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EDITORIAL: Vital for employees to earn living wage

EDITORIAL: The soaring inflationary costs are the latest signs of division between the haves and the have-nots. And while it’s not something new to the Bow Valley, the recent year has only seen the divergence continue to grow.
november-24-2022
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne/www.lamontagneart.com.

The soaring inflationary costs are the latest signs of division between the haves and the have-nots.

And while it’s not something new to the Bow Valley, the recent year has only seen the divergence continue to grow.

For many in the region, having two or more jobs is a necessity in wanting to continue to live in the mountains.

But anyone who has had to do the employment hustle to stay in the valley knows there’s an expiration date for how long a person can maintain it before other communities start to look more promising.

In its annual report, the Alberta Living Wage Network (ALWN) showed Canmore to have the highest living wage at $32.75. Though a snapshot of costs, particularly with only 15 municipalities taking part, it paints a daunting picture for anyone trying to live in the valley.

The ALWN report released a weighted average for what a person in a two-parent household with two kids, a lone parent with a kid and a person living on their own needs to keep their heads above water. If separated, such as the report did in 2021, the wages would skew in different directions from high to low.

The Job Resource Centre’s spring labour market review emphasized the staffing drought and the significant demand for workers.

In jobs posted through the centre, wages grew from $17.97 to $20.70. Though a high number, any area resident is fully aware it comes with an asterisk due to the unofficial Bow Valley tax.

Anyone who has shopped for groceries and fuel in Calgary can attest to the significant cost of living differences.

The 2021 Statistics Canada census emphasized the income inequality in Canmore where the community was deemed for the second consecutive census as having the largest income inequality in Canada.

Usually finishing first is reason for celebration, but don’t expect people in the community to start printing commemorative plaques or T-shirts for this latest distinction.

It’s one measure to look to government for help, but it also takes the private sector stepping up to ensure a community is vibrant and people aren't living paycheque to paycheque.

In the region’s public sector, part of the proposed municipal tax increases will see municipal employees get overdue pay increases.

Though people may grumble and think it’s the first place to get slashed, the realization is that taking care of staff is often overlooked.

And when the cost of living jumps more than six per cent – according to the Calgary CPI, which would be on the lower end compared to if a Bow Valley CPI existed – anything less in keeping pace for a workforce is ultimately a pay cut.

The Bow Valley has been devastated by the impacts of jobs far outweighing workers.

There are multiple factors leading to the employment crunch, from lack of housing, the influx of temporary foreign workers slowing down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to people simply not interested in service industry jobs.

However, it is ultimately incumbent on the necessity of people to earn a living wage and receive one from employers.

It’s easy to say people need to tighten their belts or ask themselves if they need a Netflix or Disney+ account, but employers do need to step up.

It’s clear many in the community do – particularly smaller businesses who are often more cognizant of their employee's needs – but for a region and people to prosper, it takes a recognition of the issue and a willingness to provide a solution before a situation spirals too far out of control.