Food, housing and childcare costs are being blamed for the West Coast’s high living wage. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Tofino and Ucluelet have highest Living Wage on Vancouver Island

“It didn’t go down in our region because our cost of living is increasing at a higher rate.”

The cost of living on the West Coast is higher than anywhere else on Vancouver Island and second to only Vancouver in all of B.C.

The Clayoquot Biosphere Trust recently released its bi-annual regional Living Wage report and 2017’s $20.11 an hour figure marks an 84 cent per hour increase on 2016’s $19.27 calculation. The report shows that the West Coast tops Victoria’s living wage of $20.01, Revelstoke’s $18.77, Parksville’s $16.44 and the Comox Valley’s $15.96.

The Living Wage represents what each parent in a two-parent, two-child, household must earn, while working full-time, to cover the basic expenses of daily life on the West Coast.

“It’s really a bare bones modest budget, it’s not enough to save up to buy a home, or pay your credit card bills or any debts you have, or save up for your kids to go to post-secondary [schools],” the CBT’s Faye Missar told the Westerly News. “It’s just enough to achieve an adequate quality of life in your region…The living wage is meant to reflect what a low-wage earner should earn, not necessarily someone with an undergraduate degree.”

She noted the Living Wage decreased in many other regions, including Vancouver, after the federal government implemented a non taxable child care benefit last year, but rises in local housing, childcare and food costs bucked the West Coast off the trend.

“It didn’t go down in our region because our cost of living is increasing at a higher rate,” she said.

She said identifying what is driving the cost of living up is important so that change can be implemented.

“The living wage is a tool that helps us understand our cost of living and affordability and inform strategies and policies that will influence affordability and vitality for our region,” she said.

Tofino mayor Josie Osborne said she was not surprised to see an increase.

“I wasn’t surprised to see our regional living wage creep up relative to the last time it was calculated, but it was disappointing to see that is rose here while it fell other regions,” she said.

She said the Living Wage research is helpful for local governments to direct its efforts towards making their community more affordable for families to live in.

“Some factors, such as the cost of education, clothing, and food are simply not under the direct purview of local governments, so we need to listen closely to our residents, identify provincial and federal policies that can effect change, then lobby senior levels of government for that change,” she said.

“Other costs, such as housing and child care, can be affected to some degree by local governments, and we should look carefully at the Living Wage components as well as the CBT’s Vital Signs Report to identify the places where we can make change.”

She said facilitating new childcare facilities, establishing affordable housing and rentals and investigating public transportation strategies could help and encourages locals to send their thoughts to their local government.

“There are also a lot of examples of smaller changes that can influence the affordability in this region and other places in BC, such as permitting home businesses, permitting “urban farming,” establishing re-use-it centres or “Free Stores,” and scores of other ideas that I bet we can all come up with,” she said.

“I’d love to hear more about what Tofitians think.”

Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques said she was also not surprised by the living wage increase and that her council plans to reach out to the CBT to get a better understanding of the factors impacting it.

St. Jacques cited daycare and housing costs as two key areas Ucluelet could look at to increase affordability and said the district’s current crackdown on illegal vacation rentals could lower housing costs by “putting monthly rentals back into Ucluelet’s pie, because a lot of it has been removed for nightly rentals.”

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