Terrace council holds off on 'living wage' debate

DEBATE at last night's Terrace city council meeting on a call by local social work students for council to adopt a living wage policy was put on hold until city staffers doublecheck what the city pays its own employees.

The UNBC students calculated that Terrace area residents need to make at least $17.65 an hour and asked that the city pay at least that much to its employees and not contract out work to any company paying its workers less.

Councillor Brian Downie said he fears the UNBC undergraduates used a “bottom-up calculation” to arrive at their living wage numbers for a Terrace family, and that he wanted the formula scrutinized more carefully.

During the question segment long-time resident of Terrace Dick Evens said that the formula must have been flawed, and suspects that it didn't take into account some of the cost-saving aspects of living in Terrace such as short distances getting around town compared to Metro Vancouver.

City Chief Administration Officer Heather Avison said that the administration is looking into how other municipalities managed to adopt the living wage policy.

Avison hopes to provide this information for the first council meeting in April, she said.

Council also heard a presentation by Dorothy Bartsoff of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union. She requested that council support Social Service Awareness Month with a letter acknowledging “chronic underfunding” of this sector.

“Do we have the data to support the contentions that were made in that presentation?” Downie asked after Bartoff's call to support programs that help the elderly, people with disabilities and the homeless.

Councillor Stacy Tyers responded that social service providers “employ many people in this community,” adding that they are essentially part of the business community because they generate jobs and revenue.

After several councilors weighed in with examples of government funding cuts to social services in support of Bartsoff's views, the motion was rested.

Council did agree to write a letter of support for the Kermode Friendship Society's push to find solutions for homeless youth between the ages of 16 and 18 who currently do not have a shelter in Terrace.

A development variance permit and a zoning amendment were also passed through first and second readings--the first is a permit for minor variation of a property at 5101 Agar Avenue and the second a zoning amendment for Sunshine Inn Executive Suites, the back to back development at 4813 Lazelle Avenue and 4812 Highway 16 West right close to city hall.

The Sunshine Inn proposal began as a hotel, but the amendment would see an additional 14 apartment-style units added to the top floor.

Bruce Bidgood said he is excited about this development plan for “small units to be owned by individuals or couples who don’t want a nuclear house that was built in the 70s.” This application is in line with council's push to follow through with the housing action plan recommendations, Bidgood said.

Mayor David Pernarowski was back in council after several weeks absence.


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