By Terrence mceachern, The Leader-Post, January 31, 2014 - REGINA - A Canadian think-tank is arguing that Regina families with each parent working full-time and making at least $16.46 per hour, or a combined annual income of $58,245 (after tax), is earning a living wage.
The findings are based on a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives presented Friday morning at the University of Regina.
“While not sufficient by itself, we believe that a living wage is one tool that can help restore a measure of fairness and dignity to our economic system. While the living wage is more generous than the minimum wage ($10 per hour), it is certainly not a lavish wage,” said Simon Enoch, director of the CCPA’s Saskatchewan office, who co-authored the report with former CCPA Saskatchewan director Brian Banks and Paul Gingrich, a retired U of R professor.
Gingrich explained that $58,245 is based on a 35-hour work week and adjusted for taxes. It is the annual amount a family of four would need to earn to meet monthly expenses, including $1,259 for a three-bedroom apartment (based on a 2012 Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation report), $950 for child care, $816 for food, $480 for transportation and $100 for parent’s education (a class at the University of Regina or SIAST) to upgrade skills and career options.
With respect to housing, Gingrich noted that $1,259, which includes heat and water, seemed “a little low” based on recent listings for a three-bedroom apartment.
Enoch said the living wage calculation isn’t an argument for a higher minimum wage.
“Rather, it seeks to hold employers to a higher standard,” he said.
In particular, Enoch wants to see the City of Regina, similar to other municipalities across North America, commit to paying its own employees and contractors it hires at least a living wage. Gingrich also wants to see businesses commit to paying a living wage since it is good for employees but also good for businesses in that it helps retain staff and provide quality services.
Besides promoting the idea of a living wage, Gingrich said more affordable housing and government resources for child care can help families make ends meet.
The authors note that Regina’s living wage calculation isn’t drastically distinct from other major cities in Canada, such as Toronto ($16.60), Winnipeg ($13.44), Grand Prairie ($15.55), Abbotsford ($16.37), Victoria ($18.73) and Vancouver ($19.62).
According to their report, 27 per cent of workers in Regina in 2012 earned less than a living wage. Of those, 59 per cent were 25 years old or older.
This is the first time the CCPA has conducted living wage analysis in Saskatchewan. Enoch said he would like to see future reports include Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Estevan, in order to get a more comprehensive account of what is happening across the province.