Posted by: Editor | August 20, 2010

Staying Alive

Staying Alive

How much does it cost to live in Esquimalt?

What would you say is the absolute minimum “living wage” required to adequately survive financially (i.e. live) in Esquimalt and to maintain a modest quality of life for you and your family? Well, the BC Community Social Planning Council, based on a series of living cost essentials, calculates the required living wage as $17.31 per hour for an average adult with a spouse (both spouses employed) and two children.

Councillor Garrison: "We need a Living Wage Policy."

Following a presentation to Esquimalt Council this week from Christina Peacock of the BC Community Social Planning Council asking Esquimalt to adopt a “living wage” policy, Councillor Randall Garrison moved the following Notice of Motion:

WHEREAS residents of Esquimalt face a high cost of living for basics such as food, clothing, shelter, education, and childcare and those costs often drive young families out of our community;

WHEREAS money spent on paying a living wage, the hourly wage required to cover the necessities  for a family, largely re-circulates directly in the community where it is earned providing stimulus to local businesses ;

WHEREAS BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada with more than half those children living in families where one parent works full-time and raising incomes of poor families is the most direct way to reduce child poverty;

WHEREAS competition for contracts to provide services to the Township should always be based on efficiency and quality of service provided and never simply about who can pay the lowest wages; and

WHERAS direct costs to the Township of implementing a living wage policy should be relatively small and all employers paying a living wage benefit through reduced absenteeism, better employee retention, higher morale and higher productivity levels;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Township of Esquimalt develop a Living Wage Policy;

AND THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff be directed to bring back a report to Council on the policy outlining the expected benefits and costs of a living wage policy and a draft bylaw with options for implementing a Living Wage Policy for all full and part-time employees of the Township and all contractors doing business with the Township.

Garrison stated that this was directed at helping people of all working demographics: “Many people who grow up in our community cannot afford to stay here,” stated Garrison. “We are talking about basic necessities to live.”

Mayor Barb Desjardins and Councillor Don Linge, however, expressed some concern with how this policy would discriminate against many local small businesses that provide services to the municipality. “Fair wages is absolutely what we all strive to do,” said Mayor Desjardins, “But, if we are supporting this, we need to be reminded that we are spending other people’s money.”

In the end, Council unanimously endorsed the notice of motion in principle and sent it on to staff to prepare a draft policy that will be further debated and voted on by Council at a later date.

Essentially, this would mean Council taking a stance on social policy that could greatly improve the finances of working families or greatly hurt the finances of local small business employers…..depending on how you look at it. Taxpayer finances would also be impacted in that our taxes are the main revenue source for paying the municipality’s workers. Increasing municipal wages to a higher threshold will cost taxpayers more.  Others would argue, however, that taxpayers could potentially benefit through savings in social spending. As people living in poverty gain increased incomes, then the costs of subsidized social assistance funding may correspondingly decline.

In any event, it would mean a big change for both employees and employers including tax payer-funded employers. Council will likely want to tread carefully into this social policy territory that has some real financial policy implications. The City of New Westminster is the only other British Columbian municipality to adopt such a policy.



  1. Good that social planning councils aren’t in charge of our economy and that provincial government is the responsible agency for setting minimum wages.

    Will be interesting to see Esquimalt staff report, but this is the kind of gonzo government initiative that is designed to not only kill small businesses, but small business employment too.

    Its one thing for Esquimalt municipal workers to have a floor of $17.31 per hour, if that is already less than what any of them actually make now.

    Setting wages based on “living” begs the question of who defines “living”? Many of us are NOT pro-natalists – that is a personal responsibility, not a social responsibility.

    On the positive side, if businesses are driven out of Esquimalt and into my Saanich, that will benefit those of us who live in Saanich, because I’m sure our Saanich council wouldn’t go for such a looney, job-killing idea.

    Also, the employers who are left in Esquimalt won’t want any young unskilled Esquimalt youth for these high-paid entry jobs – they’ll be hiring experienced, skilled Saanich-resident employees who are worth that $17.31 an hour.

    Rather than seeking to kill Esquimalt businesses and entry-level jobs, stop the real causes of a high cost of living: high taxes, high cost of land development and counter-productive government regulation. Wham!

  2. guess who i won’t be voting for next election. This Municipality needs growth and development. Not some pie in the sky hair brained idea from some loopy politician who has idea’s of greater things than making Esquimalt a better place live and to do BUSINESS.

  3. This subject is none of your level of governments business. Grant campbell

  4. This Garison councilman is a complete clown! I highly doubt he has ever had to run a business and pay employess from his own pocket. He is one of those jerks who is great at spending taxpayer money with all sorts of taxpayer funded pie in the sky feel-good policies that he can pat himself on the back for…the more he does that, the less likely I would ever consider reelecting him to city council or elect him as MP or whatever it is he is running for these days. If the other council members cherish our votes, they had better get as far away from this guy and his policies as possible. Just pick up my garbage on time ….that’s what you are really elected to do. If you want to be an MP, then become an MP, but don’t try to be an MP via your town councilman position.

