The annual Vital Signs report announced this week that the cost of living is the No. 1 concern for residents of the Capital Region, ahead of the previous top issue, homelessness.
The results leave us asking a couple of questions: Is homelessness second on the list because residents perceive the region’s homelessness strategy to be working? Or, in the wake of the economic turmoil gripping the world — it continues to trickle down to the Capital Region — have people chosen to focus more on their own situation rather than first considering the well-being of those less fortunate than themselves?
It’s likely a little of both. When the region’s homelessness strategy was first put forward, Greater Victoria was still enjoying the fruits of economic progress and people no doubt felt able to put their thoughts and dollars toward the poorest of the poor in our communities.
Now, however, with news of the latest market crash or soft tourism numbers regularly found in the media, people have begun to fear for their economic future.
Proponents of the minimum wage hike this year from $8 an hour, an absolute necessity, hoped the effect would be to indirectly boost the wages of other workers making nearly as modest a rate. For some businesses, however, it has only had the effect of adding payroll and thus prevented other workers from gaining much-needed cost-of-living increases.
With the exception of certain union positions, wages in general are not keeping pace with inflation. With the still-harsh economic realities dictating a holding of the line on expenses for business and government, many are choosing to avoid giving raises as a way to allow employees to keep their jobs.
The disparity in income between the wealthy, and the middle class plus working poor continues to grow. It’s up to our governments to look at ways, through taxation policy, of allowing the majority of workers, in the middle- and lower-income range, to at least keep pace with the gains being accrued by the wealthiest in our society.