WATCH: The NDP government announced Tuesday that it’s taking a big step towards fulfilling a campaign promise to increase the province’s minimum wage. Mary Griffin reports.
British Columbia?s minimum wage will rise by 50 cents to $11.35 per hour on Sept. 15, the first step toward reaching a $15 minimum wage by 2021, the provincial government announced Tuesday.
Labour Minister Harry Bains said the minimum wage for liquor servers will also rise by 50 cents to $10.10 in September.
?Increasing minimum wage is only one way that the new government will make life more affordable for British Columbians but it is an important start,? Bains said.
The NDP campaigned on a promise of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour by the end of its first term in government.
Bains said the government is creating a fair-wage commission to establish a $15 minimum wage, a commitment by the government and a mandate for Bains. The commission will meet in a couple weeks and start on a consultation process to determine how the wage will increase to $15. The commission’s decision is expected by December or January.
?We recognize the need for a gradual, phased in strategy for increasing minimum wages,? Bains said.
The B.C. minimum wage was set to rise to $11.35 by Sept. 15 under the previous Liberal government. The minimum wage for liquor servers was set to go from $9.60 per hour to $10.10 per hour. The Liberal government had said it would tie the minimum wage increase to the Consumer Price Index.
?The 50 cent increase was a commitment made by the previous government that we as the new government will honour and legally implement, thereby creating a stepping stone toward our $15 an hour goal,? Bains said.
With the increase, British Columbia will have the third highest minimum wage out of all the provinces in Canada.
Currently, only Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador have a lower minimum wage than British Columbia.
Alberta has the highest minimum wage of all the provinces at $12.20 an hour, which will rise to $13.60 an hour on Oct. 1. Ontario has the second highest minimum wage out of all the provinces at $11.40 an hour, which will go up to $11.60 on Oct. 1. Alberta will be the first province to offer $15 per hour by 2018, followed by Ontario in 2019.
“Minimum wage in B.C. was not raised for 10 years. We are far behind in many jurisdictions,” Bains said.
“What we are doing now is a small step to catch up.”
Bains said the increase was announced both earlier this year and in 2016, so small businesses have had time to prepare.
“We can work with the small businesses,” Bains said. “It was also a commitment made in our platform to give tax breaks to the small businesses and our government will be looking at it when we are putting our budget together going forward.”
Victoria small business owner Sam Jones says the increases will hurt.
“I see how it’s a good thing for employees and the public in general. As a small business in the food industry especially, it’s going to be a really hard pill for me and my employees to swallow,” Jones said.
Many of the employees at his three cafes are part-timers and Jones said he will have to cut back.
“With the new increase in minimum wage, we’re going to have to really curtail that,” Jones said. “We’re probably not going to have many part-timers anymore.”
And the chair of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Al Hassam, said he’s taking a wait-and-see attitude towards the proposed increases, and the impact on member businesses.
“It affects everything depending on how it’s done. At the end of the day, the consumers may end up paying for that,” Hassam said. “Or it’ll affect the businesses viability, because it affects their bottom line, right off the bat.”