“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts”
(Quote by U.S. Senator D. Patrick Moynihan.)

The comparatively high cost of living in Vancouver and much of British Columbia, especially as pertains to housing, is often cited by labor unions in B.C. during negotiations as a reason that they should be paid more than workers in other provinces.  More, presumably, than workers in other provinces other than the workers in Ontario where the cost of living is also higher.  This line of reasoning may get confusing for us non-“working-family” types, but try to stay with me.

In a huge leap from their socialist/unionist everyone should get paid the same philosophy, union leaders and members seem to apply certain special criterion to allow some workers to get paid more than others.  It is the aforementioned it costs more to live here nonsense.  It costs more to live here, therefore we’re entitled to more pay, they reason.

Just the other day, self-described “flaky” radio talk-show host David Berner, who has a knack for understated self-deprecation, nearly went ballistic when his guest, the far-too-sensible-for-Berner Sara MacIntyre, B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, argued that the Hospital Employees Union members in B.C. were being paid 20 to 40 percent more (by taxpayers) than workers in the same jobs in other provinces; And even after their 15 percent pay cut, they were, obviously, still getting paid significantly more than workers in other provinces. (Do the math).

Berner indignantly interrupted her saying that he’s sick and tired of everybody bringing that up, since what “everybody” seems to fail to understand, in Berner’s mind, is that it costs more to live here. 

How on earth did idiots like us miss that? 

“How many times are we going to hear this mythology…everybody uses the same phrase, 20-40 percent higher… our property is 80 percent higher than property in Winnipeg or Halifax.”, whined Berner with his characteristic penchant for misconstruing the facts entirely.

Mr. Real Estate misses the very point of his living here, perhaps.  And I wonder if he gets paid 80 percent—or even 40 percent—more than similar talk-show hosts in Winnipeg or Halifax.  One could argue that you ought to get paid more to live in some unpopular places, not less.  Anyone who has done any travel in Canada, especially in the winter, knows exactly what I mean.

The fact is that it does cost more to live here.  Not just real estate but lots of things cost more here.  People apparently think that real estate and other things are worth it here, and they are willingly paying more for it than they are in other parts of Canada.  There are clear reasons for people believing it’s worth it:  better weather than elsewhere in Canada, gorgeous scenery, great recreational opportunities, lots of open space, ocean, mountains, beaches, and countless other great reasons too numerous to mention.  Everybody knows all this.  Vancouver is repeatedly ranked number one or at worst number 4 or 5 in their rankings of the best cities in the world in which to live, by various bodies that judge such things.

This despite the fact that you forfeit more of your income to live here.  It’s part of the deal, and everyone here gets that.

For those who are bereft of common sense or whose names rhyme with Learner, the not-so-mythological deal is this:  You pay more, and you get more.  By “get more” I mean more of the much sought-after lifestyle for yourself and your family.  In the Vancouver area in particular, not coincidentally, it costs more to live than the rest of B.C.—it is where most people in B.C. live. Nearly half of British Columbia’s people who choose to live in a province bigger than France and Germany combined—live in and around Vancouver.

People are already getting the value they expect from the higher cost—they are getting the lifestyle—the reason for those higher costs—in exchange for the higher cost.  People happily live here, pay more to do so, and they happily get the benefits of living here in return.  It’s value for money.  You get what you pay for.  It’s an even trade—or if you don’t feel it is, it’s a more-or-less free-ish country—you could move to a cheaper location. 

But if hospital workers in B.C. were to get extra financial reimbursement for the extra financial cost of living here, then they’d be getting the better lifestyle for free—they’d be getting double-reimbursed in effect, where the rest of the people here aren’t—the rest of us would be paying the higher cost and not getting reimbursed twice. 

And how could that possibly be fair for the hospital workers who live in some of the many frozen or otherwise not-so-nice parts of Canada?  Not only would the people living here get the added benefits of living here, but they’d be getting reimbursed for the extra cost.  Nice arrangement!

Silly argument to the vast majority of us, or “everybody”, as David Berner like to call us, but anyway, they’re apparently sticking to that argument. 

I recently wrote a few words regarding the following letter to the editor a Hospital Employees Union member wrote to a local paper:

Vancouver Province newspaper letter to the editor, May 9 2004

…And I love my job and I deserve my wage.  I have swallowed my 14 per cent wage reduction, and so has my husband.  Sorry if I sounded bitter, but that’s almost a 30 per cent wage reduction for my family.

As I said in my comments about it: Wow. That’s the funkiest math I’ve seen in a long time. 

I suggest David Berner does as Sara MacIntyre did:  put the mythology aside and put factual information out there for everybody to judge. 

Now if only there were a way to pay talk-show hosts according to how much sense they had.

Copyright 2004 Joel Johannesen