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BC Politics

$15 an Hour Minimum Wage Might Come Faster Than Expected

Removal of 2021 deadline means upcoming wage commission has more flexibility on timing, argues Green Party leader Andrew Weaver.

Andrew MacLeod 14 Sep

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative bureau chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

Removing the NDP’s 2021 deadline for a $15-an-hour minimum wage in British Columbia might mean the province will get there sooner.

That’s what the B.C. Federation of Labour, which campaigned for the raise, would like, said president Irene Lanzinger. “We think it should happen before 2021.”

Alberta’s hourly minimum wage is scheduled to reach $15 in 2018, and Ontario’s will be there in early 2019, she said. “B.C. is more expensive than both those provinces.”

In late August, the Vancouver Sun reported that when the province announces the Fair Wages Commission, its mandate won’t include the 2021 timeline the NDP included in its election platform.

Under the headline “B.C. NDP abandons 2021 deadline to reach $15 minimum wage,” the paper reported the independent commission would have “free rein to suggest a new, possibly longer, timeline.”

After criticism from Green Party leader Andrew Weaver that the instructions to the commission should not be so restrictive, Labour Minister Harry Bains said he agreed with Weaver and said the terms of reference would lack a deadline.

In Global TV’s reporting, the government had “pulled the plug on a self-imposed deadline.”

But this week Weaver said it’s entirely possible the commission will suggest raising the minimum wage faster. “I’m not going to pre-judge the fair wage commission, but let me say a couple of options that could happen,” he said. “It could rise faster. They may recommend a differential minimum wage from Metro Vancouver to, say, other regions. They may recommend a move toward living wage.”

The minimum wage is set to rise by 50 cents an hour to $11.35 on Sept. 15, the same increase announced by the previous BC Liberal government. The living wage for Metro Vancouver is calculated to be $20.62 in 2017.

The commission will hear from experts and interested parties, such as representatives of the restaurant industry, Weaver said. “I certainly think we need to give them the freedom to make recommendations as such. Personally, I suspect it may go faster, but I suspect it may be focused in metro regions.”

Bains said the government is still making decisions about who will be on the commission and what its terms of reference will say. “We haven’t given up on our values and we will make sure that we move to $15 an hour in British Columbia,” he said.

“We are working with our Greens and I want to leave it to the wisdom of the Fair Wages Commission. With their research, their consultation, they’ll show us the pathway how to get there.”

The commission will be announced within the next few weeks, Bains said.  [Tyee]

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