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Sunshine Coast Foundation becomes first certified living wage employer on Lower Coast

Region has the third highest living wage in the province
Person typing on a calculator - budget work - accounting
The Sunshine Coast’s living wage for 2021 was calculated to be $19.79 per hour

The Sunshine Coast Foundation (SCF) has become the first employer on the lower Coast to become certified for committing to providing a living wage to its employees. 

On Jan. 28, the non-profit announced its new certification as a living wage employer during a virtual conversation it hosted with regional stakeholders about the importance and challenges of a living wage. 

“One of the missions of the Sunshine Coast Foundation is to be a community leader around issues that are important to the community,” former executive director and the event organizer, Wendy Francis, told Coast Reporter. “This is an example of us demonstrating that leadership by showing that it's possible for a small nonprofit organization to pay a living wage and to act as an example for other employers in the community.”

With this step, SCF joined the around 345 other employers across B.C. in committing to paying a living wage, and they hope to inspire more local employers to do the same. 

It was an easy decision to make, Francis said. The foundation currently has three part-time employees, and has committed to pay them and any future hires equal to or greater than the living wage, regardless of their role in the organization. The commitment includes direct staff as well as contract workers, which presenters said can create a knock-on effect, as contractors know they have to pay their staff the living wage in order to do work with some businesses and can get additional credit in the procurement process for doing so.

At least 10 municipalities in B.C. have become certified living wage employers. During the presentations, representatives from the City of Victoria, which became certified in 2020, shared the change becoming a living wage employer had in their community.

Jodi Jensen, the head of human resources for the City of Victoria, said the living wage has translated into an improved value for tax payers’ dollars by increasing recruitment and retention of staff. Most of the city’s 1,100 employees were found to already be paid the calculated living wage (or more), but 45 were not. The city negotiated a wage adjustment with the union, which resulted with an annual cost of approximately $10,000.

“Within the scope of the city's budget, it was really quite insignificant, but for those individual employees, of course, it comes with a significant impact in terms of their ability to be healthy, to have healthy families, and to be able to participate within the community and live in the community,” Jensen said.

“Even though it may cost a little more, the value of quality, the service that's been received, has increased as well.”

The living wage

The Sunshine Coast’s living wage for 2021 was calculated to be $19.79 per hour, based on a province-wide guideline that uses consistent data in order to compare different areas. In the presentations, it was called a conservative number.

According to Living Wage for Families BC and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Sunshine Coast had the third highest living wage last year of the report’s 14 participating communities in B.C., only slightly less than Metro Vancouver ($20.52) and Greater Victoria ($20.46). The provincial minimum wage is $15.20 per hour.

In presentations throughout the meeting, the limitations of the calculation were addressed. The living wage does not include the capacity to accrue long-term savings, or Coast-specific costs like the ferry or increased food prices. Debt was also not included. Some workers are also caring for their children and their own parents.

“It’s very much a living wage, rather than necessarily a thriving wage,” Anastasia French of the Living Wage for Families Campaign said in her presentation. 

Of the employers in B.C. who have become certified, 97 per cent reported benefits from being part of the program, French said. Those benefits can include good publicity, increased staff morale, more job applications and less staff turnover. The community can also benefit from increased wages, as low wage workers are more likely to spend locally.

The living wage campaign also seeks to inform poverty reduction and public policy.

“For employers, they've seen a benefit of paying a living wage that goes above and beyond the moral reasons of paying a living wage. For them, it makes good business sense as well,” she said. 

First Credit Union, based in Powell River, also presented as a certified living wage employer. Their social impact specialist, Caitlin Bryant, said, “In the current competitive employment landscape, paying our employees a living wage is not an end goal. It's a baseline... It’s really a bare minimum cost of doing business.”

Among the 36 participants of the conversation were MLA Nicholas Simons, Sechelt mayor Darnelda Siegers and Gibsons mayor Bill Beamish. 

More information about the living wage can be found at and