Living wage for north rises to $16.51

The Living Wage for Families Campaign has raised its assessment of what constitutes a living wage in Prince George to $16.51.
The Integris Credit Union and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, both members of the campaign, have raised their assessment of the living wage by 12 cents this year for those living in the north central region, which includes Prince George, Quesnel, Fort St. James and Vanderhoof. Last year’s living wage for the region was set at $16.39 per hour.
The CCPA defines a living wage as the hourly amount required by a family of four, with two income-earning parents and two children, to raise a family while avoiding “the chronic stress of living in poverty.” The organization sets its calculation of a living wage based on the costs associated with specific communities in Canada. The wage assumes both parents would be working full-time and earning this wage, without necessarily drawing medical benefits from their employer.
This year, the living wage for families living in Vancouver was determined to be $20.91 per hour, while Victoria’s was calculated at $20.50 per hour.
According to Cori Ramsay, who compiled this year’s research for the north central region, the rise in this year’s living wage was prompted by increases in the cost of childcare and transportation.
But Ramsay said a recent move by the provincial government to subsidize daycare costs was not factored into this year’s numbers, as it was unclear how much savings would be transferred to low-income families. The province is pursuing a program to provide child-care providers with up to $350 per toddler or infant, per month. The aim of the subsidy is to reduce child-care costs for families.
“It’s not really indicative of what the cost is right now, until the licensed child-care providers become certified and actually get the credit for the fee reduction,” Ramsay said of the current cost of the subsidy.
“Childcare did increase more than the cost of transportation but once that fee reduction is implemented, it will really drastically affect the cost of childcare, driving it down for low-income families.”
Ramsay said it is possible the living wage in this region could be reduced as of next year due to the subsidies.
She also said the increased cost of owning a vehicle also played into the higher living wage rate. The cost of transportation has increased by eight per cent, or by $65 per month.
Several municipalities across B.C., including Quesnel, Vancouver, New Westminster, Central Saanich and Pitt Meadows, have adopted policies pledging to pay all municipal employees at least a living wage. Prince George has so far not adopted a living wage policy.
Other employers, such as Integris Credit Union and the P.S. Pianos store on Brunswick Street have signed on to certify themselves as living wage employers. Ramsay said these shows of support were important for demonstrating momentum for the Living Wage for Families campaign.
“When it comes to poverty, we have employers that say, ‘I already pay living wages, I don’t need to certify.’ To me certification, even if you’re paying higher wages, is becoming an ally of the movement,” she said.
“We are all paying for poverty in the long run through our taxes. People that are living in poverty go to the doctor more.”
The B.C. minimum wage is set to jump to $12.65 on June 1. The provincial government has committed to raising the minimum wage to $15.20 per hour by 2021, with increases occurring yearly.
Restaurant employers have claimed these increases are too high, while labour unions in B.C. have argued that the increases are not occurring quickly enough for workers.

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