Ever voted? Gone to an exercise class? Took your child to a group activity? Worked at or received assistance from a food bank? How many times did these activities take place in a faith-building (church, synagogue, mosque, gurdwara)?  What if that building was gone?

Eighteen months ago the Ontario Trillium Foundation gave me the opportunity to explore that question employing a purely data-driven lens and working with partners from Ontario Non-Profit Network, Faith & the Common Good, the National Trust for Canada, Cardus, and the City of Toronto.

All across Ontario faith buildings are closing at a vast rate.  The United Church of Canada closes one building a week while some reports have the Anglican Church of Canada’s zero member date as 2040.  This represents a vast and invisible infrastructure that could disappear, be demolished, changed into condo developments or simply left to time and neglect.  We set out to answer the question:

How many not-for-profit and community groups are operating out of faith buildings and thus what might be the cost of their loss?

We received over 1900 surveys of which 948 provided statistically valid data. Here’s what we know:

More data and graphs and data specific to the region is available at the study’s page www.communityspacefaithplace.org including a full story map at https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/eb0d30af19cb478289ce79a8de71a255 providing a deep dive of those reporting from Huron County.

But more than the data I’m interested in this not-for-profit land ownership of historic buildings and the public good it has enabled. Because of their age faith buildings are often mortgage-free allowing less operating costs. They were built for public good and have served that role admirably for over a hundred years. But Canadian society is changing.  Many Canadians do not practice a religion. And thus there is no congregation to volunteer to keep these often massive structures running on behalf of everyone.  And so they close, we mourn the loss of a historic building, a civic wayfinding point and a place to gather.  And then we move on.  But for how long? At what cost? When will there be no where left to gather? What will replace them?

I firmly believe (along with a group of smart collaborators) that there is a way forward that could allow many of these buildings to serve society in a post-religious Canada and still provide a place of sanctuary for those who profess a faith.  These buildings can move out of the shadows and move from invisible infrastructure to visible, with the collaboration of municipalities, funders, dioceses, and communities of faith.  There are already examples all over this nation. So let’s be hopeful and turning the invisible into visible and accessible to everyone.  

Kendra Fry, Faith & the Common Good

There has been no subject more widely discussed than the nature of COVID-19 and its effect on the world’s population. It is a subject that everyone wants to jump in on, everyone has an opinion or a theory. It has never been more important to us all to learn about this pandemic from reliable, trustworthy, knowledgeable and authoritative sources.

In Perth and Huron Counties the first source of good local information and advice is the Huron Perth Public Health. The health unit information can be found at: https://www.hpph.ca/en/index.aspx. The health unit provides advice by telephone on a variety of public health issues including COVID-19. Call the nurse at: 519-221-3267 x3267. The Medical Officer of Heath, Dr. Miriam Klassen, has been talking about the current state of the virus weekly on Thursdays on Facebook www.facebook.com/HuronPerthPublicHealth. Your family doctor remains a primary source of medical advice and treatment.

For the province of Ontario, there are two official sources of information, the Government of Ontario and Public Health Ontario. The Government of Ontario website contains up to date information on everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Ontario. The Government of Ontario website is: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/. The Public Health Ontario website contains up to date information on COVID-19 research and an interactive tool showing COVID-19 activity in Ontario over time. The Public Health Ontario website is: https://www.publichealthontario.ca/.

A number of health scientists including epidemiologists and statisticians centered at the University of Toronto have been working together to provide analysis of COVID-19 data and can be found at: https://howsmyflattening.ca/. The dashboard provides some of the data graphically in an easy–to-read form.

One measure, Rt, is a particularly informative index. The Rt value is an estimate of whether the spread of the virus is expanding or contracting. It is a count of the number of people an infected person passes on the infection to over the next seven days after he or she has been tested positive.  If Rt is greater than 1 the number of affected people will grow, but if the number is less than 1 the number of affected people will shrink. Eventually as the disease wanes the Rt value should approach 0. From April 15 to June 24, 2020, the value of Rt for Ontario hovered around 1.

One of these investigators cited on the How’s My Flattening site, Mohammed Abdalla, has analyzed the nature of calls to the 211 community information service before and after the pandemic and it documents the substantial increase in calls after the closure of schools and other public institutions as of the end of April, 2020. He provides information about who is using the service and the nature of calls. This report can be found at: https://howsmyflattening.ca/#/analysis/211_ontario_:_social_effects_of_covid-19.

The Public Health Agency of Canada provides reliable data for the country as a whole. It can be found at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

International data are provided by the World Health Organization which can be located at: https://www.who.int.

A reliable source for  American COVID-19 data and analysis is Johns Hopkins University which can be found at: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/.

