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Time for Burnaby City Hall to take leadership in Living Wage

November 11, 2011

BURNABY – For years I have been an advocate for the idea of a living wage.  I read of the idea, saw the benefit to local economies (more money in the hands of the community means more spending – hopefully at local businesses.), and was lucky enough to work for an organization (The Surrey Urban Farmers Market) that was committed to paying a living wage – it was amazing.

But if I’m honest, that’s where my interest in the living wage ended.  I thought it was great for local economies – end of story.

Then I saw a presentation by Michael McCarthy-Flynn of the Living Wage for Families campaign.  Its a shame that only a handful of people where at the presentation, because it was an eye-opener.  He spoke of poverty – specifically child poverty (did you know BC had the third highest rate of child poverty in BC in 2008?), and made a convincing argument that a living wage can help to eliminate poverty in our communities.

I admit, he was preaching to the choir, but I was inspired.  I wanted to make the Living Wage an election issue, and I have tried my best to draw attention to it.  I was lucky enough to mention the living wage during a recent all candidates debate – the question focused on creative solutions to reduce poverty in Burnaby (if interested, you can find the full address here).

I was surprised to see BCA incumbent (and NDP supporter) Pietro Calendino oppose the idea.  He was quick to write it off as expensive, saying it would mean a raise in taxes.  Its easy to write off the Living Wage Policy this way – saying it will cost the city too much – but it is just not correct.

New Westminster, great neighbour, and amazing city was the first in Canada to pass a Living Wage Policy back in 2009.  Granted they are a smaller city, but in the first year the increase in cost to the city in implementing the living wage was costing them LESS THAN ONE QUARTER OF ONE PERCENT of its budget.  Not to mention the effect this can have on local businesses – or most importantly what it can do for a family living in poverty.

It is upsetting Mr. Calendino rallied so hard against a creative solution to reduce poverty.  Even more disappointing was the fact that he and his BCA collegues failed to present any innovative ideas to reduce poverty.

It is time for our city to take a leadership role on fair wages and poverty reduction.  If elected, I will do my best to implement a Living Wage policy, ensuring all City Hall employees and contractors are paid $18.81 – the living wage as calculated for Metro Vancouver.

Surely we owe it to our citizens to pay a wage that will allow them to pay their bills, support their families, and maybe even save a little for the future.  We know that overworked, underpaid employees are unable to participate fully in their communities, as a city we owe our residents the chance to be part of their neighbourhoods, – honestly our city could use more engagement.

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