Paying the price of life up north

High transportation costs up north for all: kids, families, professionals.

Getting my car winter-proofed is serving as a wake-up call on the costs of living up north.

It’s not just the fact of needing winter tires and a block heater, but the cost of getting them just reminds me of how necessities could cost so much for Canadians who live above a certain altitude or in a cooler climate.

Though I was slightly comforted by the fact that these are not annual costs, as they should last for quite a few years and are thus long-term expenses, I can’t help but think how this may be another factor that encourages those who have moved up north to stay up north. We can’t let the winter tires and block heater go to waste in warmer winters, can we?

Economists may say, though, that it’s a sunk cost and thus not part of the future decision-making process.

This brings to mind the fact that those in our three territories tend to get more tax breaks and incentives for living and working in Canada’s true north — benefits that those who reside in the northern parts of our provinces don’t get, even though we may at times be living through nearly similar temperatures.

Perhaps if we have a benefit or relief system based on temperature instead, that could be quite interesting…

But no, the stolen 20-inch tires from the Ford dealership last week would not fit my humble steed.

Another transportation cost for residents in the area also stem from not living in bigger city centers, where public transit, bikes, or even our own two feet can get us to school or work safely and in reasonable comfort.

As I listened on at the last school board meeting, those of all ages who live in the area have to take into consideration wildlife, the cold and non-ideal road conditions from winter, and the safety concerns from traveling through isolated areas in the dark — whether due to winter time’s diminished daylight or the lack of street lights.

These may be the tradeoffs of being close to nature, as well as having more space and privacy at a more affordable cost — luxuries that residents in bigger communities cannot enjoy.

In the Lower Mainland, school board budget cuts may lead to less janitors or ESL teachers – a concern for the reportedly one-fifth of Canadians that are foreign-born, and many immigrants tend to stay in larger cities. As a Burnaby school trustee told me in an interview earlier this year, sometimes it could mean that the principal needs to clean the washroom when there’s a problem during the day, as budget cuts may have eliminated day-time janitorial duties.

In this area, the concerns are different, as ESL teachers may not be in demand, but other specialty teachers from programs such as band are, as well as buses to transport children through rural roads that may be shared by logging trucks and wildlife.

No doubt these are just some of the concerns I’ve glimpsed in my brief time here, and I certainly don’t have the knowledge, experience, nor expertise to juggle priorities and weigh necessities for the region’s children.

I look forward to learn more about how these challenges are navigated.