Like other Canadians, Winnipeggers say they're feeling the crunch as cost of living rises
28% of Canadians say they’re barely keeping heads above water, Angus Reid poll suggests
More Canadians feel they're in dire financial shape as the cost of living keeps rising, a new poll suggests — and people in Winnipeg say they're feeling that squeeze.
Angus Reid Institute survey results released Thursday say 28 per cent of Canadians are barely keeping their head above water or are in an even worse situation when it comes to their finances. That figure has climbed 10 points since a similar survey in July 2020, the poll says.
More than half of respondents — 55 per cent — said while they're in good shape now, they're worried about the future.
The online survey was conducted July 18-20. That week, Statistics Canada data revealed Canada's inflation rate for June was 8.1 per cent compared to a year earlier — the fastest annual increase since 1983.
Three-quarters of of respondents told Angus Reid they feel it's a bad time for major spending, like buying a home or car, doing renovation or taking a big vacation.
That's also a significant increase from two years ago, when that number was 56 per cent, the poll says.
Kimber Dilay knows that first-hand. The Winnipegger recently had to buy a new furnace and hot water tank, and was forced to borrow money from family to avoid having to pay extra to finance those purchases.
"It was a crunch, definitely," Dilay said, adding that if she didn't have the option to borrow from relatives, there would have been no choice but to take on debt.
"It was either reopening a line of credit with the bank to do it, or for sure it would have been financing through the company."
Alyssa Farthing said her budget has been stretched tighter and tighter lately. The $300 the Winnipegger budgets every two weeks for groceries now gets her and her mom about half as much as it once did.
If an unanticipated expense of a few hundred dollars came up right now, Farthing doesn't know what she'd do.
"It would definitely stress me out," she said.
"I don't have that kind of pocket cash laying around. And I think a lot of people nowadays don't. I know my mom has a good paying job and she struggles…. You have to look now, what you can and cannot afford."
Forced to make 'vital and important decisions'
Community advocate Mitch Bourbonniere said he's not surprised to hear many people are struggling with rising costs, from what he's seen in low-income families he works with. He agrees now isn't the best time to make a major purchase — but sometimes, there's no other option.
"People that live in poverty already have to really make some vital and important decisions when things happen — when their fridge breaks down, when they need appliances," he said.
"But what do you do? What do you do if your fridge goes or something that you need [goes], or if your employment depends on your vehicle?"
Bourbonniere said changes must be made to help people who are struggling keep up with the rising cost of living, suggesting raising the minimum wage or introducing a universal basic income as possible solutions.
"I don't know quite what the answer is, but I do think that we need to put our heads together, and especially at this time of crisis or looming crisis, that we come up with some solutions as a society," he said.
Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, said as inflation starts to catch up with people, it's brought a "period of reckoning" worlds apart from what many people experienced at the beginning of the pandemic, when interest rates were low and government relief money flowed.
"This is a period now where people, regardless of their income level, are feeling the pinch — although obviously people in lower income age brackets are feeling that pinch more," Kurl said.
For many, the adjustment may come as a bit of a shock.
"People are seeing trends and living realities now that, if you're under the age of 40, you've never known in your lifetime," Kurl said.
"And so the sticker shock and the realities that come with that are certainly causing a certain amount of surprise among some demographics."
The Angus Reid Institute's online survey, which was self-commissioned and paid for by the research company, involved a representative randomized sample of 1,606 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum.
A margin of error cannot be assigned to such online polls because they are not truly random, but for comparison purposes, a probability sample of that size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.