, 2022

With municipal elections just two months out, a new poll has found more than half of British Columbians have concerns about the state of their downtown cores.

The survey, conducted by Leger, found 54 per cent of respondents in the province believe the downtown in the city closest to where they lived had declined in the last year. More than three in 10 said it had declined significantly.

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That’s nearly 10 points higher than the 45 per cent of Canadians who said their nearest downtown had deteriorated, and about three in 10 in the U.S. who said the same.

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“It’s really through the roof,” Leger Vancouver vice-president Steve Mossop said, adding few other issues than inflation or gas prices generated such strong responses from the public.

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“I think it will absolutely be a municipal election issue, because we’re not just talking about downtown Vancouver, we’re talking about the downtown cores of the places closest to where they live, whether it be Maple Ridge or Surrey.”

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Mossop said the results also showed the concerns weren’t limited to urban dwellers, with rural residents generating similar results for the downtown nearest to their home.

Among British Columbians, mental health challenges were given as the top reason for the decline, followed by rising crime rates, drug addiction and homelessness, safety concerns and lack of cleanliness.

About one in five respondents (22 per cent) said they’d feared for their safety downtown in the past six months, while 18 per cent said they’d experienced aggressive behaviour and 16 per cent said they’d been the victim of petty theft.

The poll was conducted from Aug. 5 and Aug. 8, 2022, with a representative sample of 1,509 Canadians and 1,002 Americans over the age of 18 drawn from Leger Opinion’s representative panel. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures. A margin of error cannot be associated with a non-probability sample in a panel survey. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would have a margin of error ±2.52%, 19 times out of 20 for the Canadian sample.

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