Small And Sustainable

My wife and I have been noticing a disturbing trend within Vancouver lately. More and more businesses are in dire need of part time employees (and some even full time). For example, the other day my wife noticed that one store owner had to get his kids to run the store on the weekend because he couldn’t find anyone to hire. I myself also noticed a sign in the window of a business saying they couldn’t find staff to hire so they had to close the business.

Obviously the primary problem here is that due to the high cost of living within Vancouver, people are becoming more and more selective in where they will work. Therefore, if the business doesn’t offer a salary above minimum wage, people will look elsewhere for work. The hilarious thing here is that sure $8/hour may be fine within the interior of BC within a small town but within Vancouver, this is a wage below poverty level. You cannot sustain yourself within Vancouver on a wage like that, unless you burn yourself out by working over eight hours a day (i.e. two jobs).

So is the solution to increase the minimum wage? Possibly. But there’s another potential problem with this. I mean why wouldn’t these businesses clearly indicate up front an above minimum wage to entice people? I thought about this and realized it may be because they themselves can’t afford to pay people above minimum wage due to the high lease and expenses that they have to pay to run their business. Thus we get this vicious circle. The business can’t survive paying above minimum wage and the employees can’t survive living with minimum wage.

What I realized was so sadly funny about this is that it is often certain people within the business sector and government that are unknowingly shooting themselves in the foot. For example, you’ll hear Gordon Campbell say that the Olympic Games coming to Vancouver is great. Well is it? I mean if it increases the cost of living even more than it is now, I think it will not be beneficial to businesses but detrimental. Instead of businesses booming, you’ll see a ton of small businesses closing their doors because they won’t be able to afford the leases and they won’t be able to find anyone to work for them because the cost of living will be too high for those people. If anything, what probably will happen is that only the big chain stores will be the only ones able to survive within this environment.

The question we have to ask ourselves is do we want that type of environment? I myself most definitely don’t. To me the community of Kitsilano, the area I live within, is made up by the small business owners because they bring personality and life to the community. Once they start disappearing, I’m not sure I’d want to live here anymore. And unless I could find an affordable area within Vancouver that had a similar culture and community, I think it would be time to leave the city as it would no longer be a sustainable environment.