Economy | Raising the minimum wage
Last year, B.C.’s minimum wage rose to $10.25 — the last of a three-stage increase announced by the Liberals in 2011.
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The move put B.C. in line with Ontario as the second highest minimum wage in the country behind Nunavut at $11 per hour, but Yukon and Nova Scotia have since raised their minimum wage to $10.30 an hour.
The province also announced a new $9 an hour minimum wage for liquor servers, modeled after a similar program in Ontario, and B.C.’s $6 training wage was scrapped in 2011.
The wage hikes came after the minimum wage had been frozen at $8 an hour — the lowest in the country — for nearly a decade. In 2001, B.C. had the highest minimum wage in Canada but as other provinces made increases, former premier Gordon Campbell opposed raising the minimum wage, saying it would cost the province thousands of jobs.
The increase came as welcome news to labour groups, which had been urging the province to raise minimum wage rates for years, saying lower-income families were finding it hard to make ends meet.
The B.C. Federation of Labour, however, has pushed the province to go even further and consider raising the minimum wage to $11.25 an hour.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives argues a single person currently working full-time doesn’t make enough to live above the poverty line. According to the group, in 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available, Statistics Canada’s low-income cutoff for a single person with no dependents living in a large city was $22,229. This would mean a minimum wage of $11.11 per house, assuming the person is working 40 hours a week 50 weeks per year.
However, restaurants and businesses have been critical of raising the minimum wage, saying it was another blow to already struggling industries and would ultimately lead to layoffs.
The Fraser Institute has also argued higher minimum wages lead to lower employment levels, fewer benefits and less training for workers — which, they say, means higher minimum wages don’t alleviate poverty.
Recent figures from Statistics Canada show B.C. saw a net loss of 15,000 full-time jobs in March — leaving B.C. looking roughly the same as it was one year ago — and putting the province’s unemployment rate slightly lower than the national average.
Minimum wage by province
- Alberta $9.75.
- B.C. $10.25.
- Manitoba $10.25.
- New Brunswick $10.
- Newfoundland and Labrador $10.
- Northwest Territories $10.
- Nova Scotia $10.30.
- Nunavut $11.
- Ontario $10.25.
- Prince Edward Island $10.
- Quebec $9.90.
- Saskatchewan $10.
- Yukon $10.30.