This might be a good time to ask your boss for a raise.
The Clayoquot Biosphere Trust (CBT) has calculated a living wage for the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region and the figure is $19.27 an hour.
The wage was calculated based on an average family with two employed parents working 35 hours per week and two children, one 4-year-old and one 7-year-old. The $19.27 hourly wage represents a roughly $65,000 annual household income for this family.
During a recent presentation to Tofino’s council, the CBT’s alternate at-large youth director German Ocampo explained the living wage is the “bare-bones” income a family needs to avoid financial hardship.
“The living wage gets families out of severe financial stress by lifting them out of poverty and providing the basic level for economic security…It is also a conservative bare bones budget without the extras many Canadians take for granted,” he said.
“The living wage is calculated as the hourly rate at which a household can meet its basic needs once government transfers have been added and deductions have been subtracted,” Ocampo said.
The CBT’s managing director Rebecca Hurwitz said about 20 per cent of West Coasters fit into the two-parents-two-children model.
She said the figure did not take into account credit card payments, retirement saving, or care for elderly parents.
“When we say bare-bones, we really mean bare-bones,” she said.
Monthly rent and transportation costs were factored into the wage but both varied greatly within the West Coast’s communities.
The CBT’s report suggested round-trip costs to Tofino from Opitsaht run $10, Macoah $33, Ahousaht $40, and Hot Springs Cove $164.
“We think it’s important to remind people about the costs of traveling from community to community,” Hurwitz said.
Rental costs for a 3-bedroom unit varies from $450 to $1,537, including utilities, across the region, according to the report.
Childcare costs come to about $1,154 a month for full-time care for a 4-year-old and afterschool and summer care for a 7-year-old.
The report says the living wage calculation does not capture the West Coast’s high food costs.
“Food costs are up to 21 per cent higher than nearby Port Alberni and only two of our eight communities have adequate grocery stores, so they must pay to travel to buy healthy food,” according to the CBT’s most recent vital signs report.
Hurwitz suggested the living wage calculation could help Tofino’s council in discussions around affordable housing, public transportation and employer policies.
“The living wage is really meant to be a policy tool,” she said. “We really wanted to open this up for discussion with you about how the living wage can support decision making at your table.”
Mayor Josie Osborne asked how business owners should interpret the information.
“How would you explain how an employer in Tofino can use this information, given that 20 per cent of people living in Tofino are actually in that bracket but employers in Tofino employ a lot of single, younger people for example? What is the living wage for a single younger person,” Osborne asked.
Hurwitz responded that the difference between demographics is surprisingly small.
“The difference is quite negligible,” she said adding families can take advantage of government programs that single people don’t have access to.
“Some things are an advantage, some things are a disadvantage but overall it turns out there’s not really a significant difference.”
Coun. Dorothy Baert suggested the living wage calculation might not capture enough Tofitians to be useful.
“If 20 per cent are in that category 80 per cent aren’t so that’s huge,” she said.
Baert noted the $19.27 figure represented calculations from across the West Coast’s eight communities, which have significantly different cost-of-living factors including monthly rental costs.
“I’m not comfortable that this isn’t completely skewed. I don’t know that I have the information about Tofino that would be useful,” she said.
Osborne said the West Coast’s median monthly rent for a three-bedroom unit came to about $1,250 and suggested this wasn’t way off Tofino’s $1,537 level.
“You didn’t calculate living wage for each of the eight communities, you calculated it for the region, so we have to read into that a little bit but it’s not that far off,” she said to Hurwitz.
Baert remained unconvinced.
“The difference makes a difference that’s the problem,” she said adding the roughly $280-a-month difference in rent would have a significant impact on hourly wages.
“I know there are other things at play, but it’s a difference and if people are employers in this town and they’re trying to do the right thing, and so forth, the information has to be something that they can trust and work with.”
Coun. Greg Blanchette noted the living wage was calculated based on full-time year-round employment.
“This assumes steady annual employment, so that has to be factored in as well if we’re thinking of how this applies to Tofino,” he said.
Coun. Cathy Thicke acknowledged imperfections in the calculation but said the CBT’s report offered a valuable reality check for what should be perceived as a good wage.
“What this does for me is $20-$25 is just a living wage…Instead of thinking about that as a good wage, it’s just an on-par wage,” she said.