Living Wage Cities

On January 1, 2011 the City of New Westminster, BC became the first city in Canada to become a Living Wage Employer. Its Living Wage Policy requires all firms that are contracted directly or subcontracted by the City to provide services on City premises to pay their employees who perform the services a Living Wage, calculated for 2015 to be $20.68 per hour, assuming no benefits are provided by the employer.

In all its competitive bid documents, the City includes a Declaration to be signed by a company under contract with the City confirming that all its employees are paid not less that the Living Wage.

Living Wage Canada is a site/portal that facilitates information sharing among communities that are part of the national living wage movement:

It contains details about the Canadian Living Wage Framework which provides a consistent living wage definition, a calculation methodology, and a proposal for recognizing corporate leadership committed to adopting a living wage policy.

The website provides a list for each province of the cities and regions that have adopted a living wage policy, giving the calculated living wage amount in each case. It also gives the names and logos of all the Living Wage Employers in Alberta (44 LWEs), British Columbia (37 LWEs) and Ontario (37 LWEs).

Below are a few examples of Living Wage Cities across Canada:

Living wage amount: $18.52

The living wage rate for Toronto in 2015, calculated using the methodology of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), is $18.52 per hour. The Living Wage Toronto website mentions that the DUCA Credit Union pays all its employees a living wage.

The announcement of the new rate for 2015 in the Toronto Star includes a breakdown of the various expenses making up the living wage calculation:

Also of interest: Make Toronto a living-wage city: Trish Hennessy’s Big Idea:

Living wage amount: $18.15

Calgary’s living wage was recalculated in 2015 using the Canadian Living Wage Framework mentioned above. The new rate is $18.15 per hour. (Alberta’s minimum wage is $11.20 per hour.)

It is interesting to note that in announcing the new living wage amount, Franco Savoia, said:

“We could see a drop in the [living wage rate] if changes were implemented to certain social policies, like childcare, for example. We know that there are licensed childcare spaces for less than 20 per cent of children in Calgary, and therefore, the majority of Calgary families with children are not eligible for the provincial childcare subsidy. If our calculation included the assumption that most families are able to access licensed childcare and therefore received the province’s subsidy, the living wage would go down by more than 3 dollars per hour.”


Living wage amount:  $19.10

Halifax council voted on June 20, 2017 for a report from city staff on a new procurement policy, including a living wage requirement:

CCPA has determined the living wage for the Halifax Regional Municipality to be $19.10 per hour.

Living wage amount: $20.62

According to Tamara Vrooman, the current minimum wage in British Columbia provides a family of four (which includes two adults working full-time and two children) 52% of what they need to pay for their basic needs.

Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of Vancity, writes about being a living wage employer and the impact it has on her employees and their ability to build healthy and sustainable communities:

In communities throughout BC, the Living Wage for Families Campaign raises awareness about the negative impact of low-wage poverty.  The campaign’s living wage rate for Metro Vancouver was calculated to be $20.68 per hour for 2015.

In 2017, the living wage rate decreased to $20.62. Despite the rising costs of living, the reason for this decrease is due to the Canadian government’s Canada Child Benefit.

It is noteworthy that the City of Vancouver has committed to becoming a Living Wage Employer. The next step will be for the City to draft an implementation plan to pay its direct employees and those of major service contractors a living wage.

The Living Wage for Families Campaign has now certified 74 organizations as Living Wage Employers, including the financial co-operative Vancity.  With more than 2,500 employees working at 57 branches throughout the Vancouver and Victoria regions, Vancity is Canada’s largest Living Wage Employer.

Living wage amount: $14.07

The living wage for Winnipeg has been calculated for a family of four with both parents working. For 2013, the rate was found to be $14.07 per hour.

Below are a few examples of Living Wage Cities in Ontario:

Living wage amount: $14.85

In 2014, a living wage for Brantford was calculated using a living wage calculator developed by Hugh Mackenzie. Brantford’s living wage was calculated using excel spreadsheets. Information about the family type (which pertains to the sex and ages of family members), the total of hours each adult works, as well as family expenses were inputted into these spreadsheets. With this information, the calculator is able to determine the total cost of living and the living wage rate needed for a family to adequately meet their needs. Based on all this, the living wage rate was calculated at $14.85.


