British Columbia will no longer have Canada’s lowest minimum wage after a 40 cent increase announced for this fall takes effect.
The provincial government announced the increase from $10.45 to $10.85 Wednesday morning. Another increase of 30 cents is scheduled for the spring of 2017.
Based on the Consumer Price Index, an increase of just 10 cents an hour would have been automatic this year.
Now the government says there is room to increase faster than that due to a booming economy.
“B.C.’s economy is expected to lead the country in economic growth this year and next,” Minister for Jobs Shirley Bond said in a press release. “We want to strike a balance where we bring the minimum wage into line with our strong economy.”
Local and provincial business associations pushed back against the change.
“This is a rather hefty jump,” said Lynn Whitehouse, executive director of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.
She said it will cause a strain on local businesses that pay minimum wage. It may also affect those who pay more.
“It puts pressure on employers to increase everybody’s wage rates,” Whitehouse said.
“For our businesses, the bottom line is the need for certainty and predictability,” said Maureen Kirkbride, interim CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “Quite simply, we need to take the politics out of minimum wage increases.”
Kirkbride called for increases to remain tied to the consumer price index.
The government paired the announced wage increase with a 40 per cent cut in the small business tax. By 2017-18 a small business making $100,000 will pay $1,500 in taxes, down from $2,500 now.
The BC Federation of Labour said the increase was not enough.
“This is just one more missed opportunity for the premier and the government to do what’s right,” said BC Fed president Irene Lanzinger.
The Federation of Labour is pushing for a $15 per hour minimum wage, a campaign that has been taking place through various groups across North America.
For about a decade between 2001 and 2011, British Columbia’s minimum wage remained frozen at $8 an hour.
It is currently the lowest in Canada, compared to $11.20 an hour in Alberta, $11.25 in Ontario (with an increase to $11.40 scheduled for this fall) and $10.75 in Quebec.