It's National Payroll Week. Regrettably, celebrations do not include an extra paycheque.
British Columbians may even be wondering what there is to celebrate at all.
According to the Canadian Payroll Association's survey of employed Canadians released in advance of this week's festivities, 53 per cent of British Columbians reported that "it would be difficult to meet their financial obligations if their pay cheque was delayed by even a single week."
Alec Milne of research firm Framework Partners noted that "the data suggests that household income growth has stalled and real incomes have actually declined when inflation is taken into account."
In 2014, according to the latest numbers from Statistics Canada, the median income for an individual in B.C. was $31,610, compared to the national median of $32,790.
The percentage of British Columbians earning below $25,000 was 41.6 per cent, or 1.469 million individuals. Add in those earning up to $49,999 and 69.2 per cent earned below $50,000.
B.C.'s Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, raised the alarm this July over the fact that senior families saw their annual median income fall 5.7 per cent and single seniors by 6.3 per cent (over 2013).
Now try finding one. The vacancy rate over the same period fell from 3.1 to 1.8 per cent, despite an increase of 4,229 units across B.C.
In the "we didn't say that, did we" department, RBC Economics reported in 2010 that increases in its Housing Affordability Index for B.C. "(signaled) that home ownership is really testing the limits of B.C. households' budgets. Very poor affordability is likely to restrain demand in the period ahead."
Back then, the average price for a standard condominium in the Vancouver area was $388,800 and $688,600 for a single-family detached bungalow.
In June, RBC reported that the average condo price had risen by 26.82 per cent to $493,100 and the bungalow by more than 100 per cent to $1.38 million.
In 2011, B.C.'s Provincial Health Services Authority reported that the cost of a standard "nutritious food basket for a family of four (was) $869 per month."
By 2015, it had risen 12.1 per cent to $974 per month (cumulative CPI 6.1 per cent).
Then there are those "just a few dollars a month more" regressive tax hikes the B.C. government likes so much. They add up.
A home for sale, center, listed for $1.4 million, stands in East Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver has long been one of the world's most expensive places to live but price gains have reached a whole new level of intensity this year. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Then there's the side of the ledger that hasn't stalled: living expenses.
In April 2010, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in B.C. was $876 and $983 for a two bedroom.
In 2015, the respective rents were $973 and $1,136, an increase of 11 and 15.6 per cent, respectively. The cumulative increase in the consumer price index (CPI) was nine per cent.
It would do well to remember that [any] growth is in some of Canada's lowest-paying jobs and in some of the country's priciest communities.
MSP premiums are up 31.6 per cent (2010 to 2016) to $900 for an individual and $1,800 for a family (cumulative CPI 10.4).
For an an average B.C. Hydro ratepayer using 1,000 kWh per month, their annual bill has risen by 32 per cent (2010 to 2015) to $1,235 per year (cumulative CPI 9.0).
FortisBC customers learned this week that the utility company wants to hike the cost of natural gas by a whopping 80 per cent.
Thinking of getting away from it all for a weekend?
A one-way passenger fare on B.C. Ferries between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay has risen by 25.5 per cent since 2010 to $17.20. On the Horseshoe Bay to Langdale route, the return fare has gone up by 28.2 per cent to $16.15 (cumulative CPI 10.4).
Back to one last stat from the Payroll Association's survey: 27 per cent of employees in B.C. said "they probably couldn't come up with $2,000 if an emergency arose within the next month," making them among "the most cash-strapped in the nation."
The government may like touting the fact that B.C. is on track to have the highest provincial job growth rate in the land this year, but it would do well to remember that the growth is in some of Canada's lowest-paying jobs and in some of the country's priciest communities.
As one person posted on social media in response to the last B.C. Hydro rate increase application: "The last thing people NEED is an increase in utilities! Knock off the GREED!"
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The Liberal government delivered its maiden budget Tuesday, March 22. A deficit of $29.4 billion in 2016-17, nearly three times the $10 billion promised during the fall election campaign, and a projected deficit of $17.7 billion in 2019-20 rather than the balanced budget that was promised in October. (Source: The Canadian Press)
One of the earmarks of the budget is a commitment to spending on aboriginal issues. This includes: - $2.6 billion over five years for primary and secondary education on First Nations reserves, including language and cultural programs, plus $969.4 million over five years for education infrastructure. - $1.2 billion over five years for social infrastructure for Aboriginal Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and northern communities. - $10.4 million over three years for new women's shelters in First Nations communities, and $33.6 million over five years and $8.3 million ongoing for support services. - $40 million over two years for the inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals will be changing the structure of Canada's child benefits, ending income splitting and other tax credits for families and parents. This means: - $10 billion more over two years for a new Canada child benefit, absorbing and replacing both the Canada child tax benefit and the universal child care benefit. Targeted to low and middle-income families, the government says the new benefit provides an average increase of nearly $2,300 in 2016-17. - An end to income splitting for couples with children, the children's fitness tax credit and the children's arts tax credit. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The government will spend $2.5 billion over two years on a suite of changes, including reducing the required work experience for new entrants and re-entrants; halving the two-week waiting period; extending a pilot project to allow claimants to work while collecting benefits; simplifying job-search requirements; and extending the benefit eligibility window in specific regions with a higher unemployment rate. (Source: The Canadian Press)
- $5.6 billion more in benefits to veterans and their families over five years, including a disability award that increases to $360,000, retroactive to 2006, and an earnings loss benefit to injured vets of 90 per cent of pre-release salary. The government is also re-opening nine veterans' service offices across the country and adding a 10th. - Planned National Defence purchases worth $3.7 billion — ships, planes and vehicles — are being deferred indefinitely. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
Planned National Defence purchases worth $3.7 billion — ships, planes and vehicles — are being deferred indefinitely. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The budget includes $3.4 billion over five years to increase the guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit by up to $947 annually for single seniors, and restore the old age security eligibility age to 65 from 67. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals broke a major campaign promise to cut the small business tax rate. Instead, the rate will remain at the current 10.5 per cent on the first $500,000 of active business income. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals will spend $1.53 billion over five years to increase Canada student grants to $3,000 from $2,000 for low-income students, to $1,200 from $800 for middle-income students and to $1,800 from $1,200 for part-time students. $2 billion over three years is also earmarked for a new strategic investment fund for infrastructure improvements at colleges and universities, in partnership with provinces and territories.
The Liberals' green infrastructure plan includes: - $2.2 billion over five years in water and wastewater treatment and waste management - $2 billion over two years for a low-carbon economy fund - Over $1 billion over four years to support future clean technology investments - $345.3 million over five years to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada and the National Research Council to take action to address air pollution. (Source: The Canadian Press)
The Liberals will spend $500,000 to help understand the role of foreign homebuyers in the country's housing market. The government says comprehensive and reliable data on the number of homes sold to foreign buyers does not exist right now. Read more here. (Source: The Canadian Press)
The marquee Liberal commitment to Syrian refugee resettlement could end up costing taxpayers close to $1 billion. The budget provided an additional $245 million over five years to bring in the remaining 10,000 people needed to meet the Liberal promise to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
$142.3 million over five years will be spent to add new national parks and improve access during the 150th anniversary of Confederation. (Source: The Canadian Press
The Grits will provide up to $178 million over two years for the provinces for urgent affordable housing needs. Read more here (Source: The Canadian Press)
The budget earmarks $38.5 million over two years to strengthen and modernize Canada's food safety system. (Source: The Canadian Press)