Vancouver Island is facing a huge labour shortage, which a lot of people want to blame on Canada’s COVID-19 assistance. CERB provided up to $2,000 per month and ended this time last year. It was replaced with modified EI benefits. Anyone who transited from CERB to the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) could collect $500 per week for 42 weeks, then $300 per week for 12 weeks. This benefit will end on Oct. 23. These programs likely play a role in the shortage, but it is a complex issue with and they are an easy scapegoat.
It seems like on the Island you can either find a job or a place to live – you won the lottery if you find them in the same town. Communities need a diverse workforce, but if there is not a place for people to hang their hats after work, what will draw people to the jobs?
A labour shortage in paradise seems ironic, but if wages cannot provide a decent living, there is hardly a point in living in paradise.
With an average rent of more than $1,000 for a one-bedroom suite — if you can even find one — the only option for many is roommates. Working for minimum wage serving coffee and paying $600 or more every month to live with strangers sounds more like slave labour than living in paradise.
If we want diverse, thriving economies on the Island, the housing crisis needs to be addressed. Vancouver Island does not need more million-dollar mansions – it needs apartments and modest homes for the average working person. It is easier to attract people to fill less than ideal jobs if they can be assured they will be able to have a place to call home and enough money to put food on the table.
There is no shortage of people who want to move to Vancouver Island and work, but we do not have the capacity to bring young professionals here unless they have already made a fortune. It is not only service jobs affected by these problems, the Island needs doctors and other educated professionals. But in order to get people here, it has to be feasible and welcoming.