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Minimum wage still too low: labour group

By Eric MacKenzie

Premier Christy Clark. 

Premier Christy Clark. REUTERS

The provincial government’s Wednesday announcement that the minimum wage will increase 80 cents by September of next year drew mixed reaction from stakeholders in the business and labour sectors.

The increase will be rolled out in two stages, starting with a 40-cent increase by Sept. 15 of this year – which includes a 10-cent raise based upon B.C.’s Consumer Price Index – to $10.85. The second stage will increase the minimum wage by identical amounts to $11.25 – using an estimate for the 2016 CPI – and takes effect on the same date in 2017.

The announcement was accompanied by a small-business tax rate reduction of 40% in 2017-18.

“Raising the minimum wage twice over the next two years, coupled with some targeted supports for young people and businesses will help everyone share in the benefits of our growing economy,” said Premier Christy Clark in a statement.

B.C’s current minimum wage of $10.45 is less than that of every other Canadian province and territory.

The BC Chamber of Commerce was quick to criticize the decision, stating its position that minimum wage increases should only be tied to the CPI. Last year, the province announced its policy of linking increases to the index.

“There’s no denying that these two minimum wage increases will be tough for some of our 36,000 represented businesses across the province,” said chamber interim CEO Maureen Kirkbride in a release. “That said, we appreciate the government’s efforts to offset negative impacts on business, notably by decreasing the small business tax to 1.5% in 2017.”

Similarly, Canadian Federation of Independent Business VP for B.C. Richard Truscott noted his disappointment that the province would “so quickly abandon (its) own indexation policy.”

“Business owners with entry-level jobs were clearly expecting a more modest, predictable increase this fall according to the formula set by the provincial government just one year ago,” he said in a release.

But there were others, such as BC Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger, who said an eventual $11.25 minimum wage still isn’t nearly enough. Her organization has been campaigning for an immediate increase to $15.

“I think we actually, through our campaign, pushed the Liberals higher than they were willing to go, and I would say that’s positive,” Lanzinger told 24 hours. “But really, the problem is that the Liberal government is listening to their friends in business, and don’t really care about the people who live and work in poverty.

“There are still hundreds of thousands of workers working full-time and living in poverty.”

Lanzinger said she doesn’t agree with the argument that a minimum wage hike will have devastating impacts on small-business owners.

“Many small businesses pay over $15 an hour. It’s certainly not exclusively that they pay below that,” she said. “The other thing is that the majority of minimum-wage workers work for companies with more than 100 employees. They work for Walmart, they work for McDonald’s.

“These are companies that make huge profits off the backs of low-wage workers.”

The increase will also apply to liquor servers, who will continue to receive a base rate $1.25 less than the general minimum.  


Should the B.C. minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour?