or Vancouver? Ask most folk which city boasts the higher median family
income and chances are they'll say Vancouver. They couldn't be more
median income for a two-parent family living in Halifax was $87,430 in
2011. Vancouver wasn't even close at $74,510. In fact, family incomes
were higher in St. John's, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Regina just
to name a few cities. Heck, Windsor, Ontario had a higher median income.
But when it comes to the family budget, incomes only tell half the
story. Consider that in December the average price of a home in Halifax
was $273,792. In Vancouver, it was $825,635.
According to RBC's housing affordability measure, it takes 87.4 per cent
of a family's median pre-tax household income to service the costs of
owning a two-storey home in Vancouver and that's if you qualify. In
Atlantic Canada, it's 36.7 per cent.
The kicker: don't think of trying to buy a home in Vancouver with a
household income of less than $161,700 or more than double the region's
current median family income.
Those who can't buy will take little comfort from a new City of
Vancouver incentive program for developers that build 'affordable'
apartments. The catch? The city pegs the permissible maximum rent and
they pegged it at $1,443 for a studio apartment.
More than 40 per cent of British Columbians live paycheque to paycheque.
The average consumer debt in Vancouver is the highest in Canada at
$40,174 (excluding mortgage).
B.C. consumers are now borrowing to meet daily living expenses and that
should be a big worry, because many families may be one interest rate
hike away from teetering over the fiscal precipice.
Too many British Columbians – particularly young people – don't see a
future for themselves in B.C. They might be able to find a job in their
field, may even be able to make ends meet at the end of the month, but
the idea of owning a home and raising a family is moving further and
further out of their reach.
No wonder British Columbians react with guffaws when provincial cabinet
ministers boldly step in front of the mic and try to explain the latest
rate hike or premium increase away as just “a few dollars a month more.”
In the past year, British Columbians have seen a few of those “only a
few dollars a month more” hikes, whether it's at B.C. Hydro, ICBC or
B.C. Ferries. Just last month, MSP premiums rose by “only $2.75 per
month more” to $69.25 for an individual.
B.C. finance minister Mike de Jong would do well to keep all of this in
mind when he tables the provincial budget. Because if the B.C.
government still remembers that families first thing, there's a few
measures that he could announce which would help families struggling to
Start with MSP premiums. It's ludicrous that Chip Wilson of Lululemon
should pay the same health care premium as many of his lowest paid
staff. Same goes for Jimmy Pattison or Amar Doman. Premiums are a surtax
on the middle class.
Adjust personal income tax rates to account for what the government
takes in from MSP premiums and do away with them. Maybe B.C. won't be
able to boast the lowest tax rates in the country, but it will be fairer
for British Columbians and save money to boot. No more bills to process,
no more bill collectors.
Stop chasing false economies. Albert Einstein once said that “insanity
was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different
results." And to think he said that more than half a century before B.C.
Ferries became a quasi-private corporation. It's a failed experiment.
Fess up, fix it and move on.
And for a government obsessed with core reviews you sure do cower in
fear when it comes to local governments. Ratepayers deserve a break too
and if city halls won't act, it may be time to force some efficiencies,
particularly in Metro Vancouver and the Capital Regional District.
Chances are you didn't meet any of them at this week's $1,000 a plate
B.C. Liberal party fundraising dinner in Victoria, but to turn a bank's
slogan on its head Mr. de Jong: “British Columbians are poorer than you
think.” And they're looking for a fair shake.
Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.
Copyright (c) 2014 The Valley Voice