Greater Victoria’s living wage rose by almost $4 from 2021, with annual household expenses up $10,229.
The 2022 living wage report, prepared by the Community Social Planning Council, looks at the hourly wage two working parents with two young children must earn to meet their basic expenses once government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies have been calculated.
The report cited increases in housing and food costs for the 20 per cent leap to $24.29, up from $20.46 in 2021. Marking the first time Greater Victoria has surpassed Metro Vancouver.
Greater Victoria reports the third-highest living wage in B.C., Haida Gwaii tops the list at $25.87, followed by Golden at $25.56 and Metro Vancouver comes in fourth at $24.08, according to a provincial list complied by Living Wage for Families BC in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC.
“This is the biggest increase we’ve seen since we started calculating the living wage,” said Diana Gibson, co-author of the Greater Victoria report, in an online panel discussion.
While housing is the biggest overall driver of the living wage increase, Gibson said the increase in food costs is significant to this year’s report, with a 25.71 per cent increase.
Annual household expenses for a typical family of four rose by $10,229, more than 12 per cent, compared to 2021. With the exception of childcare, which dropped by 0.16 per cent, the report found other costs were up across the board. Housing, transportation and childcare continue to make up substantial portions of annual expenses with the median monthly rent of a three-bedroom apartment or townhome up $278 to $2,121.
The report also included a contingency plan for things outside of necessities, such as buying children’s birthday presents and paying for emergencies in an effort to maintain a realistic rate, but is still just the minimum of what is needed monthly.
“It does give a dignified income, it does move you beyond to the place where you’re not having to choose between essentials at the end of the month, but it doesn’t move you too far beyond that,” Gibson said.
Government policies have impacted the living wage in the past, specifically the Affordable Child Care Benefit in B.C., which contributed to a drop between 2018 and 2019.
“This shows us that government action around an area in this budget for families can make a difference,” Gibson said.
There was also a call for further government action from the other panellist Pamela Charron, Bronwyn Farley and Calen McNeil.
McNeil, founder of Big Wheel Burger Inc., has been striving to reach a living wage for all of his staff for years.
With climate change impacting the prices of many of the crops he needs to supply his restaurants, McNeil called on the government to increase investment in programs that help fight extreme weather.
Additionally, he said the government can help business owners with affordable housing legislation and lower employee taxes, thus reducing the burden of providing a wage to meet the high costs of living in Greater Victoria.
“This is the current living wage in Victoria,” noted Farley, who works for the Umbrella Society. “Our staff feels it and our community feels it.”
The report comes on the heels of what Gibson said is an identity crisis for Greater Victoria. With an increase in people relocating away from the region in search of more affordable living, the report offers an opportunity for the government and business leaders to ask “what do we want our community to look like?”
“Working in poverty is still a reality in B.C.,” said Cherron, who is the interim executive director for Worker Solidarity Network. “The current minimum wage falls $8 short of what workers in Victoria need.”
If teachers and public workers are leaving the community, Gibson asked, the people of Victoria will lose out.
“We need to recognize that if we don’t take care of the people who are taking care of the people, everyone suffers,” Farley added.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.