B.C.’s minimum wage might be on the rise, but it’s still not going to be enough for workers to support themselves, according to two Maple Ridge residents.
The B.C. government is boosting its next scheduled increase in the minimum wage to 40 cents, bringing it to $10.85 per hour on Sept. 15. Premier Christy Clark said Wednesday the increase is above the consumer price index formula increase of 10 cents, in order to share the economic growth and “create a fairer, more just society.”
Another 30-cent boost to the formula is scheduled for September 2017. Assuming the cost of living formula adds 10 cents, the minimum wage then would be $11.25, which Clark said will make B.C.’s rate the third highest in the country.
“I don’t think you can live off that, with how high rents are, and the cost of living,” said Ashlee Hinkelman.
She said the minimum isn’t keeping up with the reality of housing costs in the Lower Mainland.
“It’s not enough. There’s no way. You can’t save for a house, you can’t pay rent, you can’t buy groceries…”
She suggested $14 would be a reasonable starting wage.
Clarence Wells also said the cost of living is too high for the wages. The native carver said the cost of high rents drove him from Vancouver to the Fraser Valley 15 years ago, and it has since become the most expensive city in Canada.
“Minimum wage right now won’t pay your rent in Vancouver. It won’t with heat, cable, phone – so what do you live on?” Wells said he had a business in Vancouver in the 1970s, when minimum wage was $1.60 per hour, and he always gave his employees more.
“I know what it’s like to be an employer, but also I know what it’s like to be an employee earning minimum wage.”
People looking for work outside the Work BC Employment Services Centre all said the rate still needs to rise, and said it is wrong for B.C. to have the lowest minimum wage in the country.
NDP labour critic Shane Simpson said this year’s increase brings B.C.’s minimum wage to seventh place among Canadian provinces, tied with Yukon.
“What the premier did today was a response to being embarrassed by the fact that we were last,” Simpson said.
Clark acknowledged that the formula has seen B.C.’s rate fall behind. The first formula increase was 20 cents in September 2015.
The B.C. formula discounts the minimum wage by $1.25 for restaurant and pub servers, to reflect the income they receive from tips.
The B.C. Federation of Labour has been campaigning for a $15 minimum wage. It has estimated that based on the B.C. formula, it would take until 2034 to reach that level.
Simpson said the minimum wage will be an issue in the 2017 election, and the NDP will propose a wage higher than what Clark and Jobs Minister Shirley Bond announced Wednesday.
“I don’t necessarily want $15,” Simpson said. “What I want is an understanding of what it takes for somebody on minimum wage to be able to have a modest standard of living.”
Clark also announced an additional $2.88 million in training programs to respond to labour shortages. Most of the federal-provincial program will go towards job training up to $15,000 for employers who hire an unemployed person.
With files from Black Press