  5. This is ludicrous. If you want to kill small business and development in Esquimalt this is a good way to do it. More red tape, just what we need and of course I am sure we would have to hire someone to monitor this new policy too, right……….. Who are we to dictate what a business should pay it’s employees. It only makes god business sense to pay employees well and treat them well, but this is not council’s business. The next thing you know there will need to be a policy on how much a business can charge for it’s goods and services, come on guys, focus on the things we elected you to focus on.

    As far as municipal salaries are concerned I beleive Esquimalt salaries are well in line? Are we having problems recruiting or retaining employees? Our taxes in Esquimalt are comparatively high compared to other municipalities and this would only further increase them which would in turn impact those families who are not lucky enough to work for $17 per hour, plus benefits. I am all for paying employees fairly but there has to be some business sense applied to the application. If we aren’t saving money or making money by doing so, how can we pay it out? I would hope our council would focus on how to improve the municipalities productivity and keep our taxes in line vs how to spend more money and cause businesses more reason not to come to Esquimalt!

  6. A living wage is a living wage. You can’t really argue with the figures — you have to figure out what to do about them.

    Raise salaries is one option.
    How about lowering the cost of housing?
    How about people with secondary suites not gouging tenants, trying to charge what a proper apartments costs just because desperate people will pay — then go to the food bank?
    How about cheaper child care or OMG create an economy where one parent can stay home and care for their child! (Don’t faint, I know it’s a radical idea.)
    How about lowering the cost of living in Victoria so the salaries don’t have to go up?

    For those who see nothing wrong with a society full of middle class, upper middle class and the wealthy, hmmm, who is going to check out your groceries, who is going to pump your gas, who is going to sell you your pricey bauble and duds, who is going to maintain your lawn and property? Who is going to cook for you and serve you at restaurants? People with money need everyday workers around and these people need to be fed, clothed and housed. Cities need to consider all it’s members from the service worker to the elite receiving the services.

  7. Figures just cooked up by that Socialist Planning group. Tey made assumptions, with biggest being why should anybody think its their god-given right to procreate and have kids when they know they can’t afford it?

    Why should I have to pay a lot more just because somebody wants a family, wants child-care, wants 3-bedrooms, wants parents education, wants a car? Those are what the Socialist Planning group says are minimum.

    Having a minimum wage level is a wage floor that has created problems for youth, but with an even higher “living wage”, means some kid with no job experience who doesn’t even know how to sling hamburgers at McDonalds is going to double their salary? Nope – thats not how our world works, but try telling that to Garrison and his Socialist Planning pals.

    Actually, they can call this a “dying wage”, because it kills small businesses and opportunities for unskilled folks in Esquimalt to even get a job.
    Also increases prices of stuff and services bought in Esquimalt, so low income people will be squeezed bad.

    On bright side, it will promote Esquimalt jobs being mechanized, promote jobs shifting to my Saanich, and promote my Saanich residents with skills worth more money by taking those higher-paying jobs from Esquimalt folks.

    Its a win-lose thing – Esquimalt loses and outsiders like me win.

    Thanks Garrison!

  8. Let me add just a few points to the discussion here in hopes of turning it back towards debate based on facts and away from insult.

    First, a living wage policy is not about “pie in the sky.” It is about how we respond to the very real problems created by the gap that the market has created between entry level full-time wages and the amount necessary to live on in our community.

    Second, a living wage policy is in municipal jurisdiction. The policy would determine what wages will be for regular entry level jobs which are paid for using taxpayers’ money. It does not set a minimum wage nor does it tell small businesses what they must pay. Higher levels of government could set a higher minimum wage or provide services like universal child care and affordable housing that would help reduce the cost of living. I agree those are their jobs.

    Third, a living wage will not be a large cost item in our budget. As a Councillor I am proud to be part of a Council that has taken a very responsible approach to spending. We have managed to keep our tax increases to the increases to the rate of inflation, apart from policing costs which have been beyond our control. We have set in motion a process to take back control of policing and we have ardently opposed a wasteful sewage treatment plan. We will continue to be fiscally responsible.

    Finally, let me emphasize once again that a living wage policy would benefit small businesses in our community directly. When you increase the income of low income families they spend it on necessities and they spend it in their local community. A living wage policy is in fact part of a sound economic development strategy for any community. While New Westminster is the first Canadian municipality to have adopted a living wage bylaw, more than 130 US municipalities have already done so.

  9. Mr. Garrison: Blogs always attract some insult, so might be better for you to respond to those of us who took the time to post our concerns about your proposal. As I stated earlier, I’ll be interested in seeing that Esquimalt report.

    However, I do thank you for taking the time to post your response and clarification of what you intended by living wage proposal LWP).

