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Living wage in Kamloops pegged at $17.31/hour

Living Wage for Families says that is what two parents need to make to cover basic costs for a family of two adults and two children

The province plans to raise the hourly minimum wage to $15.20 by 2021, but the group First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition says a living wage in Kamloops now is $17.31.

Through its Living Wage for Families campaign, the group has identified a variety of wages needed to cover basic costs for a family of two working parents with two young children.

The dollar value is up from the 2017 report, which pegged the living wage in Kamloops at $16.90 an hour.

The group defines basic expenses as food, clothing, rental housing, child care, transportation and having a small savings to cover illnesses or emergencies.

It doesn’t include expenses like credit-card debt or other interest payments, future savings for a home, retirement or university education, costs of caring for a family member or anything beyond minimal recreation, entertainment and holiday costs.

Louise Richards, executive director of the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society, hopes employers will take the time to just read the information in the report, so they “can see how expensive it is for people to live with just a basic standard of living.”

She also hopes employers realize how government policies have the ability to affect people’s standard of living.

The report notes child care and housing costs are the biggest factors in the calculations made. It also said the projected living-wage amounts would have been greater, but changes the government has made to the medical-service plan premiums, reducing them by 50 per cent, and child-care fee reductions, created a $900 saving for families.

Provincially, the report being released on Wednesday by the campaign says a living wage in Metro Vancouver is now $20.91 per hour, up 30 cents from last year. Other rates it looked at include (with 2017 amounts in brackets: Revelstoke, $19.37 ($18.77), Parksville-Qualicum, $17.02 ($16.44), Powell River, $17.15 ($16.75), Comox Valley, $16.59 ($15.96), Capital Regional District, $20.50 ($20.01), the north-central region encompassing Price George and Quesnel, $16.51 ($16.39).

In 2016, a Thompson Rivers University law student presented to city council on the need to implement a living wage.

Then-mayor Peter Milobar said he was skeptical of the concept and uncomfortable dictating to city contractors what they should pay their workers when he did not pay a living wage at the liquor store he operates.

That same year, Coun. Donovan Cavers advocated for the living wage, something Quesnel and Vancouver have done for their municipal employees. Fellow councillors Arjun Singh, Dieter Dudy, Marg Spina and Denis Walsh spoke in favour of exploring the idea.

“It’s useful for people to take a moment to pause and think about it. How it doesn’t take any sort of incident to change” a family’s standard of living, Richards said.

“And that can lead to extreme stress which can affect the family’s stability which has other consequences.”