minimum wage

B.C. hikes minimum wage, ties it to inflation

British Columbia has become the first province in Canada to tie its minimum wage to the rate of inflation.

B.C. is pushing its minimum wage, already the highest among Canada’s 10 provinces, up from $15.20 to $15.65 an hour starting June 1. The increase is the first to be tied to B.C.’s annual inflation rate, which was 2.8 per cent last year.

Provincial labour minister Harry Bains said the decision to use the provincial rate of inflation rather than the national rate was made to better reflect the needs of B.C. workers, per the Canadian Press. He added that the increase should attract more workers to B.C. while providing certainty of costs for businesses.

“We fully understand that businesses are still hurting coming out of the pandemic and that workers, living in one of the highest living cost areas, are still struggling,” Bains told a news conference. “Having a fair minimum wage is a key step in our effort to lift people out of poverty, to make life more affordable and to continue B.C.’s strong economic recovery.”

In 2021, six per cent of employees in B.C. earned minimum wage or less, reports Global News. Of those, 52 per cent were over the age of 25 and 58 per cent were women.

Still below what’s needed

Even with the increases, though, B.C. is still well short of a living wage, which is estimated at $20.52 per hour for Metro Vancouver.

While the B.C. Federation of Labour said it was happy with the news, it emphasized that the minimum wage is “still well below” the amount a family needs to cover basic expenses.

“Every worker should be able to earn a wage that makes their community affordable and livable, no matter where they live in B.C.,” Sussanne Skidmore, the federation’s secretary-treasurer, said.

Fiona Famulak, president and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, said it “strongly supports” fair wages for workers but is concerned about the timing of the announcement.

“British Columbia already has the highest minimum wage among the 10 provinces and it will be our small- and medium-size businesses that will again bear the brunt of this increased cost the most,” she told the Canadian Press.

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“At a time when businesses are reeling from rising costs resulting from the pandemic, supply chain issues, B.C.’s paid sick leave program and historic gas prices, we strongly believe that any minimum wage increase must be considered against all the costs, levies and taxes that have already been imposed on businesses by government.”

Bains said a commission travelled the province consulting businesses and others affected by the minimum wage, and it suggested the increase. He said the government is still waiting for a report from the Fair Wages Commission before making a final decision on whether future increases could be higher than inflation.