Painful Truth: Best time to raise B.C. minimum wage is now

With the economy booming, the government can help lock in gains for vulnerable workers.

The BC NDP came to power promising, among other things, to raise the minimum wage to $15.

They couldn’t have picked a better time to do it.

The minimum wage in B.C. languished under the early years of the BC Liberals.

So it’s certainly time to rethink the minimum wage, and the NDP’s slow and steady approach (while frustrating to people who earn the minimum) is aimed at getting it done with the least amount of political damage and pushback.

About that pushback.

Every time the minimum wage goes up, we hear the same complaints. A) Businesses will have to shut down and people will lose their jobs! B) And anyway, the only people earning minimum wage are students, nobody lives on it!

In order:

A: Yes. Some people will lose their jobs, though not many. By the same token, yes, a small number of small businesses will have to cut back staff – or they’ll have to raise prices slightly. Or they’ll have to lower the amount they pay to the owners/shareholders. Or they’ll have to negotiate better deals with suppliers.

I’m just going to point out that there are a lot of costs to running a business, and sometimes they change. That’s life.

B: Obviously, there are a lot of people who rely on the minimum wage to get by, sometimes working two jobs or more. And if point B is true, why should we worry about point A, exactly? (Yet the same people often advance both arguments.)

Obviously, if we jacked the minimum wage to $25 overnight, it would disrupt business. But the effect on business is only one factor in considering the level of the minimum wage. We also have to consider, y’know, whether people can eat.

And as I mentioned, this is the best time to raise the minimum wage. Salaries are already rising – many service jobs are getting a boost thanks to a tight labour market and strong demand.

People who work deserve a share of the wealth. There’s a lot of wealth right now, even for those at the bottom of the pay scale.

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