Locals and guests from outside the community descended upon the Golden Civic Centre on Nov. 1 for the Golden Community Resource Society’s Local Intelligence Gathering.
Speakers ranged from Kent Donaldson (who unveiled the name of his forthcoming local brewery, which will be known as the Whitetooth Brewing Co.) to Corky Evans, a longtime MLA for Nelson-Creston who served in a variety of cabinet positions.
Also speaking was Kerri Wall from Interior Health, who delivered a presentation about living wages, alongside the Golden Food Bank’s Stephanie Findlater.
Wall presented a fictitious two-adult, two-child household and explored how much it costs a standard family unit to live in Golden.
A living wage is defined as an amount someone needs to make, if they are working full-time, in order to cover the basic costs of living. According to Wall, 45 per cent of Canadians who are working struggle with poverty.
“It’s a concept that describes the very basics of food, clothing and shelter,” she said of a living wage.
Wall referenced several communities that have taken steps to address poverty by calculating their living wages, including Victoria, Revelstoke and Williams Lake.
“It serves two purposes, first is to provide a target for employers, who are able, to think about what it might cost to pay their employees enough to make ends meet. Secondly, it’s to illustrate how public policy made by the province and the feds directly impacts family poverty and to illustrate how the cost of living puts pressure on employers to shoulder the burden of fighting poverty.”
Wall and her team calculated the living wage in Golden for a four person family to be $18.68 per hour.
“This is if both parents are working, each making $18.68 and working 35 hours a week for 50 weeks of the year. That way they will be able to cover the basics for their family.”
To arrive at that number for a living wage, $739 was calculated to be the average monthly food cost, in addition to $1,208 for housing, $421 for transportation, $192 for clothing and $1,372 for child care.
Findlater said that next steps include calculating living wage costs for single adult households and older couples with their children who have moved out.
“It’s very important to note that a living wage provides for a very bare bones budget,” Wall added. “There is no room to pay off your credit card debt, or paying off interest on loans, and you’re not going to be saving money for your children’s education or even your own retirement.”
Findlater added that four million Canadians are affected by some level of food insecurity and that one out of every five children in B.C. are living in poverty. In Golden, the food bank serves 300 people a month on average and 30 per cent of those are school-aged children. Thirty per cent of those served by the Golden Food Bank are also employed, well above the provincial average.
“I think that really speaks to the high cost of living here in Golden,” Findlater said.
Wall discussed the policies of warehouse giant Costco, who pay their employees an average wage of $21 per hour.
“They think it’s a terrific business practice because they have such a low turnover rate, people are happy to work there and are more engaged,” she said.
She also cited the City of New Westminster, which became an official living wage employer.
“This is not about mandating a pay raise or raising the minimum wage, it’s about one employer making the decision to support its workforce and to ensure that none of its valued employees ever went home hungry.”
Other examples of living wage employers are the Calgary YWCA, the Van City credit union and the Canadian Cancer Society.
Employers interested in more information on how to become a living wage employer can log on to livingwageforfamilies.ca.