Minimum wage inquiry gets Okanagan input

Minimum wage inquiry gets Okanagan input

An independent commission looking into B.C.’s minimum wage heard it should be $15 by Jan. 2019.

The statement was made by the Okanagan representative of the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition during hearings in Kelowna Tuesday.

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The B.C. Fair Wages Commission is making eight stops around the province to get input from employees and employers.

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“We have to advise the government on when to increase the minimum wage and what those increments should be and what the end date should be,” commission chair Marjorie Griffin Cohen said.

Christine Mettler with the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition said the minimum wage has nothing to do with the cost of living.

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“Even when B.C. did make a recent adjustment to the minimum wage, it wasn’t enough,” Mettler said.

The president of the B.C. Federation of Labour agrees that the current minimum wage isn’t keep up with the cost of living in the province.

“We have a large number of workers working for less than $15 an hour,” Irene Lanzinger said. “Five-hundred thousand, fully 25 per cent of employed people in this province, work for less than $15 an hour. Even if they work full time, they’re living below the poverty line and that’s not fair.”

Penticton businesswoman Diana Stirling told the commission the increase to B.C.’s minimum wage must be incremental to help small and medium size businesses adjust.

Alberta is set to raise their minimum wage to $15 in Oct. 2018 and Ontario will follow suit in Jan. 2019.

READ MORE: BC NDP kills 2021 deadline for $15 minimum wage

B.C. Premier John Horgan ran on a platform of raising the minimum wage to $15, but it’s not clear when his NDP government will make good on that promise.

The commission will report back to the Ministry of Labour in early January with their recommendations.