This is not another April Fools’ joke: British Columbia has the lowest minimum wage in Canada as of today, with a rate of $10.45 per hour. The shift to dead last was due to New Brunswick’s rate increase to $10.65, which went into effect today.
The BC provincial government announced late last month that a minimum wage hike is scheduled for September 15, but the exact amount has not been established other than deeming it to be “modest”. This follows September 2015’s hike of 20 cents, increasing the minimum wage from $10.25 to $10.45.
According to the BC Federation of Labour (BCFL), nearly 510,000 people or 27% of working people in the province earn less than $15 per hour, despite the high costs of living in the jurisdiction.
Anyone who works full-time and earns the minimum wage survives on income that is $6,000 below the poverty line. Approximately 110,000 people live on the minimum wage in BC.
BCFL has actively campaigned for the immediate introduction of a $15 minimum wage since last year, but the idea failed to capture any support from the provincial government. At the current rate of minimum wage increases, which is based on inflation, the $15 minimum wage goal might not be reached until the mid-2030s.
“Growing poverty and income inequality in BC is something the public cares about. It impacts families, communities and our economy,” said Irene Lanzinger, President of the BCFL, in a statement. “It is time for the Premier and her government to take this issue seriously. No more tinkering around the edges – British Columbians want real action.”
A new survey conducted by Insights West on behalf of the BCFL found growing support for increasing the minimum wage, with 76% indicating they would like to see a $15 minimum wage established and 83% believing it is necessary for minimum wages to be above the poverty line.
The minimum wage debate, mixed in with angst over housing affordability, could heat up into a major issue ahead of next year’s provincial election; with more than a year to go until voters head to the polls, 62% want political parties to commit to raising the minimum wage and 65% want the provincial government to create a plan to reach a $15 minimum wage.
Even if the provincial government reverses its position on a $15 hourly wage, it is unlikely to happen immediately. In other North American jurisdictions, the shift to a $15 hourly wage has been planned as a gradual short-term shift.
Last year, Seattle City Council approved a $15 minimum wage law that would be phased in over six years. Large businesses with over 500 employees have until 2017 to raise their compensation to the new minimum standard while smaller businesses with 500 or less employees have until 2021.
And just last night, California’s state legislature approved new measures to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 over a number of years. It will increase from $10 to $10.50 in January 2017 and then to $11 in January 2018. Each year afterwards, the wage will increase by $1, until 2022 when it reaches $15. Small businesses with 25 or fewer employees have one extra year to meet the increase target.
Municipal governments in San Francisco and Los Angeles have already approved their own local laws to establish a minimum $15 hourly wage by 2018 and 2020, respectively.
In Canada, minimum wage levels are exclusively set by the provincial government – not the municipal or federal governments.