Living wage amount: $15.42

On November 15, 2015, Cambridge City Council voted to become Ontario’s first municipality to pay its employees a living wage, $16.05 an hour at that time.   When the living wage for the Waterloo Region was recalculated in 2017, the rate decreased from $16.05 to $15.42 an hour, mainly due to the introduction by the federal government on July 1, 2016 of the Canada Child Benefit.  See the article by Anam Latif on November 17, 2015 in the Waterloo Region Record,


Living wage amount: $15.86  

In 2015, Chatham-Kent living wage was calculated at $15.86. This rate was calculated through the adoption of the Canadian Living Wage Framework and the Working for a Living Wage: Calculation Guide. Some principles of the Canadian Living Wage Framework include: allowing families to have a sufficient income to cover reasonable expenses, promote social inclusion for families, and support healthy child development.

Durham Region
Living wage amount: $17.00

In 2016, Community Development Council Durham (CDCD) studied the costs of living for Durham families, and calculated what two working parents would need to support a family of four. CDCD adopted the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ national methodology as well as information they had gathered from community consultations to calculate their living wage. As of 2017, Durham Region’s living wage was calculated at $17.00 an hour.

Living wage amount: $16.76
City of Owen Sound living wage amount: $14.77 (due to City’s public transportation)

In 2015, the United Way calculated the living wage for rural areas of Owen Sound to be $16.76, and the small municipality of Owen Sound to be $14.77. It was noted that the United Way based its calculations on the cost of basic needs in that area as well as ensuring that a single parent and their two children could feel socially included within their community. These calculations also took into consideration the overall well-being of the family by incorporating gifts, Internet access and small vacations into their living wage calculations.

Living wage amount: $15.85

In 2016, Hamilton’s living wage rate was calculated at $15.85. However, some have argued that the city’s living wage should be $17.00 an hour instead. According to Tom Cooper, the director for the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, $15.85 an hour is the minimum rate needed for a family of four to live modestly in Hamilton.

Living wage amount: $16.47 

In 2015, Perth-Huron calculated its living wage at $16.47. This hourly rate takes into consideration how much a worker must earn to be able to afford their family’s basic needs such as groceries, housing, utilities, childcare and transportation. For this living wage calculation, the family constellation consisted of two adults who worked full-time and two young children. The methodology adopted for this living wage calculation was the Canadian Living Wage Framework.

Living wage amount: $15.53

In 2016, London’s living wage was calculated at $15.53 an hour using the methodology of the Canadian Living Wage Framework. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s Living Wage calculator was used as well.

Living wage amount: $16.58

In 2016, Kingston’s living wage rate went from $16.29 to $16.58. Kingston’s updated living wage was calculated using the methodology of the Canadian Living Wage Framework as well as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s Living Wage calculator.

In the Living Wage Kingston Update, the city addressed the polarization of household incomes to highlight the need for a living wage. For instance, although the 2015 Average Personal Income for Kingston was $48,204, almost half of the population earned less than $30,000 a year. The report also acknowledged the rise of precarious work in low-paying workplaces, and the fact that there is a growing group of struggling workers in the Kingston community. The Living Wage Kingston Update emphasized the importance of having a living wage in Kingston.

In this report, it is explained that Kingston’s living wage only increased a modest 29 cents since its last calculation due to the significant increase in the Canada Child Benefit, and noted that it is not because the cost of living in Kingston has diminished.

Muskoka County
Living wage amount: $15.84

Niagara Region
Living wage amount: $17.47  

In 2016, the hourly living wage for the Niagara Region was calculated at $17.47. The methodology used to calculate Niagara’s living wage was adapted from the National Living Wage Framework with the calculator developed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Living wage amount: $17.65

A living wage for Peterborough was calculated at $16.47 in 2013 using the CCPA methodology by the Peterborough Social Planning and Research Council. In 2016, the Peterborough Social Planning Council released a second report that calculated Peterborough’s new living wage rate at $17.65 an hour.

