B.C. raising minimum wage 50 cents to $11.35 per hour
The Canadian dollar appears in this undated file photo. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The B.C. government has announced it will increase the minimum wage from $10.85 to $11.35 per hour in September.
"British Columbia's lowest-paid workers need a raise," Premier John Horgan said in a statement Tuesday. "The action we're taking will make life better for working parents, seniors, new Canadians, students and more. These are people struggling to get by.”
The BC NDP say the 50-cent increase, which will benefit about 94,000 minimum wage workers, is the new government’s first move towards a $15-per-hour minimum wage.
"Today's increase and our commitment to the $15 minimum wage will benefit almost 100,000 British Columbians who have been getting by on one of the lowest minimum wages in the country,” Horgan said.
Labour advocates are welcoming the increase, but say $11.35 is not nearly enough for minimum wage workers to support themselves in most parts of the province.
“This is still a poverty wage,” said Irene Lanzinger, President of the BC Federation of Labour. “We still have hundreds of thousands of people working full-time and living in poverty, so we are looking forward to the fair wage commission and the pathway to the $15 minimum wage.”
The increase will come into effect on Sept. 15 and will make B.C. the province with the third-highest minimum wage in Canada after Alberta and Ontario, by current numbers.
However, Alberta is set to become first province to offer a $15 per hour minimum wage in 2018. Ontario is expected to reach that rate the following year.
B.C. currently has one of the lowest minimum wages in the country.
“We are far behind Alberta and Ontario. I think we need to look at those provinces to see a pathway to $15 in B.C.,” Lanzinger said.
Tuesday’s announcement matches the former Liberal government’s plan, under which the minimum wage would have become $11.35 next month. The BC Liberals made that announcement in February 2017.
In the statement, the NDP also said it intends to make good on its campaign promise to set up an arm’s-length “fair wages commission” tasked with establishing a “planned, responsible path” to a $15 minimum wage. The commission’s members have not yet been announced, but Labour Minister Harry Bains said Tuesday the group will submit a report within 90 days of its first meeting.
The wage increase also applies to the liquor servers’ wage, which will rise to $10.10 per hour. Other minimum wage provisions, such as the daily rate for resident caretakers, live-in support workers and camp leaders, will also increase by an equivalent 4.6 per cent.
Even the province’s $15-per-hour target, however, falls short of what is considered the “living wage” in many parts of B.C.
“It is still very, very difficult for workers to survive even at $15, let alone $11.35,” Lanzinger said.
In June, the City of Vancouver became Canada’s largest living-wage employer after it adopted a $20.64 hourly rate for all city staff.
The Living Wage for Families Campaign defines a living wage as an hourly amount a two-parent family with two children needs to earn to cover basic expenses such as food, clothing, rent, child care, transportation and emergency funds.
Living wages in Victoria, Ucluelet have also been calculated around the $20 mark. In areas such as Revelstoke, Nanaimo and the Lower Columbia Region that number is closer to $18.