The YWCA St. Thomas Elgin has number-crunched its way to a new living wage for 2017: $16.03 per hour. The living wage calculated in 2015 was $16.47 per hour.

The decrease can be attributed in part to the increase in the Canada child benefit, said Kellie Coelho, YWCA’s manager of health and wellness.

“This will add income to households raising children,” Coelho said. “It also means that families, because it’s not subject to taxation, will pay less in taxes as well.”

The living wage is what people need to earn based on the cost of living in St. Thomas and Elgin County. Things like child care, food, transportation, communication, clothing, education, utilities and rent are included in the calculation.

The living wage is based upon a family of four; two parents and two children ages seven and three.

For Daniel Kasudluak, losing the homeless centre in St. Stephen’s Anglican Church is like losing his life.

“If we lose it, I’m probably going to die before I’m 40.”

Kasudluak is 38.

The Open Door, a drop-in centre near Cabot Square whose clients are largely Indigenous, may soon find itself without a home after operating out of the church for nearly 30 years.

Make Poverty History Manitoba opposes proposed legislation which would tie minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation or less, freezing or lowering the buying power of the most vulnerable workers in Manitoba.

Under Bill 33, The Minimum Wage Indexation Act, future minimum wage increases would be set at the rate of the consumer price index (CPI), or in the case of negative economic conditions such as a recession, no increase will be made. This legislation would give workers only a $0.15 increase in minimum wage in 2017.

“Working should be a route out of poverty, but for some, low wages are a poverty trap. This legislation enshrines minimum wage as a poverty wage, and will leave some Manitobans permanently as far as $8,000 below the poverty line,” said Josh Brandon, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba.

The Pallister government is correct when it says that food bank use increased 2.4 per cent immediately after the NDP raised the PST in 2013.

Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen has been throwing that stat at the NDP all week as he defends raising the minimum wage annually at the rate of inflation.

But poverty activists said Thursday that the increase Cullen cites was not only one of the smallest annual increases in significant food bank use under the NDP, they argue that the PST is not a significant factor for Manitobans needing emergency food help.

Lynne Fernandez, a labour issues expert with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says the PST increase from seven per cent to eight is irrelevant, as far as food bank use is concerned.

“PST is not charged on many of the items that low-income people spend all their money on,” she said. “It’s just weird that the blowback is coming in 2017 over a completely unrelated issue.”

City councillors are lauding a provincial government decision to keep additional dollars for community support programs in the budget.

Last year, the city and local groups scrambled to allocate a 10 per cent increase to Family and Community Support Service grants in the NDP’s first full-year budget.

That was billed as a “one-time” boost to help local agencies operate and expand supports during the height of the economic recession.

On Wednesday, the city’s public services committee heard the increase has carried over to the new two-year program budget.

More than $1.3 million is earmarked for things like low-income supports, family counselling, food security and a host of other community and youth programs.

Canadians have been very clear. We believe the growing inequality in our country is unacceptable.

In a recent poll commissioned by the Broadbent Institute, an overwhelming 84 per cent of people said they consider the gap between the rich and the rest of us a problem. The same poll found there’s broad support for government action on the issue, from cutting down on the wealthiest hiding money in tax shelters, to increasing the minimum wage and putting more money toward income assistance programs.

Our own polling at Community Food Centres Canada also shows people are genuinely concerned about our fraying social safety net and high levels of food insecurity — a key marker of poverty — in this country. Three out of four people feel the issue is getting worse and believe the government should be doing more to address it.

So where’s the government action?

Nunavut is affected more than any other province or territory by household food insecurity, and needs remedial action, says a report published by the Conference Board of Canada last week.

The territory received a D grade for household food security for youth and adults aged 12 and older in the board’s Canada’s Food Report Card 2016: Provincial Performance, which compares 63 food performance metrics organized around industry prosperity, healthy food and diets, food safety, environmental sustainability and household food security. The Northwest Territories received a B in the latter category, while Yukon and all the provinces received an A. The grades were based on 2011-12 Statistics Canada data.

The report says that Nunavut is also the nation’s weakest performer on Indigenous food security, with 51 per cent of people experiencing low or very low levels of food security. “Inuit food insecurity is increased by climate change and environmental change, such as thinning of ice cover and altered animal migration routes,” the report notes, adding that “The eroding interest in, and increasing costs of, hunting traditional or country food are also factors.”