What is the living wage in the Northwest Territories?

Alternatives North brought in Economist, Michel Haener to find out.

Haener uses a bare bones budget to uncover what the average family in the North needs.

More often than not, people think that the budget is very conservative,” reasons Haener. “Sometimes I’ll hear ‘wow, I couldn’t live off of that amount.’ Sometimes it’s because of certain budget exlusions, sometime it’s because people get used to a certain style of living and don’t certain daily items as luxuries.

The budget does not include paying debts, saving money, helping other family members financially or owning a pet, among other things.

Haener says a household needs to earn more than $90 000 a year to maintain a family of four, with each parent needing to make $22.24 an hour. She stresses that most people wouldn’t make all of their money from work, but would include income from Government transfers.

The living wage has increased in the last two years. When the original calculation was made in 2015, the living wage was $20.68 for each parent. Haener partially attributes the $1.56 increase to inflated food prices.

For many of the communities that I’ve gotten to work with, it hasn’t gone up as much,” says Haener. “Part of the driver is that annual expenses went up. Food costs went up quite a bit for Yellowknife, comparatively, and perishable foods have gone up a lot more than other foods.

Haener says that when it comes to a nutritional intake, we use primarily perishable foods.

Haener also says the increase is connected to rising shelter costs, as well as child care.

She adds history has shown the North runs a risk of the cost of living to increase.

Part of her research included recommendations on how to counter-act such a high living wage. Those included:

  • Create buy-in from employers to pay a living wage to all staff
  • Support the development of a local food strategy with government partners, individuals and organizations
  • Revamp the NWT Hosuing Corporation’s Transitional Rent Supplement program
  • Improve the child care subsidy program so that the number of low-income families eligible for child care subsidies is increased

MLA Julie Green, who lead recalculation efforts, suggested a possible cut-off for the NWT Child Benefit so that it helps more low-income families.