In 3 communities of the Canadian Arctic, living wage surpasses $23 per hour

Alternative North’s estimated living wage for Yellowknife, Inuvik and Hay River (Northwest Territories) are all more than $23 an hour. (CBC)
Anti-poverty organization Alternatives North released living wage estimates on Wednesday for Yellowknife, Inuvik and Hay River, in Northern Canada. All three communities of the Northwest Territories came in at more than $23 an hour.

A living wage is what it takes for a household to cover its basic expenses without severe financial stress. The calculation is based on a household with two full-time working adults and two young children.

It accounts for government benefits and deductions, such as the Canada Child Benefit and income taxes. It doesn’t factor in things like debt payments, home ownership, saving for children’s future education, or the costs associated with caring for a disabled or elderly family member.

Alternatives North says the living wage in Yellowknife is $23.95. That’s up $3 from 2017, when the city’s living wage was estimated to be $20.96.

“It’s a big jump,” said Bree Denning, the executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society.

Bree Denning, executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society, said N.W.T.’s high living wages highlight the need for government programs that redistribute wealth. (Katie Toth/CBC)

She said higher taxes for the wealthy and more funding programs for everyone else would help bring down the living wage.

“Our lives overall are better when people are participating in society, spending money at local businesses, able to take time off when they need it and access healthcare,” she said. “So I think higher taxation, better distribution [is needed] in society as a whole.”

This year, Alternatives North also released figures for Inuvik and Hay River. Those are $24.75 and $23.95, respectively.

We would love to do some of the smaller communities, but you need the data to go with it
Suzette Montreuil, Alternatives North

The wages were calculated using the Canadian Living Wage Framework. Living wages vary across Canada, as they factor in the cost of living in a particular community.

The living wage is not to be confused with a minimum wage, which is the lowest amount an employer can legally pay. The minimum wage in the Northwest Territories is $13.46.

Living wage rises in Yellowknife

A number of factors drove up the living wage in Yellowknife, said Michel Haener, an economist in Grand Prairie, Alta., who came up with the Northwest Territories’ figures.

Michel Haener, an economist in Grand Prairie, Alta., calculated the living wages for Yellowknife, Inuvik and Hay River. (Submitted by Michel Haener)

One was that previous years’ figures were based on a 40-hour work week. This time, the calculation assumes each adult is working a 37.5-hour work week, to bring the estimates in line with those in other parts of Canada.

Other factors are that healthcare spending and food costs have gone up, and some tax credits, such as one for public transit, have been restricted or eliminated, said Haener.

She said Inuvik’s living wage was N.W.T.’s lowest because about two-thirds of the community’s population is Indigenous, and Indigenous families have access to specialized programs, including broader health and dental coverage.

Suzette Montreuil with Alternatives North said the group produced numbers for Hay River and Inuvik this year because the necessary data was available.

“We would love to do some of the smaller communities, but you need the data to go with it,” she said.

Haener pointed out that the three N.W.T. communities have among the highest living wages in western Canada.

Based on the most recent estimates from Living Wage Canada, she said, Whitehorse’s living wage is $18.26, Edmonton’s is $16.48 and Vancouver’s is $20.81.

Related links from around the North:

Canada: ‘We aren’t bad people,’ says family living in tent in front of legislature in Arctic Canada, CBC News

FinlandFinland takes thousands off streets by giving homes to homeless, Yle News

SwedenCold brings record numbers to Stockholm homeless shelter, Radio Sweden

United StatesAlaska shelter helps homeless promptly find work, home and stability, Alaska Public Media

Sidney Cohen, CBC News

For more news from Canada visit CBC News.

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