It’s probably not much of a surprise: with dramatic tax increases in the last provincial budget, this province’s consumer price index (CPI) has increased more than anywhere else in Canada.
In a single year, the cost of living in this province has soared by 4.1 per cent, almost tripling inflation in other provinces. The national average for inflation across the country was 1.5 per cent; New Brunswick, the next-closest to us, was just 2.3 per cent.
The culprits? Well, increases in the retail sale tax, the new gasoline tax, and the tax on insurance. (The CPI doesn’t fully take into account other tax and fee increases put in place by the government.)
That’s truly sobering, but it’s also only half of the story.
Because it’s not only what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are paying, but, at the same time, what’s happening to what we are earning.
For that, you have to look at Statistics Canada’s tracking of jobs in this province.
The Statistics Canada numbers are particularly alarming, given that kind of single-year inflationary increase. First of all, between December 2015 and December 2016, the province lost 2,000 full-time jobs and 1,800 part-time jobs.
The people who lost those jobs will certainly have a hard time getting by the considerable inflationary increase in costs.
But with an inflationary increase of 4.1 per cent in the consumer price index, even those lucky enough to keep their jobs are going backwards.
The average year-over-year increase in fulltime salaries - combining both the public and private sectors - was only 2.4 per cent, while for part-time employees (and there are almost 40,000 of those in the province) it was even worse. Part-time employees, year over year, actually saw their wages slide backwards by 8.3 per cent.
In real terms, the average hourly wage for part-time employees fell from $17.20 an hour to $15.77 - in a single year.
The Statistics Canada job metrics in this particular survey don’t capture it, but there’s substantial anecdotal evidence that there’s a significant reduction in part-time hours as well, which might explain the drop in hourly wage.
Put it this way: in a year with a significant increase in the cost of living, wages have not kept up for full-time employees.
For part-time employees, the picture is more frightening: an 8.3 per cent decline in average hourly wages, a drop in the number of hours worked, and a more than four per cent increase in costs.
Most frightening of all? The 3,800 people whose jobs have disappeared, but who are also seeing the increase in the cost of living.
These are alarming metrics - and the situation may get even more alarming as the province moves ahead with what Premier Dwight Ball has threatened will be a tough budget this year.
The options for taxation are narrowing and our provincial government’s tab is still growing.
You can’t get blood from a turnip.