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Gap widening in making ends meet

Posted on May 10, 2018 by Taber Times

The sudden price increase at gas pumps is not the only adjustment Albertans are facing in ever-increasing costs.

To put the recent increase at gas pumps into perspective it is worth noting how the price has changed in the last couple of years. Today 40 litres would cost about $53. A year ago we were paying $1.07 a litre and 40 litres cost $43. In March 2016 gas was 87 cents a litre or $35 for 40 litres. That means we are paying about 51 per cent more for gas than we were two years ago.

The retailers are not making the money; a large percentage of what we are paying is related to taxes on one level or another. Alberta’s carbon levy added 4.49 cents to gas in 2017 and another 2.24 cents in January this year for a total of 6.73 cents.

Last December we were warned that Canadians could expect to pay between one and three per cent more for food this year, according to Canada’s Food Price Report released last December. For the average family of four that would be an increase of $348 on an annual food bill of nearly $12,000 this year.

It is interesting to note that Statistics Canada in 2010 revealed the average annual cost of food was $8,427 a year. That represents a 42-per-cent increase in the last seven years.

A copy of the Alberta Spatial Price Index in 2016 revealed a food bill that costs $100 in Edmonton would be $105.50 just down the road in Medicine Hat.

The index breaks that down further: In Medicine Hat you are paying $103.3 for dairy, compared to Edmonton’s $100, and $114 for fruit and vegetables.

There is another government document called Living in Alberta, which breaks down the cost of living on a number of levels. Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Medicine Hat, in 2012, was $694 compared to $1,036 in Edmonton and the cost of a newly constructed single detached house here was $377,500 compared to $467,504 in Edmonton.

That report says the average cost of utilities per Alberta household annually is $2,893, while digital cable TV was $26 a month (in 2010 says the report) $30 for basic phone and $42 for basic high speed Internet. Most households are probably paying quite a bit more now.

The carbon tax was sold as an incentive to Albertans to reduce energy consumption but so much of our utility bills are now standard charges over which we have no control. You can be on vacation for a month, with greatly reduced use of utilities, and you may save $3 on your bill.

For many people, wages and pensions have not kept pace with the price increases.

If you earn minimum wage your hourly wage went from $12.20 to $13.60 last October. It will increase to $15 an hour this fall. If you were earning a few dollars above minimum wage that gap has now closed and it may feel as though you have been reduced to near minimum wage.

If you have a municipal, provincial or federal government job you have likely seen wage increases that at least kept pace with inflation if not improved your standard of living and what you could afford. Some have done considerably better. Those working for private business have been struggling to even keep pace with inflation. Many more than we realize are having to reduce their standard of living to make ends meet.

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