    If your intent is ONLY to introduce LWP in Esquimalt Municipality public sector, it remains to be seen whether or not it has any impact. Obviously, if $17 is below the actual minimum wage Esquimalt pays now, it won’t have any impact. Province sets minimum wage and they have that power. If your intent is to subvert that jurisdiction, you may leave Esquimalt municipality open to legal challenges from taxpayers who seek relief from ultra vires laws.

    I think you’re trying to make the point that prudent fiscal management will still save money, but the fact remains that if you introduce LWP, you will be changing the wage-policy infrastructure and it may prove to be nefarious to Esquimalt residents. I have provided one example – LWP may attract higher-skill Saanich residents to work in Esquimalt. That doesn’t benefit Esquimalt residents nor businesses very much.

  10. Esquimalt postpones living wage proposal

    Erin McCracken
    Victoria News
    December 25, 2010

    Esquimalt council is temporarily holding off on adopting a living wage policy for its municipal employees.

    In a four to three vote at a committee of the whole meeting Dec. 13, council voted to support the implementation of a living wage for municipal workers to earn at least $17.31 an hour – well above minimum wage.

    In Victoria, $17.31 is the minimum hourly wage needed for two full-time working parents with two kids at home to escape poverty and pay for basic needs such as shelter, clothing and food. That was determined in a study conducted by the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria, which strives to improve quality of life for the disadvantaged within the Capital Region.

    The proposed wage would apply to casual workers employed by Esquimalt at a cost of about $8,400.

    “I think full-time work should not be a sentence to poverty,” said Coun. Randall Garrison, adding that Esquimalt would only be the second Canadian municipality after New Westminster to adopt a living wage.

    But during a public comment period that same night, two residents disagreed with implementing the wage.

    “I’m horrified you passed the living wage,” said longtime Esquimalt resident Muriel Dunn, adding that rewarding staff with incremental pay increases can be just as beneficial, and would mean fewer expectations for businesses that don’t provide such a wage.

    In response, Coun. Alison Gaul made a motion to postpone making a final decision on the issue until a Jan. 17 council meeting.

    Organizations and individuals are now being urged to submit written comments on the implementation of the living wage before the next council meeting.

    “I’m very pleased there was a step back in the process,” said Mayor Barb Desjardins, adding that public feedback is needed before a final decision is reached.

    It would also be naïve of council not to consider any implications the wage might have on the budget and taxation. Senior employees may, for example, ask for pay increases as a result.

    To offset costs, it might become necessary to reduce the number of casual employees.

    “The ones you try to help in the first place, you may end up not being able to keep them,” she said. “Those are the harsh realities, so we have to be very careful.”

  11. Garrison’s “living wage” proposal may be something he plans on touting for this run at the NDP seat now held by Keith Martin.


    CFAX 1070
    Jan 3, 2011





  12. Living wage crawls forward in Esquimalt amidst divide

    Erin McCracken
    Victoria News
    January 20, 2011

    It was standing room only as nearly 50 people witnessed Esquimalt council inch forward with the development of a proposed – yet restricted – living wage policy.

    With a show of hands, councillors voted four-to-three on Jan. 17 to direct municipal staff to develop a document expected to come before council for further consideration in March.

    “I have to say I’m disappointed because we don’t know fully what we’re getting into,” said Mayor Barb Desjardins, who was a voice of opposition along with councillors Linda Hundleby and Don Linge.

    Last year the Community Social Planning Council calculated that two full-time working parents of two children in the Capital Region need to earn at least $17.30 an hour to pay for basics such as shelter, clothing, transportation and food.

    On Monday, council favoured a narrower version of what it mulled in December, which would have impacted all township employees, including casual workers.

    The premise behind implementing a living wage was originally to “recognize the problem of affordability in our community,” said Coun. Randall Garrison, who preferred the full version similar to Coun. Bruce McIldoon, but was satisfied with Monday’s result.

    “This is not a question of charity. It’s a question of fair pay,” Garrison said.

    Staff is now drafting a policy that will set a goal for full- and part-time township employees “that won’t apply directly to wages set in the collective agreement,” the resolution states.

    The motion also stipulates that staff prepare a document that would only apply to future contracts with the township more than six months long – another new condition – or worth more than $100,000, such as, construction or vending machine service contracts.

    The third new component is that council should re-examine the policy’s hourly rate, costs and benefits every three years.

    “No, we can’t afford to keep paying and paying on our taxes, and I heard that loud and clear,” said Coun. Meagan Brame, adding this scaled-back version should offset any financial implications and ease taxpayers’ concerns.

    Still, the opposition urged for prudency.

    “We have to take into consideration what the full effect of such a policy change would be,” said Linge, adding it may provide a “back door” to the township’s collective agreement, which could mean added expense for taxpayers.

    “If we do this, we stand to have our knuckles rapped by the labour relations board,” he said.

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