A small crowd gathered in Victoria’s downtown last week to push for an increase to British Columbia’s minimum wage. Protesters took to the street outside the Bay Centre on Douglas Street for the Fight for Fifteen minimum wage blitz.
The Victoria campaign was echoed in Vancouver and elsewhere in the province to rally behind the B.C. Federation of Labour’s push to have the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour.
The call for an increase to B.C.’s $10.25 an hour minimum wage puts forward several rational points. Something seems inherently wrong with the fact that those working full time at minimum-wage jobs must still live below the poverty line, and it’s been shown that those at the bottom end of the wage scale are more likely to inject any wage increases right back into the economy.
Business contends a spike in the minimum wage will result in a loss of jobs, but previous warnings of dire economic consequences have never materialized when wages increased in jurisdictions across Canada and the U.S. Premier Christy Clark, who raised the minimum wage from $8 to $10.25 in 2012, has said herself that further raises to the minimum wage could hurt job creation.
While we don’t believe a $15 an hour minimum wage will deliver a fatal blow to the province’s economy, we also don’t think raising the minimum wage is the cure to what ails the province’s workers. The $15 figure seems to have been arbitrarily set, and simply raising the minimum wage doesn’t address the underlying problem.
What is needed is for the province to provide tax credits and other incentives for companies that create jobs, whether they be minimum-wage or high-paying. More employment opportunities for workers would bring about higher wages for workers simply through the law of supply and demand. In contrast, the federal government has been busy introducing policies designed to place downward pressure on wages.
While a $5 jump in the minimum wage may not be the right move at this time, it’s time for the province to do something to counteract the economic damage Ottawa has inflicted on Canadian workers.