Byron Bradley, director of Central Alberta Mustard Seed, said more families are attending meals. (Photo by Susan Zielinski/Advocate staff)

Red Deer calculates living wage

Minimum wage fails to live up to living wage

Red Deer parents need to earn about $17 an hour to meet their family’s basic needs, according to the community’s 2018 living wage.

Expenses covered by a living wage include rent, food, clothing, household expenses, transportation, child care, health care and costs such as cellphone, internet and recreation, along with contingency funds.

Byron Bradley, Central Alberta managing director with The Mustard Seed, said he would love to see Alberta’s $15 minimum wage meet the living wage.

“It’s 2018 and we know so much more about poverty than we did back when minimum wage was established. (A living wage) is so much more appropriate to the day and age we’re living in. It’s about keeping people safe and giving them a decent standard of living, versus just living paycheque to paycheque,” Bradley said.

He said it’s wonderful that a living wage is calculated to reflect the actual costs residents face in their community. Now, the provincial and federal governments must recognize living wages, said Bradley.

“It would save our country so much money if we took care of people and paid them properly.”

In a report released last month by the City of Red Deer, the living wage was $17.74 an hour for a couple (each parent earning that wage) with two children, and $17.44 for a lone parent with one child. The living wage for a single adult is $15.11.

Bradly said statistics show that since 2014, the living wage has jumped 26 per cent for couples, climbed 22 per cent for lone parents, and increased 15 per cent for single adults.

He said those increases are shocking, but helps people understand how much Central Alberta has been impacted by the current economy.

“When Mustard Seed came to Red Deer in July 2016, the only centre that had higher unemployment rates in all of Canada were Nunavut, northern Quebec and the Maritimes, and those are traditionally areas that often have high unemployment rates all the time,” Bradley said.

He said in recent months, more families have been attending dinners at The Mustard Seed.

Fred Scaife, Red Deer Food Bank executive director, agreed that people can’t live on minimum wage in an expensive city such as Red Deer, but said the local job market is fairly competitive. People may start out at minimum wage, but wages escalate fairly quickly.

“But there are just some jobs out there you are not going to make $25 or $30 a hour doing — plain and simple,” Scaife said.

However, employees have a duty to ensure they’re paid a reasonable wage, he said.

“We can’t have a return to two centuries ago, when owners and businesses could profiteer off of their employees.”

Scaife said the food bank continues to see an increase in clients, but since September, the increases have been smaller.

“That makes me optimistic.”

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