Since it is so important to understand and eradicate this virus many people have new, untried ideas about how to deal with the virus and many are proposing that treatments for other diseases, some of which are unrelated to COVID-19, be tried. One should be very careful not to buy into “plausible” but untested and unproven remedies. Advice on filtering through these proposed remedies is offered by many sources. The American Food and Nutrition Science Alliance offers a list of 10 signs that the material you are reading may be junk science (as reproduced by the University of Nevada at Reno). This list includes accepting quick fixes, believing claims that seem too good to be true, accepting recommendations based on a single study and following lists of “good” and “bad” foods.

Scientific questions about COVID-19 are often addressed by Dr. Joe Swarcz and his colleagues at the McGill University Centre for Science and Society. This office has a long history of critically examining science and medical questions that are in the public eye.

CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks has interviewed experts in this subject. They deliver their reports on radio, and on Facebook

The American public radio programme, Science Friday, has addressed the disease and the pandemic often. They have a radio programme on NPR and deliver their message by podcast too.

There are many good, trustworthy sources for reliable information of COVID-19 and the pandemic.

The concept of a Living Wage is bigger than income. It’s about quality of life. It’s about ensuring our neighbours can afford to pay their rent and buy nutritious food. It’s about ensuring our workers are healthy and able to pay for transportation to get to work every day. It’s about ensuring our children are given sufficient social and educational opportunities so they can flourish. The calculation is based on the living expenses of a family of four in Perth Huron with both adults working full-time for 35 hours a week each, once government transfers and deductions have been taken into account.

For 2019, the Social Research and Planning Council have released the Living Wage as $17.55 per hour. Please click here for the Report Summary.

For the Full 2015 Report, please click here.

To learn more about becoming a Living Wage Employer, please click here.

For the October 4, 2019 Quarterly Report featuring the Living Wage, please click here.

Our Living Wage Employers for Perth-Huron Counties are:

Aeonic Kitchens
A Touch of Dutch Landscaping and Garden Services Ltd.
Bluewater Recycling Association
B.M. Ross and Associates Limited
Bodmin Limited
The County of Huron
Drummond Brothers Landscaping
FnA Construction
FGC Limited
Hay Communications
Libro Credit Union
The Local Community Food Centre
Luckhardt Landworks
MacLeods Scottish Shop
Mornington Communications Cooperative Ltd.
The Municipality of North Perth
The North Perth Chamber of Commerce
On Stage Dance Studio
Ontariobeerkegs Inc.
Partners Paint and Paper
Peter Maranger and Associates Inc., The Co-operators
Point Farms Market and Miniature Golf
Quadro Communications Co-operative Inc.
Ross Yantzi's Pavestone Plus
United Way Perth-Huron
Ward and Uptigrove Chartered Professional Accountants
Williams Drainage
Woodcock Brothers Transportation Group

Travel from one county to another to work

There is a lot of movement for employment; there are a lot of people travelling to other counties to work. Some counties send a lot of workers to other counties and some keep most of their workers near home. 

Some counties such as Huron and Oxford have a large proportion of their workers going to other counties. For Huron County, 27% of workers travel to another county and for Oxford County 32% of workers travel to another county to work. 

Some counties keep their workers at home, including Middlesex and Lambton, where only 10% leave the county to work. 

Of course, leaving the county might mean travelling long distances or only a few kilometers. 

While the net gain for Perth County is 2740, the net loss for Huron County is 2100. What accounts for this? Here are some hypotheses.

Perhaps, if housing is available amd less expensive in one county, but appealing jobs were available in another, workers might travel from one county to another to work. Perhaps, couples who choose to live in one county have jobs in two different counties. What do you think?

  Stay PutTravel Out% Travelling OutTravel InNetFar Away Destinations
Huron 15,3355,700273,600-2100Toronto - 70, Oxford - 75, Hamilton - 20
Perth 25,2506,645219,3852,740Toronto - 170, Hamilton - 30, Simcoe - 25, York - 20
Huron to Perth2,355      
Perth to Huron825      
Waterloo 192,33538,6151737,880-725 
Waterloo to Huron105      
Huron to Waterloo475      
Waterloo to Perth1,875      
Perth to Waterloo2,970      
Middlesex 162,17518,7901022,9354,145 
Middlesex to Huron1,135      
Huron to Middlesex1,010      
Middlesex to Perth 1,990      
Perth to Middlesex815      
Oxford 31,13514,8253215,535710 
Oxford to Huron 60      
Huron to Oxford75      
Oxford to Perth1,630      
Perth to Oxford710      
Wellington 67,77028,4253029,8651,440Waterloo - 10825, Toronto - 2290
Wellington to Huron100      
Huron to Wellington340      
Wellington to Perth900      
Perth to Wellington820      
Lambton 41,2954,730103,810-920 
Lambton to Huron380      
Huron to Lambton380      
Lambton to Perth55      
Perth to Lambton0      
Bruce 18,1105,90525   
Bruce to Huron775      
Huron to Bruce840      
Bruce to Perth160      
Perth to Bruce60      
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