The Tofino curse

I’m getting a smattering of emails like the following from friends in Tofino. (Details altered to protect the …  accomplices?)

Hi greg,
A friend of mine has an apartment, it’s a new one near [location in Tofino]. Its not a bad deal, $1,200 plus utilities that run $100-150. It’s set up nicely for two people — two bedrooms & a bathroom upstairs, bedroom & bathroom downstairs. Faces south, catches a lot of sun. It feels warm. Not furnished. Its cheap with a roommate, and it’s long term!


Now for …the math

Let’s go way, way out on a limb here and assume i actually want to work full-time, 40 hours a week. An optimistic local year-round wage would be, say, $11 an hour — a bit low for the summer, perhaps, but a reasonable average year-round. This yields a gross income of:

$11 x 40 hrs/wk x 52 wks/yr = $22,880 per year.

I haven’t been in that stratospheric wage bracket for years, but at a guess it’d come with, what, a 25% tax rate, leaving a net of $17,100 a year or $1,425 per month.

The accepted cost of affordable shelter (i.e. paying other people’s outrageous mortgages) is widely cited to be about 1/3 of your annual gross. The government’s BC Housing site provides the following info:

Financial support for subsidized housing is generally administered based on “rent-geared-to-income.” Rent-geared-to-income is for low- to moderate-income households. Tenants pay rent based on the gross income of the household rather than paying the market rate. Affordable rent is defined as costing no more than 30% of a household’s total gross monthly income….

So in my hypothetical case, an affordable rent would be $ 22,880 gross x 30% = $6,864/year or $572 per month.

The cost of shelter in the aforementioned apartment, assuming i could find a reliable year-round roommate, would run to at least $675 a month with utilities (not including phone, Internet, cable), or $8,100 a year — 18% above the “affordable” rate.

It also means that 47% of my take-home pay would go to shelter, leaving another $725 a month with which to feed, cloth and entertain myself — not to mention save toward a house purchase (hah!) and my retirement (double hah!).

Factor in that i have zero interest in working a full-time, low-wage tourism job and you can see why i’m camping here on a friend’s floor in Vancouver, trying to figure out how to make the move to Tofino possible.

Thanks, amigos, and keep your eyes peeled for me!

If you have any comments on the above calculations, please make a comment by clicking the “comment” link above.

Atwood, free & easy

Margaret Atwood
Maggie's such a babe

While i think of it, this year’s Massey Lectures were delivered by Margaret Atwood, under the stunningly prescient title (given recent events) of Payback — Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. As the blurb says, it’s not about practical debt management or high finance. Rather, it is an investigation into the idea of debt as an ancient and central motif in religion, literature, and the structure of human societies.

I caught one lecture live on Ideas but couldn’t work the rest in. However, i now have them all as podcasts. The plan is to get together with a bunch of people, listen to them (one at a time) on subsequent evenings, and discuss. Let me know if you’re interested.

All five lectures can be downloaded as podcasts here, for a limited time, courtesy of the good old CBC — the best thing to happen to media in this benighted country since, well, ever.


I dunno where the publicity has gone for this seminal anti-celebration, launched 17 years ago by the visionary ADBUSTERS–journal of the mental environment. Probably buried under the landslide of alarmist press covering the economic meltdown.

But its message is even more relevant today, so ladies and gentlemen, i beg you, keep your wallets closed for one day and contemplate the message that

You are NOT what you buy.


Friday, Nov. 28


‘Tis the season, groaned the Earth

no-giftHere at Aimless Ranch, we’re preparing to get and give our usual roster of gifts this Christmas season: nothing at all for or from anybody. I don’t advocate that for everyone. But please, in these sensitive environmental times, if you’re going to indulge, please think about what you buy and its effect on the bigger picture.

Based on an article in the shrill and inimitable Republic of East Vancouver newspaper, here are some worthy suggestions for alternative gift-giving.

  1. Memberships — the gym, the RES, the Botanical Gardens, or some other worthy facility about town.
  2. Classes — music lessons, yoga sessions, karate, pottery studio time, or anything put on by our WestCoast rec departments.
  3. Fab food — organic chocolate, artisan jams and honeys, homemade pie, killer coffee.
  4. Local art, created by people you pass on the street every day.
  5. Sports gear — running shoes, hockey sticks, rain gear, camping supplies.
  6. Vintage rags from the second-hand shops in town.
  7. Gift certificates for your favourite shop in town.
  8. Donations or memberships to organizations you know the giftee would support — the Friends of Clayoquot Sound, the arts society, the streamkeepers … pick a cause!

More suggestions? Leave ’em in the comments below.

My letter to Steve


I caught this CBC story this morning, which begins with the lead:

The Conservatives are poised to eliminate the public subsidies that Canada’s five major political parties receive, a move that would save $30 million a year but could cripple the opposition.

The story, posted last night at 11 p.m., has already garnered some 850 comments, mostly from outraged members of the 66% “minority” who didn’t vote Conservative in the last election (which cost $300 million, in case you’re counting pennies).

Here’s the letter i just dashed off to my esteemed MP James Lunney ( and cc’d to my doubly esteemed Prime Minister, Stephen Harper (

Dear Mr. Lunney,
Your party’s imminent move to cut taxpayer subsidies to political parties is a deeply cynical political move and a blow against democracy in Canada. The $30 million saved will not make a difference in a recession measured in ten and hundreds of billions, but it will have a strong negative effect on the opposition parties that represented, what, 66% of the country’s voters in the last election. An election that was called somewhat frivolously, I might add, at a cost of $300 million.

Your party’s role as government of the day is to lead, not to use every method at its disposal to cripple the opposition.

Please rethink this sad political ploy and get busy with meaningful work.


Greg Blanchette
Tofino, B.C.