Nova Scotia

Halifax's living wage is $21.80, new report estimates

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has released their annual living wage report. The organization estimates a full-time worker in Halifax must make $21.80 per hour in order to make a living wage.

Living wage $19.55 for Antigonish, $16.80 for Bridgewater and $17.65 for CBRM

Chrsitine Saulnier is the Nova Scotia director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. (Trevor Beckerson/Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says hourly wages in Nova Scotia are far short of what's needed to support families in having a decent quality of life, and the pandemic is just putting further strain on their bottom lines.

Christine Saulnier, the Nova Scotia director and former NDP federal candidate, says their research shows in Halifax, people need to make $21.80 an hour in order to have a proper living wage. 

The estimate is part of a report on living wages in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It defines a living wage as the amount a family needs to avoid severe financial stress, promote healthy development of children, and allow families to participate in their communities. 

Cape Bretoners, they argue, require at least $17.65 an hour, while the centre set the living wage in Antigonish at $19.55. Bridgewater has the lowest living wage estimate at $16.80.

As of April 1, the minimum wage in Nova Scotia is $12.55.

"In Halifax, you'd have to work at least 60 hours a week in order to earn with what we come up with as a livable income," Saulnier said. "We really do need to question what kind of society we want to live in."

Saulnier said across the province, shelter or housing puts the biggest strain on families, especially with low vacancy rates.That has the centre calling on the province to implement rent control.

"We need control on how much landlords can increase their rent. It needs to come in," she said.

Rising food prices

The report looked at the cost of living in 2019, and also pointed to childcare as a major issue. Saulnier said she's already worried about what the numbers will look like next year, once the pandemic is taken into account.

"We have seen spikes in certain food costs just since February. Eggs have gone up 15 per cent," she said. "How that will play out in this year, we don't know, but there's absolutely additional pressures on people's food budgets."

She's critical of grocery chains in Canada who cut the temporary so-called hero pay, a $2 an hour pay bump that was offered to front line workers during the first wave of the pandemic.

"Those we need the most are likely the ones being paid the least. The hero pay should be a permanent increase to retail employees."

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With files from CBC's Mainstreet Halifax

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