P.G. cost of living higher than Nanaimo, Kamloops
TED CLARKE Citizen staff
Prince George has become more expensive than Kamloops and Nanaimo, according to a study released last week by Living Wage For Families BC. The report estimates that in Prince George the living wage (the hourly wage required for two adults working 35 hours per week to support themselves and two children) has climbed to $21.19, as compared to Kamloops ($19.14) and Nanaimo ($20.49). Greater Victoria is now B.C.’s most expensive major city, with a living wage estimated at $24.29. It surpassed that of Metro Vancouver ($24.08), Powell River ($23.33), Fernie ($23.58), Cowichan Valley ($23.53), Prince Rupert ($22.69) and Kelowna ($22.08). Haida Gwaii ($25.87) and Golden ($25.56) top the list of all B.C. municipalities in the report. “We’ve been calculating the living wage since 2008 and this is the highest we’ve ever seen, and it’s also the highest percentage increase across the province we’ve ever seen,” said Anastasia French, Living Wage for Families provincial manager. “With general inflation shooting up to a 40-year high this year, and with the cost of food rising even faster and rent increasing everywhere, especially for families that need to move and are no longer protected by rent control, it’s not surprising to see such big increases this year.” In 2018, Prince George’s living wage was $16.56. A living wage will cover the necessities to support two young children and their development with enough left over to allow the family to participate in social, civic and cultural activities in their communities. Soaring costs for housing, utilities, food, transportation, childcare, clothing and other merchandise have raised living wage rates across the country. Part of the reason Prince George’s living wage is higher than the two similar-size cities, Kamloops and Nanaimo, is the cost of transportation and the study determined Prince George families with two kids need two vehicles. “We’ve changed the methodology in Prince George slightly to include the cost of a family owning two used cars, rather than a car and transit pass, because our community partner felt that the transit isn’t sufficient for a family of four to get by without two cars,” said French. French said Prince George was excluded from the 2020 and 2021 living wage study because the data on housing costs supplied by Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation did not include the nearly 10,000 rental units in the city that are privately leased. That skewed the data to show the living wage estimate was actually lower than the minimum wage. “In 2015, 30 per cent of families had to move in the previous year and I saw something in this year’s census that showed that 40 per cent of families this year have had to move,” said French. In Prince George the cost of a three-bedroom place was set at $1,288 per month, which French admits is low, compared to what most renters are having to pay each month. In Kamloops and Nanaimo the organization estimates the cost for a three-bedroom unit is $1,600 per month. The monthly food cost for a family of four in Prince George in October, when the survey was conducted, was $1,120, as compared to $1,200 in Nanaimo and $1,000 in Kamloops. Transportation costs account for the differences, French said.