A study from the Elk Valley Economic Initiative shows the living wage for Fernie is $23.58 per hour, $7.93 per hour more than B.C.’s minimum wage.
Economic Initiative officials said this is consistent with other B.C. communities.
“While the living wage has never been calculated before in Fernie, other communities across the province have seen large living wage increases, including the Columbia Valley at 25 per cent higher than last year,” said officials.
For context, if you worked a minimum wage job for eight hours a day, five days a week with no holidays, you would make about $32,500 a year before taxes.
If you worked the same hours, but were paid Fernie’s living wage, you would make just over $49,000 a year.
This is a difference of nearly $16,500.
A living wage is the hourly pay two parents working full-time would need to support a family of four.
This amount is calculated with a structure from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives based on core living essentials along with government taxes, credits, deductions, and subsidies.
“Local partners calculate community-specific numbers such as the median rental cost for a three-bedroom house and average yearly childcare costs. The final calculation is then reviewed and verified by the Living Wages for Families BC,” explained ECEI officials.
The study notes that Fernie’s increase in the cost of living, mirrored across the province, is driven by the price of food and shelter.
“With general inflation shooting up to a 40-year high this year, and with the cost of food rising even faster and rent increasing everywhere, especially for families that need to move and are no longer protected by rent control, it’s not surprising to see such big increases this year,” says Anastasia French, Living Wage for Families provincial manager.
This also comes as corporate profits soared 15.8 per cent in 2021. This is well above the nine per cent average seen from 2002 to 2019, according to Canadians for Tax Fairness.
Food has become the second highest expense in most communities, exceeded only by housing costs.
French notes that food was once the third-highest expense, but has since beat out childcare costs after the B.C. government invested in childcare affordability in 2018, which significantly reduced out-of-pocket costs.
Rental costs in Fernie have also been a significant contributor to the high cost of living, with a large increase seen in the last year alone.
“This issue has a wide-ranging social and economic impact and needs to be addressed, with urgent action taken at local and regional levels,” said Taylor Jenkins, Economic Initiative coordinator.
“We need to identify how municipalities, housing societies, developers, and the Elk Valley Economic Initiative can work together to increase the supply of rental, workforce, and affordable housing in the Elk Valley.”
The Economic Initiative’s 2022 Elk Valley Business Retention and Expansion identified housing as a top community weakness, a major issue for employee recruitment, and an underlying issue for employee retention.
Cost of living calculations for Sparwood and Elkford are expected to be released next year.