'All time low': Minimum wage and living wage head towards balance in Calgary
A report from Vibrant Communities Calgary, an advocacy group fighting poverty in the city, says the NDP's $15 per hour minimum wage has greatly improved living conditions for low income earners.
An organization devoted to exploring the causes of poverty in Calgary says, through a series of positive changes to social policy, the overall income level in the city has improved.
Vibrant Communities Calgary, in a report released this month, says the number of people in Calgary earning less than $40,207, Statistics Canada's measure threshold for the city, has dropped from 143,000 people or 9.8 per cent to 104,000 people or 6.9 percent.
One of the main reasons for the change, the agency says, has to do with the increased minimum wage brought in by the previous provincial government.
"There are fewer people living in poverty in Calgary," said VCC's executive director Franco Savoia. "There are fewer people living in poverty as we define it in the market basket measure than there were four or five years ago, so these policies have made a difference and we're now seeing it at the living wage."
Because of Alberta's minimum wage of $15 per hour, the gap between it and Calgary's living wage of $16.45 per hour, is at a historic low of eight per cent. The organization says in order to keep this up, employers will need to commit to paying workers a living wage.
"A living wage can lead to increased morale, a decrease in turnover, and contributes to a healthy and thriving community," the report states.
A number of Alberta's social programs have also improved this year, including Assisted Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Income Support.
But, the group adds a number of people who are receiving Income Support are still being subjected to high reductions on their benefits. The report says Albertans who are on income support and are deemed eligible to work would not be able to earn enough to reach the poverty line before their benefit hits zero.
Despite the report, the group says income alone isn't the only indicator of poverty and other issues such as food security, access to housing, transit, justice, as well as quality education and health care should also be considered.
"Provincial governments have a tremendous influence on economic poverty, and if the above-mentioned policies remain intact we will continue to see more gains in our future," the report states.
On Thursday, the Alberta government announced plans to appoint a panel to explore the province's minimum wage.
The body will consult with workers, employers and policy experts to analyze all available economic data and come forward with recommendations, if any.