Living-wage another step toward equality

On Sept. 7, Quesnel, B.C. became the second municipality in Canada, coincidentally the second in B.C., to implement a living wage policy.

Whether or not we need one in Valemount, I’m not sure, but do we need a living wage in parts of Canada? Absolutely. Maybe then, does it make sense to do it everywhere?

The ultimate goal when implementing a living wage, according to the Living Wage Canada Campaign (LWCC), is for municipalities to make it easier for working families to meet their expenses, as sometimes standard of living exceeds the minimum wage.

The LWCC encourages employers to pay a living wage, too, as advocates for government policies potentially helping families make ends meet.

The LWCC does calculations regionally, it says, which looks at the amount a family of four — with two full-time, working adults — needs to earn to meet their expenses.

The living wage for the North Central Interior is currently calculated to be $16.52 per hour, according to the LWCC.

According to the LWCC, living wage includes basic expenses like: rent, food, transportation and child care, but does not include savings for the future, home ownership or debt repayment.

Mayor of Quesnel, Bob Simpson, initially brought the policy forward to council, the LWCC said in a press release. The city was concerned about its citizens being key investors in the local economy, Simpson said.

“If people can barely afford to live where they work then they cannot participate fully in the local economy or be engaged in their community, either as participants or as volunteers,” Simpson said in the press release.

As some of our readers know, I come from Winnipeg, MB.

What many people don’t know is that I lived in the Federal Electoral Riding of Winnipeg Center, which is dubbed one of the poorest in the country.

Ironically, I was a student and fully supported by the federal government for most of my time living in the riding.

But, not everyone living there lived with the luxury I did.

I saw some very poor families, struggling daily to feed and cloth their kids, living in squalor, many of them were indigenous or immigrants — living in bug and rodent infested homes — and though nobody really complained (at least to me), it’s clearly not right, and needs attention.

B.C. is a leader in Canada’s living wage movement, according to LWCC, and has one of the strongest economies in the country.

We have an opportunity to continue leading the way, nationally.

New Westminster was the first municipality in Canada to become a Living Wage Employer, and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations was the first First Nations government to certify as a Living Wage Employer.

Parksville, Port Coquitlam and the City of Vancouver, too, have recently passed living wage policies and are moving towards implementation, according to the LWCC.

There are 65 Living Wage Employer’s across B.C. covering over 6,500 direct staff and countless contracted staff, LWCC says, so why not Valemount?

While we have a great community, there are people who struggle here too.

This idea seems like a slam-dunk to me, and it’s just another way to make Valemount an even better place, and to narrow the gap between those who have no financial worries, and those who worry about nothing else.

As I’ve seen over the last four months, change can be difficult for a small town to embrace, but our world is changing in so many ways, so should we.

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