Ottawa found itself at the top of a new list, but not the good kind.
According to a non-profit group that calculates and compares how much workers in 10 different regions of Ontario need to earn per hour to earn a living wage – “and enjoy modest participation in civic and cultural life” – Ottawa presents a steep hill to climb.
The national capital’s living wage has increased 12 per cent since last year to $21.95, the largest year-over-year increase among the 10 Ontario regions measured by the Ontario Living Wage Network.
In the network’s annual ranking published on Monday. Ottawa’s living wage also ranked third highest behind the Greater Toronto Area and Gray Bruce Perth Huron Simcoe in southwestern Ontario.
Ottawa isn’t special in itself, but this year’s results show that recent increases in food and rent costs have been felt more acutely by the capital’s residents, said the chain’s Craig Pickthorne.
“[The living wages] all increase some degree year after year. They never come down,” Pickthorne said.
According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing CorporationThe average two-bedroom apartment in Ottawa rents for $1,625, while the minimum wage in Ontario is $16.55.
Ottawa employees who earn minimum wage and work full time are still $185 short in terms of “being able to pay their bills,” Pickthorne said.
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Key to hiring staff, says owner
The network defines a living wage as the hourly rate a person needs to earn to cover basic expenses: not just food and rent, but also clothing, transportation and Internet.
The network also certifies 33 businesses in Ottawa that pay a living wage.
Full Cycle, a bicycle shop, is one of them.
Owner Matti Pihlainen said all his employees earn a living wage from the beginning of 2023.
For him, it was key to recruiting.
“We realized that it was becoming more difficult to find good staff,” Pihlainen said. “We needed to make sure we retained people and treated them the best we could.”