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$15 minimum wage public consultation holds 1st meeting

The Fair Wages Commission is holding the first of eight public consultations on the minimum wage.

Fair Wages Commission is holding 8 public meetings around B.C. on the minimum wage

The provincial government is asking British Columbians to weigh in on the minimum wage increase in a series of public consultations this month. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

The Fair Wages Commission kicked off the first of eight public consultations on the minimum wage Thursday.

During the election campaign, the NDP promised to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.

The public meetings are one of the first steps toward meeting the promise, said economist and commission chair Marjorie Griffin Cohen.

"Our first task is really to ask people what they think should be happening," she told CBC Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

In September, the government raised the minimum wage by 50 cents to $11.35.

Over the next three weeks of public meetings, the commission will be looking at next steps  — how and when the proposed $15 minimum wage should be implemented. 

It will gather information from these consultations to put together an advisory report for the provincial government, Cohen said. 

Hearing from all sides

So far, about a hundred people have signed up to speak at the public meetings.

"It's all kinds of people from workers to employers to poverty groups and advocates, and we're also having a large number of individuals appearing," Cohen said.

She said hearing from all sides is key at this point.

Advocates for workers say a higher minimum wage is needed now to make life more affordable for British Columbians but some in the business community argue that raising the wage too fast will hurt the economy and cost jobs.

"We expect to hear from the employers why the minimum wage is important to them and how arriving at it at a certain date would be important," Cohen said. "And we're expecting to hear the experiences of people who live on less than $15 an hour and how they manage do that."

Next steps

The first report by the commission will be presented to the government by the end of the year and will focus on the general minimum wage.

A second report will follow, looking at exceptions to the minimum wage such as piece-work wages for farmers and a lower minimum wage in the liquor service.

The commission also plans to analyse the discrepancy between the minimum wage and a living wage in B.C. and advise the government on how that might be reconciled, Cohen said.

Other provinces have also promised to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

Alberta says it will do so by October 2018 and Ontario plans to follow suit in January of 2019. 

In B.C., the first public consultation is taking place at the Quality Hotel Abbotsford Conference Centre on Nov. 16 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

A list of the seven other public meetings held around the province this month is available online.  

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

The Fair Wages Commission is holding the first of eight public consultations about a minimum wage increase in British Columbia on Thursday afternoon. 7:03

With files from The Early Edition.