– by Eric Coleman

OLWN chart Nov 15 2022This week, the Ontario Living Wage Network (OLWN) released their updated data on cost of living province-wide. In many ways, the numbers released are not a surprise in the slightest – expenses and costs to survive everywhere have risen markedly in the last 12-24 months, propelled by sharply-rising inflation and housing costs. As of November 14, 2022, Grey-Bruce is now the second-highest region to live, behind only the GTA, with a living wage of $20.70 per hour.

The updated living wage to live here is up over $1 per hour which may not seem like much – it's only a dollar, after all – but that single dollar an hour is $2,000 over the course of a year, for a typical fulltime worker. For someone who was, perhaps, already on the brink trying to survive, that dollar might be the difference between having a home or not.

The OLWN calculates their living wage numbers on a variety of factors, which can be looked into more deeply at the link. The biggest drivers, however, are housing, food, child care, and transportation costs, as well as average wage levels. While food prices in Grey-Bruce are not significantly higher than other regions – in fact, they are lower on average than other regions that come in at a lower cost of living – transportation costs are massively impactful. A family of four can expect to spend, on average, $12,762 per year here, where they would spend on average $8,439 in the GTA – nearly 150% of the cost.

OLWN chart Nov 15 2022 2
So, what do we actually do about this? The approach must be multi-faceted: we as a community must work to both bring the cost of living down, and bring the wages of our lowest-paid neighbours up. Bringing the costs down is a difficult challenge. We must build more housing that suits residents of all types – detached houses, row houses, apartments, condos, in a range of sizes – that are actually affordable for everyone. We need solutions to bring the biggest other drivers of cost down as well. That might mean implementing meaningful public transit solutions – a massive challenge in such a dispersed, low-density region like ours. In the meantime, we can advocate and work to bring wages up to a livable level.

One of the strongest signals we can give is to pressure our municipal councils to embrace a living wage for all employees. Our local government must be leaders, setting a strong, positive example for all the businesses in their municipalities. Every dollar we pay our public employees is returned to local business, supporting our neighbours, strengthening our downtowns, making our communities more prosperous for everyone. Write a letter, send an email, or even call your councillors, let them know you expect them to lead the way on ensuring everyone in our communities are supported.






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