“Living wage” in Fernie at $23.58 an hour

According to data collected by the Elk Valley Economic Initiative (EVEI), you need to earn $23.58 an hour to get by in Fernie.

This figure isn’t for everyone – it’s how much two parents need to earn (each) working full time to support a family of four, paying rent, food and utilities as well as everything that modern families need to survive, such as internet access, child care and health costs among others.

The minimum wage in British Columbia is $15.65 per hour.

EVEI coordinator Taylor Jenkins said rental costs are driving up the cost of living locally.

“There has been a significant increase in the cost of rent in Fernie in the last year alone. This problem has a far-reaching social and economic impact and must be addressed, with urgent action taken at local and regional levels,” he said.

“We need to identify how municipalities, housing corporations, developers and EVEI can work together to increase the supply of rental housing, labor and affordable housing in the Elk Valley.”

2022 is the first year the living wage has been calculated in Fernie, and Jenkins (who did the calculation) said the number was not surprising.

“It matches similar resort communities, and when you calculate the rent increases in Fernie, it’s no surprise that (the living wage) is skyrocketing because the cost of rent is so high.

Local data was released Nov. 17 with a Living Wage for Families BC report that included living wage data for 22 communities.

Included in this report is nearby Golden, which has a higher living wage than Fernie at $25.56, while Revelstoke has a living wage of $23.60.

According to Jenkins, the number for Fernie is on the conservative side of the calculations given the rapidly changing economic environment.

In the Columbia Valley, living wages were calculated to have risen 25% since they were achieved last year.

According to Anastasia French of Living Wage for Families BC, food and shelter are the two driving forces behind the increase.

“With general inflation hitting a 40-year high this year, and with the cost of food rising even faster and rents rising everywhere, especially for families who have to move and are no longer protected by the control rents, it’s no surprise to see such increases this year,” she said.

Food has recently overtaken childcare costs as the second cost of living factor.

While EVEI has so far only done one year of calculations for Fernie, Jenkins said he plans to include separate calculations for Sparwood and Elkford next year.

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Michael A. Bynum