Living wage drops in the Comox Valley

A report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) reveals the living wage has dropped in the Comox Valley — for the first time in a decade — by eight per cent, from $16.59 to $15.28 per hour.

“Which means that life is more affordable for families with young children,” Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard said.

Living wage refers to basic costs for a family of two parents and two children, ages four and seven.

Leonard said the CCPA largely attributes the decrease to the NDP’s child care program.

“We have the Affordable Child Care Benefit, and the universal Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative, so they are attributing it very specifically to that, and they highlighted the reduction in MSP premiums,” Leonard said. “This is a really big thing because we know that we have the highest poverty rates for children in Canada, and we are working very hard to improve that situation. This is going to go a long way. It’s demonstrating we’re going in the right direction, because the story of child poverty is very much a story of low wages.”

Leonard notes that 77 per cent of families are coupled, but more than half of B.C.’s “poor kids” live in two-parent families.

“So it is a significant number of people who are seeing the benefits of our government policies.”

The minimum wage, she notes, will jump to $15.20 by June 2021.

(It is currently set at $12.65.)

“It would be ideal to have the minimum wage and the living wage being the same thing, but we have something to celebrate today because we’re getting closer to our goal,” Leonard said.

While lauding government investment in child care, Living Wage for Families Campaign organizer Halena Seiferling says the living wage decline will be short-lived without sustained public investment in key family expense areas, especially housing.

“We call on the provincial government to take similar bold measures in other policy areas, especially on the high and rapidly growing cost of rent,” Seiferling said in a news release. “Maximum rent increases should be tied to the unit rather than to the tenant to protect housing affordability, and existing, affordable housing stock must be protected.”

The Comox Valley Social Planning Society is embarking on a living wage campaign to increase the number of local living wage employers.

“We are really encouraging local employers to pay a living wage and become a living wage employer,” society president Bunny Shannon said.

Interested businesses can find out more at bit.ly/2IYbAuk

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