Daajing Giids is one of the most expensive places in B.C. for families to make ends meet, according to a report from Living Wage for Families released on Nov. 17.
The report states that in a family of four, consisting of two full-time working adults and two young children, the adults each need to make $25.87 per hour to afford basic expenses in the small community.
This dollar figure, called the living wage, includes expenditures like rent, child care, food and transportation but does not consider repayment of debts or savings for retirement. The calculation incorporates taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies available to residents.
“When [village staff] brought me the results, it quantified what I already knew, that it is extremely expensive to live here and is burdensome for people, our constituents,” Lisa Pineault, mayor of Daajing Giids, said.
“I think what put us at the top of the list, and maybe in years past we wouldn’t have been, is the COVID increase in housing prices and the lack of monthly rentals. So the two things have made housing costs extremely high in our municipality.”
Compared to 22 other communities in B.C., the Haida Gwaii village had the highest living wage.
The lowest living wage in the province was $18.98 for families in Fraser Valley.
This was the first year Daajing Giids participated in the living wage program and only three other northern communities joined them. In Prince Rupert the living wage was $22.69, in Prince George it was $21.19 and in Dawson Creek it was $20.53.
“The living wage is a powerful tool to ensure paid work results in a standard of living that is well above the poverty line and enables a life that is about more than a constant struggle to get by,” the report by Living Wage for Families states.
Daajing Giids’ chief administrative officer, Courtney Kirk, made the ultimate decision to participate as the opportunity came during municipal elections. Staff from the village office supported the program by providing relevant information for their constituency.
“We were not really quite prepared for the outcome, however, which demonstrated that, in fact, the living wage amount in Daajing Giids is the highest in the province of all the participating communities,” Kirk said during a village council meeting on Nov. 21.
In a report to the council, Kirk and communications specialist at the village of Daajing Giids, Carolyn Beaumont, laid out some of the limitations of the calculation as well as some of the reasons why the village’s living wage was high.
Other communities calculate the monthly cost of housing using the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Canadian Rental Housing Index estimates, the staff members’ report states. However, Daajing Giids is too small to be included in these calculations, so the village conducted their own survey to gauge the median price of a three-bedroom rental.
Using a survey posted on the village’s Facebook page, renters were asked what they pay for a three-bedroom living quarter and landlords were asked what they charge for the same. The results showed a median cost of $1,514.29 per month based on eight responses.
Another cost residents in Daajing Giids have to absorb that others do not is the ferry. Participating communities were able to include expenses for a set of trips to a major centre each year but for those living in Daajing Giids, this meant the cost of a ferry ticket to Prince Rupert. Three off-season round-trip ferry passages, including a car but not including any other onboard costs, were included in the calculation. The village did not, however, factor in any travel past the coastal city.
A final point made in the report from the village staff was about the cost of food. Prices were not estimated for each community, but rather for a whole region. Daajing Giids was included in the Northwest Health Service Delivery Area which spans from Haida Gwaii to Houston and up to the Yukon border. If food costs were specific to Daajing Giids they would be higher, Pineault said.
No other communities in Haida Gwaii took part in the living wage calculation program. However, Pineault believes they would have similar results because they live in the same circumstances as those in Daajing Giids.
Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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