A living wage in Halifax in 2020 is $21.80 according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The CCPA released the report by Chelsea Driscoll and Christine Saulnier, “Living wages in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick 2020,” on Wednesday. It’s an update to the CCPA’s 2018 calculation of $19 for Halifax.

This new report also determined the living wage in Antigonish ($19.55), Bridgewater ($16.80), and Cape Breton Regional Municipality ($17.65). In New Brunswick, the CCPA calculated a living wage of $19.55 for Saint John.

Living wages in Nova Scotia from CCPA’s report.

In Nova Scotia, minimum wage is $12.55. It’s $11.70 in New Brunswick.

“The living wage is calculated to show exactly how much a household would have to earn to cover all basic necessities and allow families to live in dignity and enjoy a decent quality of life,” Driscoll and Saulnier wrote.

“The wage is calculated such that the family should be able to avoid severe financial stress, support the healthy development of their children, and participate in the social, civic and cultural lives of their communities. Actual expenses are used to calculate the wage to reflect the rate of pay that families need to meet their basic needs given the costs, available government supports and services, and norms of a specific community.”

The living wage is calculated based on what two adults with two young children, both working full time, need to earn “to pay for necessities and provide a cushion above the poverty line,” although the authors note, “the research has shown that there are not significant differences in the hourly living wage rate needed to sufficiently meet the needs of a single adult or a lone parent with one child.” It also factors in deductions like taxes and transfers like child benefits.

It does not include “credit card or loan payments, savings for retirement, life insurance, home ownership, or costs associated with a child or adult family member who has disabilities or serious illness requiring care or adaptive supports.”

Shelter is the largest cost in the calculation, following by child care and food.

Driscoll and Saulnier wrote that, “First and foremost, this report is a call for employers to pay a living wage.” But it also contains recommendations to government, including better labour standards to protect workers from precarious work, sick time, a minimum wage of at least $15, publicly-funded child care, more progressive taxation, and more affordable housing, transportation, health care and education.

Calculating the living wage shines a spotlight on what needs to be done to support families, and more broadly low wage workers, to help everyone attain a good quality of life,” Driscoll and Saulnier conclude.

“Calling for employers to pay a living wage voluntarily is not a substitute for a needed, substantive increase to the minimum wage and proactive enforcement of stronger labour standards, and for public investment in quality public services including universal child care, an extension of public health care, and more affordable housing in our community, and in the expansion of affordable, accessible public transit.”

After a three-year wait for a report on requiring the city’s contractors to pay a living wage, staff came back to Halifax regional council in July with a watered-down, optional policy. Though a few councillors expressed disappointment, it passed, with an update coming in the fall.


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Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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      1. The article says “It [referring to the living wage] also factors in deductions like taxes and transfers like child benefits.”

        Is there someone reading these comments who can clarify this?

        1. That means that if you get paid $21.80, what you have left over after taxes plus any transfers you get from government works out to enough to pay the bills.