Whitehorse Daily Star

Coalition sets 2023 living wage at record $21.04 hourly

According to the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, the living wage for Whitehorse tops out at more than $21 an hour.

By T.S. Giilck on September 19, 2023

Revised - According to the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, the living wage for Whitehorse tops out at more than $21 an hour.

The organization defines the living wage as what a household must earn while working full-time to ensure that its basic needs, including housing, food, and clothing, are met.

It’s the eighth year for the formula. The calculation is the highest amount on record and the largest annual increase in the living wage since it was first calculated in 2016, according to the report, released Monday.

“The living wage for Whitehorse equalled $21.04 per hour in 2023, the highest amount on record. The living wage increased by $2.76 per hour from 2022,” it says.

“The increase to the living wage in 2023 compared to 2022 was the direct result of increases in the cost of basic needs, including substantial increases in the cost of shelter, food, and transportation.

“The high cost of rental housing remains the most significant affordability challenge for low- and modest- income Yukoners,” the report adds.

“The shelter expense accounted for 35.3 per cent of the reference family’s pre-tax income in 2023, significantly higher than the 30 per cent affordability metric used by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.”

The territory’s minimum wage is $16.77 per hour.

The report also pinpoints the effect of the inflation rate contributing to the rising cost of food as also presenting a significant affordability challenge for many Yukoners in 2023.

The report indicates the annual cost of food for the reference family rose by 13.9 per cent in 2023, to $14,521.24.

“The sudden increase in food prices has made it considerably more difficult for low- and modest-income Yukoners to eat a nutritious diet and will likely contribute to higher rates of food insecurity and greater demand for services provided through the Food Bank Society of the Yukon,” the report states.

Kendall Hammond, author of the report says: “The living wage goes up when government does not adequately address the housing crisis or provide sufficient supports to low- and modest-income Yukoners.

“The living wage goes down when government introduces good public policy such as universal low-fee childcare and the Canada Child Benefit.

“The living wage will go up significantly in 2024 unless immediate action is taken to address the affordability crisis.”

Hammond said his primary expectation for the Yukon government to help alleviate the cost of living is to improve its housing programs.

He called housing shortages and prices one of the primary items driving the living wage up over previous years.

Hammond also said governments could tackle the program by creating a basic income pilot program, and making public transit either low-cost or free.

“There’s a huge affordability challenge here,” he said.

(Free Whitehorse Transit service is a component of the agreement the governing Liberals signed with the NDP last January to keep the minority regime in power. A working group continues to study the plan’s timing and implementation.)

Hammond noted the situation would be worse without the government being one of the first to sign on to the federal government’s $10-a-day childcare program.

That’s one of the reasons why the living wage in the Yukon is somewhat lower than many other cities in the South, despite the higher cost of living here.

He said childcare is a potentially huge expense for families that the new program is helping to solve.

Asked for a response to the coalition’s research, cabinet communications staff said in a statement, “Our government acknowledges the pressures Yukoners are under when it comes to the increased cost of living.

“To alleviate these pressures, the Government of Yukon has introduced a number of measures to make life more affordable for all Yukoners.

“Please visit https://yukon.ca/en/news/government-yukon-making-life-more-affordable-across-territory for some of the ways that the Government of Yukon is making housing more affordable for everyone.”

Meanwhile, the coalition’s Basic Income Day took place early this afternoon in downtown Whitehorse.

The rally provided information for attendees interested in learning about basic income, and was meant as a show of support for developing a Basic Income program in the Yukon and Canada.

Sept. 22 is the fifth Annual Basic Income Action Day and is supported by events around the world.

“Exploring ideas around providing sustainable support for Yukoners is more important than ever,” the coalition said.

In the 2019 report Putting People First: The final report on the comprehensive review of the Yukon’s health and social programs and services, it was recommended that a guaranteed annual income pilot be “designed and implemented in collaboration with the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition and potential funding partners such as the federal government, health and social research programs and others.”

While the government has taken acton on other recommendations from the report, the coalition said, “no action has been taken to build a basic income program in the Yukon (Yukon Poverty Report Card 2022).”

Sept. 22 is the fifth Annual Basic Income Action Day and is supported by events around the world.

Comments (6)

Up 0 Down 0

Anie on Sep 25, 2023 at 2:44 pm

Big store big profits are attached to non grocery items. If we don't want to help loblaws make huge profits, then we should stop buying nail polish, shampoo, eye liner, garbage cans, lawn chairs etc from them. But keep this in mind - what do you think happens to those huge profits? They are distributed to shareholders. And who are the shareholders? Mutual funds (most RRSPs are vested in mutual funds ), in pension funds, etc. in other words, your retirement income. It's not so simple, is it?

Up 46 Down 1

Robert on Sep 20, 2023 at 9:28 am

@politico - always the argument - record profits, government support, etc. So the Liberal Government does not support oil & gas? The NDP have not supported this industry as well? An industry that has afforded people like yourself a high standard of living. Where have you been the last two decades?

By the way, subsidies for the O&G industry doesn't touch "Green" Energy.

A study by the University of Texas regarding U.S. energy subsidies per megawatt hour in 2019 was $0.5 for coal, $1- $2 for oil and natural gas, $15- $57 for wind and $43- $320 for solar. Green Energy is far more profitable, especially considering the heavy subsidies, the product mostly being manufactured in sweat shops, and the materials required to make said product mostly getting extracted in third world countries with no environmental regulation - why do you think the Koch brothers are jumping on the solar panel band wagon - Depcom Power Inc. purchase.

Unabated government spending and taxes are 100% the root cause of inflation.......as proven throughout human history. 7 years into this L-NDP Alliance and probably time for some reflection.

Up 11 Down 43

David on Sep 20, 2023 at 8:48 am

Pierre Poilievre is just Trudeau lite.

Up 45 Down 1

Max Mack on Sep 20, 2023 at 4:27 am

It is well known that throwing government money around merely leads to excess demand -- which results in greater pressure on prices. If government responds by handing out more cash, the end result is a spiraling inflationary cycle.

Kinda like what is happening now ...

Up 15 Down 60

Politico on Sep 19, 2023 at 3:03 pm

@pete So you don't believe the the conservative support for oil and food stores, with their record profits, is the problem.

Up 63 Down 21

pete on Sep 19, 2023 at 1:51 pm

There is an easy solution, stop voting NDP and liberal so we can lower inflation and make life more affordable. How many of the same cycles do we have to go through to realize this.

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