BY SUSAN ZIELINSKI
Red Deer’s living wage — that averages $13.86 — is higher than the province’s minimum wage that increased last month, according to Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance.
On Thursday, CAPRA announced the city’s 2016 living wage was $13.81 per hour for each parent for a couple with two children, $14.10 for a lone parent with one child, and $13.68 for a single adult.
On Oct. 1, Alberta’s minimum wage, determined by the provincial government, increased by $1 to $12.20.
A living wage is the income needed to meet basic needs in the community where people live. It is a conservative estimate and excludes such things as saving for retirement, personal or disability insurance, pet ownership, or meeting special dietary needs.
Basic needs include such things as food, rent, clothing, transportation, child care, health care, personal care items, household expenses, basic cellphone, television and Internet.
Harrison Blizzard, member of the CAPRA Living Wage Committee, said living wage calculations were based on very conservative spending.
“So if someone has any extra costs that they may incur because they don’t fit into this calculation, there will have to be a sacrifice somewhere. That may going into debt or not being able to pay for something they need for a well life,” Blizzard said at CAPRA’s event Creating Financial Pathways at Pidherney Centre on Thursday morning.
Red Deer’s living wage in 2014 was $13.11 per hour for each parent for a couple with two children, $14.75 for a lone parent with one child, and $11.59 for a single adult.
Blizzard said the living wage for a lone parent dropped in 2016 because the new Canada Child Care Benefit from the federal government offset cost increases.
Living wages for other Central Alberta communities were higher than in Red Deer. In Blackfalds, the living wage was $19.43 per hour for each parent for a couple with two children, $13.24 for a lone parent with one child, and $19.84 for a single adult. In Sylvan Lake, it was $18.48 per hour for the couple, $13.23 for a lone parent with one child, and $20.65 for a single adult.
He said talking about a living wage is necessary especially as more Albertans face job loss or fewer hours on the job.
“I think it’s a very good conversation for people to recognize that most of the population in the province and communities around Red Deer and in Red Deer, are a lot more vulnerable than we think or at higher risk,” Blizzard said.
Mayor Tara Veer said the community looks forward to initiatives CAPRA and its partners will pursue in the near future.
“Today’s announcement identifying costs of basic needs in Red Deer is a sobering reminder for all of us of the financial adversities that many of our fellow citizens are forced to contend with and of the ethical imperative that we all have as we deliver programs and services to the financially vulnerable,” Veer said.
“The presence of everyone here today ultimately demonstrates that financial access for all matters,” the mayor said.
Robert Stefaniszyn, director of operations at Cosmos Group of Companies, said living wages should be established for different communities because of how much the cost of living can vary around Alberta.
Stefaniszyn said he participated in previous round-table discussions on minimum wage and businesses worried about the plan to increase it to $15 an hour in 2018.
“The consensus was the minimum wage definitely had to go up. But the time they are doing it is going to impact a lot of businesses that can’t sustain it right now in this economy. There is a time and a place to do it.”
He said new employees at Cosmos earn $14 an hour and should have no problem meeting the 2018 minimum wage.