Filling fridges is hard in communities with costs as high as ours. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Behest of the West – West Coast’s Living Wage Report both valuable and terrifying

No amount of squinting can make life in Tofino or Ucluelet look affordable.

Hollywood has remade the scariest clown movie it ever produced and is promoting its dusted-off masterpiece heavily enough that no TV-watching coulrophobia survivor is safe from seeing the newest rendition of Stephen King’s ‘It’ pop up on their screens.

I’m one of seemingly millions of people who somehow developed an intense fear of a costume meant to delight and commercial breaks during Jays games have become more terrifying than the future of the fledgling franchise I naively still tune in to root for.

As able as he is to wrench guts, inspire cowardice and create nightmares, King’s work will never eclipse the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust’s Living Wage calculation. You can’t hit mute and look away from living where you live.

At $20.11 an hour, our Living Wage is higher than everywhere else in B.C. save Vancouver. Victoria was higher than us last year, but we’ve managed to shoot by their $20.01 rate since then.

That hourly wage only works if the job is full-time and year-round too and our region isn’t exactly rich with those types of opportunities.

Math is scary enough when it’s not being used to summate how unaffordable it is to exist in your hometown.

Our food costs are 17 per cent higher than Port Alberni’s. Renting a three-bedroom shelter, with internet and insurance kicked in, runs $1,704 a month. Our childcare costs are higher than Vancouver’s.

Our advantage is that we’re all in this together. There’s strength in our communal struggle and none of us are facing empty wallets alone.

Like the Jays, a painting of our current situation would be more suitable for Vincent Van Gough’s quill than Bob Ross’, but there are solutions in both cases; we just haven’t found them yet.

Limiting vacation rentals in favour of longer-term tenants might help lower housing costs, but doing so would threaten homeowners who bought into a market that relies on tourist dollars to pay mortgages.

When Tofino’s council raised its childcare centre’s rates last year, they did so to pay that centre’s staff an appropriate wage.

Affordability isn’t lurking where we’re looking. Fresh ideas and untried solutions are needed. Dusting off familiar strategies won’t work regardless of how heavily they’re hyped.

The Living Wage calculation is complicated enough for our local leaders to scoff it away each year it’s presented. It’s regional and based on a two-parent family with a four-year-old and seven-year-old.

That demographic leaves out more people than it fits in and it’s easier for our councils to point out flaws than it is for them to tackle the very real problem the numbers prove: locals can’t afford to live here.

The CBT has laid it out, here’s hoping our leaders don’t play it out by hitting mute and looking away.

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