Living wage amount: $16.18

In 2015, the Social Planning Council of Sudbury calculated its living wage rate at $16.18 an hour. This calculation was achieved using the Canadian Living Wage Framework and the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives Ontario Living Wage Calculator. This living wage rate was based on the expenses of a family of four with both parents working full-time for 37.5 hours a week.

St. Thomas-Elgin
Living wage amount: $16.47

St. Thomas-Elgin completed their living wage calculation by implementing the framework developed by the Canadian Centre for Policy as well as taking on a family basket expense approach. This report was completed by Pathways to Prosperity, an organization led by the YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin and funded by Status of Women Canada. The report does an effective job at leading a deeper conversation around how much it truly costs to live in the St. Thomas-Elgin area.

Thunder Bay
Living wage amount: $16.50   

In 2014, the Thunder Bay and District Poverty Reduction Strategy released a poverty reduction strategy that calculated Thunder Bay’s living wage to be $16.50 an hour. The methodology used for this wage calculation was adopted from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. This report highlighted that the hourly gap between the province’s minimum wage and a living wage in Thunder Bay is $5.10 per hour (the minimum wage in Ontario is currently $11.40 per hour). This was described as an alarming statistic as it suggested that the gap between the working poor and those who can afford a healthy and decent quality of life will continue to grow.

Waterloo Region
Living wage amount: $15.42

As of January 2017, Waterloo’s living wage is calculated at $15.42 an hour for a family of four. This rate was calculated through the adoption of the Canadian Living Wage Framework, as well as with the Policy Alternatives Ontario Family Expense Workbook. The Living Waterloo Region interviewed community members to gain input on whether they should make adjustments to the list of family expenses used in their previous report. After the completion of this study, changes were made to the telephone, Internet and cable categories. Due to the increase in child benefits (Canada Child Benefit), the living wage calculation for 2017 decreased from $16.05 to $15.42 for the Waterloo Region.

Living wage amount: $14.15

On March 11, 2015 Windsor launched its living wage campaign. The living wage for Windsor and Essex County was calculated to be $14.15 without benefits and $13.10 with health and dental benefits.  There are now more than twenty Living Wage Employers in the region. An excellent 5-minute video about the region’s living wage employers and employees may be found on the home page of their website: 

Some emerging living wage communities in Ontario include:

  • Muskoka County
  • Oxford County
  • Ottawa
  • Peel Region
  • Renfrew County
  • Simcoe County

Listed below are living wage rates calculated for various cities across Canada:


  • Calgary – $18.15
  • Edmonton – $16.69
  • Grande Prairie – $17.35
  • Medicine Hat – $13.00
  • Red Deer and Central Alberta – $13.81 to $14.10

British Columbia

  • Regional District of the Central Okanagan – $18.42
  • Clayoquot Sound – $20.11
  • Cortes Island – $16.29
  • Comox Valley – $15.96
  • Cowichan Valley – $18.81
  • Cranbrook – $14.16
  • Esquimalt – $17.31
  • Fraser Valley – $15.90
  • Golden – $20.46
  • Huu-ay-aht First Nations/Port Alberni – $17.22
  • Kamloops – $16.90
  • Kitimat – $20.61
  • Lower Columbia Region – $18.15
  • Nanaimo – $17.99
  • Nelson – $18.42
  • New Westminster – $19.14
  • North Central BC (Prince George, Quesnel) – $16.39
  • North East BC (Dawson Creek, Chetwyn, Tumbler Ridge) – $18.29
  • Powell River – $16.75
  • Qualicum/Parksville – $16.44
  • Revelstoke – $18.77
  • Sunshine Coast – $18.80
  • Terrace – $18.17
  • Vancouver – $20.62
  • Victoria (Capital Regional District) – $20.01
  • Williams Lake – $15.77


  • Brandon – $13.41
  • Thompson – $13.46
  • Winnipeg – $14.07

Northwest Territories

  • Yellowknife – $20.68

Nova Scotia

  • Antigonish – $17.30
  • Halifax –  $19.17


  • Regina – $16.46
  • Saskatoon – $16.77


  • Yukon Territory – $19.12

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