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Vancouver, B.C.: Advocacy Groups Call for ‘Living Wage’
Nanaimo News Bulletin
Rachel Stern

November 23, 2010
View the Original Article

Advocacy groups around the province are calling for cities and corporations to establish a living wage as more B.C. families find themselves struggling to make ends meet.

New Westminster was the first Canadian city to enact a living wage bylaw earlier this year, requiring the city and all contractors to pay a certain level of compensation. Nanaimo city council hasn’t discussed the issue.

“I’m supportive of the principle,” said Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan.

Ruttan said he doesn’t know the impact on small business or if it would force some to fire employees.

The premise of the living wage is that full-time work should allow households to cover basic needs, like rent, food and clothing.

Gord Fuller, chairman of the 7-10 Club Society, said a living wage makes sense in today’s society and needs to be implemented. If it isn’t, the government should at least increase the minimum wage to help lift people out of poverty.

The report, Working for a Living Wage: Making Paid Work Meet Basic Family Needs in Metro Vancouver conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: B.C. Office, states most families are getting a smaller slice of the economic pie despite working longer hours and getting more education.

It goes on to describe how low-wage earning families face impossible choices, live with anxiety, have long-term health problems and spiralling debt just to cover basics.

The report found a family with two working parents and two children aged four to seven working 35 hours per week would need to earn $18.17 an hour in Metro Vancouver and $17.31 an hour in Victoria. No information is currently available for Nanaimo.

Seth Klein, B.C. director of the CCPA, said in an address to the Standing Committee on Children and Youth this May, that assistance programs cut out too early. He said a family of four doesn’t qualify for many subsidy programs and without a living wage families make sacrifices that affect the entire society.

“People work a second and third job and they don’t see their kids. We all pay for that,” said Klein.

For more information, please go to http://livingwageforfamilies.ca.

Living wage ‘bare bones budget’

The budget – from Working For a Living Wage: 2010 Update – is an estimate for a family in Metro Vancouver with two parents earning $18.17 per hour, or $33,069 each annually.

Food: $756 per month, based on estimates from the Dietitians of Canada.

Clothing: $187 per month.

Shelter: $1,346 per month, includes a rent estimate for a three-bedroom apartment, utilities, telephone and content insurance.

Transportation: $442 per month, which includes two bus passes and the cost of owning and operating a used car.

Child care: $1,096 per month, for a four-year old in full-time care, a seven year old in after-school care and six weeks of summer care.

Medical Service Plan premiums: $114 per month.

Non-MSP health care: $113 per month, for Pacific Blue Cross Insurance.

Parents education: $88 per month, allowing for two college courses a year.

Contingency fund: $212 per month, to provide some savings for emergency situations.

Other: $689 per month, includes personal care items, furniture, household items, school supplies and minimum recreation and entertainment.

Total: $5,043