British Columbia

Petition for $15 per hour minimum wage delivered to B.C. Legislature

56,000 signatures fill petition organized by the B.C. Federation of Labour and tabled by NDP Leader John Horgan.

56,000 sign petition organized by the B.C. Federation of Labour and tabled by NDP Leader John Horgan

A petition to raise B.C.'s minimum wage organized by the B.C. Federation of Labour was filled by 56,000 signatures from across the province. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

Over 56,000 British Columbians have signed off on a petition to raise province's minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The petition, spearheaded by the B.C. Federation of Labour, was brought to the B.C. Legislature on Wednesday in hopes of making minimum wage an election issue.

According to the organization's president Irene Lanzinger, over 500,000 workers in B.C. earn minimum wage.

"Even if they work full time, they live below the poverty line," she told host Angela Sterrit on CBC's B.C. Almanac. "[Their income is] $4,000 below the poverty line."

Of the half million minimum wage earners, 60 per cent are women, and over 70,000 are above the age of 55, said the president. Lanzinger says the bulk of employees work for large companies like Walmart and McDonalds, that "are earning big profits on the backs of low wage workers."

The petition was tabled by NDP Leader John Horgan. He maintains that his party would increase the minimum wage should they be voted into office.

Minimum wage in the province is currently $10.85 per hour, up 40 cents as of September, 2016. Prior to the increase, B.C.'s minimum wage was the lowest in the country.

Impacts on small business

But there are concerns on the effect a potential increase could have on the livelihood of small business.

According to Val Litwin, president and CEO for the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, a sharp increase in minimum wage could have a damaging effect on businesses that employ low wage workers.

"[We're] not against seeing that minimum wage go up," he said. "It's about doing it with certainty and with predictability."

"If that minimum wage goes up in massive or quick increments, it can challenge the viability of a business model."

Litwin says a gradual increase in minimum wage, such as current increases put in place by the B.C. Liberals that are based on the Consumer Price Index, are more viable in the long-term.

"This is about making sure the economy is thriving. We all want a thriving economy where there's great paying job for people, but we also have to support business to make sure they can keep hiring people and growing."

The province plans on increasing B.C.'s minimum wage to $11.35 by the end of the year.

With files from CBC's B.C. Almanac

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Petition for $15 per hour minimum wage delivered to B.C. Legislature