The British Columbia government will raise the minimum wage to $15.20 an hour by June 2021. Premier John Horgan announced Thursday morning that the province has decided to make increases every year on June 1 after reviewing recommendations from the Fair Wages Commission.
The first increase will come on June 1, 2018, when the current minimum wage will go from $11.35 per hour to $12.65 per hour. The province will then revisit the wage each year before the June increase to ensure it is keeping on target.
LISTEN: B.C. Labour Minister on increasing the minimum wage
“I am certain that those that are making the minimum wage will feel better on June 1 of this year and the year after that and the year after that,” said Horgan. “The way to start down the right path is to find a way to lift people out of poverty.”
Watch: Ontario minimum wage reaction raises concerns in B.C.
The British Columbia government promised to get the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021 during the 2017 provincial election campaign. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver criticized the government for putting in a firm deadline for implementation while the Fair Wages Commission was preparing it’s recommendations.
The government says that the commission concluded that increases to minimum wage should be ‘front-loaded’. The commission concluded that those that make minimum wage will likely put much of the additional wages back into the economy rather than save it.
“We believe we have strong economic growth in British Columbia and the expectation is that will continue over the next few years,” said Horgan. “We believe that 2021 is not overly aggressive, in fact it will be disappointing to some.”
Watch: B.C. NDP raise minimum wage to $11.35
The province is attempting to avoid similar criticism to what the Ontario government received when it jacked up the hourly rate on Jan. 1, 2018 from $11.60 to $14 per hour. At the time of the increase, restaurants in B.C. warned that a sharp increase here would mean either more expensive meals for customers or staff being fired.
BC Federation of Labour disappointed on timeline
The BC Federation of Labour, which launched the $15 an hour minimum wage campaign, is disappointed that it will take the Horgan government more than three years to reach the target wage.
“Let’s be clear that achieving a $15 per hour minimum wage is an accomplishment, and better than anything the previous BC Liberal government would have done to address poverty wages and inequality,” said BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger in a statement. “But making 500,000 low paid workers who currently make less than $15 wait until June 1, 2021 to climb above poverty wage rates is not fair.”
LISTEN: Not all business owners oppose the new minimum wage
The BC Fed says British Columbia should have gone for a more aggressive timeline like in Ontario and Alberta. Fed numbers show that currently about half a million BC workers, or 25% of the province’s labour force, earn poverty level wages—less than $15 per hour.
Weaver hopes government finds a way of ‘keeping politics out of minimum wage’
The Fair Wages Commission ultimately came out of discussions between the Green Party and the NDP. Andrew Weaver says he agrees the minimum wage should go up and hopes the government enacts the recommendation that the commission becomes permanent.
“I am glad that a key recommendation of the report is to establish a permanent commission to keep politics out of minimum wage discussions, and I strongly urge the government to commit to this recommendation,” said Weaver in a statement. “This commission should be empowered with the explicit mandate of analyzing the impacts of minimum wage increases and recommending changes going forward based on evidence.”
A Vancouver business owner weighs in
Festal Paleo Cafe owner Tyler Wittoft is hoping the wage hike will provide an opportunity to hire more staff.
“It is harder to find staff, as I’ve noticed, and I can imagine being in the downtown area and only with the minimum wage as it is, to be able to afford rent, even close by to here, or anywhere close, and transit and parking… whatever it may be,” he said.
“I definitely think it’s good for the sense of the people, I know I would have a tough time being able to pay the bills and all that with the wages for sure with the way… the cost of the city is now,” he said.
That being said, he admits it’s going to be a bit of challenge for some restaurants to bump up labour costs.
He says moving forward, those costs will have to be monitored a lot closer, but he believes as long as you’re efficient, the increase shouldn’t be too bad on business.
With files from Michelle Morton