His fridge is empty. His paycheque for two weeks of full-time work is about $595.

And Everald Roblay is not alone.

"There are a lot of people in my shoes," said the Ottawa resident, who works as a cleaner.

 

"You buy milk, you can't buy bread. You pay rent, you can't buy food. You're always making choices."

On top of that, Roblay pays child support.

"Living on minimum wage is a juggling act," said the Ottawa ACORN member. "Rents in Ottawa are expensive. A lot of people can't afford it, not the way minimum wage is right now.

Ottawa ACORN introduced its Living Wage Now Campaign to the members of the city's community and protective services committee Monday.

A living wage is a level of pay that enables someone working full-time to earn enough to meet their basic needs to build savings.

One-fifth of Canadians earn less than $10 an hour, said ACORN member Nadia Willard. In Ottawa, a living wage is $13.25 an hour, based on a 35-hour work week.

The increase doesn't sound like much, but "it makes a stark difference," she said.

While Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Waterloo and London are exploring living wage policies, Ottawa is "on pace to be the first Canadian city to champion a living wage policy," she said.
A living wage benefits everyone, Willard said.

"Studies show that low-wage workers will spend money locally," she said. Employers benefit, too, from a lower turnover rate.

It's not just about the finances, said Willard. "It's also about a sense of well-being we create."

"As a city, our responsibility is to deal with the less fortunate in our community," said Councillor Alex Cullen. "We have contributed to housing, to shelters — one of the things we failed to provide is a living wage to people living below the poverty line.

"It takes two people making minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the city," he said.

Living wage policies affect direct workers under contract at the city of Ottawa or public employees; employees of city service contractors like janitors or landscapers; and employees of firms receiving economic development assistance money from the city.

The report was referred to the city's poverty reduction strategy.

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