North

Whitehorse's 'living wage' drops, thanks to Ottawa

The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition says new increases to the Canada Child Benefit, and the Northern Living Allowance have allowed families to get by with less income this year.

Hourly wage of $18.26 needed to house, feed and clothe an average family of four, says advocacy group

The living wage - the minimum required by a family of four to meet basic needs - is down 86 cents from last year in Whitehorse. (CBC)

Whitehorse families can get by on less income this year compared to last, according to an analysis by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.

The organization says new increases in federal benefits — specifically the Canada Child Benefit, and the Northern Living Allowance — have more than offset a 1.5 per cent increase in the cost of living. 

For the second year in a row, the coalition has calculated the "living wage" for a typical family of two working parents with two young children, living in Whitehorse. It's the minimum hourly wage that each parent requires for the family to pay for housing, food, clothing, and other basic needs. 

This year, it's been calculated at $18.26 per hour — 86 cents less than last year.

"It's very useful to be able to track from year to year what's happening," said Charlotte Hrenchuk, one of the coalition's co-chairs.  

'It's very useful to be able to track from year to year what's happening,' said Charlotte Hrenchuk of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

"It's a useful tool too, for both NGOs and governments, to look at what programs they've initiated to try and work with these issues."

The coalition found that increases to the Canada Child Benefit have given the average family of four an additional $2,921 this year, while changes to the Northern Living Allowance have reduced that family's income tax by $1,330.

The family's cost of basic household needs, meanwhile, has increased by $1,124 this year.

A higher minimum wage

During last fall's territorial election campaign, the opposition NDP cited the $19.12 living wage and promised to close "the gap" in part by boosting Yukon's minimum wage to $15 per hour (it's now $11.32).

Hrenchuk agrees that a higher minimum wage would help, but says there are lots of other solutions to help Whitehorse families make ends meet.

"The responsibility for a living wage isn't solely on the back of small business or business owners," she said. "I know that employers get anxious. 

"We could have increased investments in social housing, because we know that a large part of a family's income is spent on housing."

Hrenchuk also suggests other things government could do to reduce the living wage, such as subsidize transit passes, develop a universal basic income program, or enhance the Yukon Child Benefit.

"We can see with the living wage calculation that the increase in the federal child benefit has had a great benefit on families," she said.

"There's other things that the government can do." 

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Yukon's minimum wage is $11.07. In fact, it is currently $11.32.
    Sep 12, 2017 5:09 PM CT

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