CCPA Policy Note

BC’s minimum wage is now 22% lower than Ontario’s

March 31st, 2010 · · 7 Comments · Employment & labour, Poverty, inequality & welfare

Today, thousands of low wage workers in Ontario are getting a raise of 75 cent per hour, as the province’s minimum wage goes up to $10.25. This makes Ontario the first province to pass the $10 mark, but several other provinces are following closely. Newfoundland’s minimum wage will increase to $10 in July, as will New Brunswick’s next fall. Others, like Alberta and the Yukon have their minimum wages indexed to increases in the average wage or inflation, so low paid workers there will also get a raise come April 1.

While Ontario and these other provinces have a reason to celebrate, British Columbians should be embarrassed by our government’s inaction on the minimum wage front. Here a complete minimum wage freeze has been the name of the game for over eight years now. As Jim Stanford aptly summarizes in his column in the Globe and Mail:

Since taking office, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has taken his province from champ to chump in the low-wage sweepstakes. In 2001, B.C. had Canada’s highest minimum wage ($8). Today, it’s the lowest – still $8. In that time, inflation eroded the purchasing power of B.C. minimum wage workers by almost 20 per cent; Mr. Campbell made things worse with a new super-low minimum of $6 for new hires.

Our $8 minimum wage now is 22% lower than Ontario’s, which means that the annual income of a full-time, full-year minimum wage worker in BC is more than one fifth smaller than the income they could be earning working a minimum wage job in Ontario. And the cost of living here is on par, if not higher than Ontario. Consider, for example, average housing prices which are 30% higher in BC than in Ontario. I haven’t seen comparisons of rental costs between the two provinces, but I doubt the difference is any less striking.

It’s time to raise the minimum wage in BC. Not just because other provinces are doing it, but because it is the right thing to do. One simply cannot live on $8 per hour in this province in 2010.

Can small business afford it on the heels of the recession? Small businesses in the rest of Canada are able to pay higher wages and BC businesses are no less profitable or creative, so they should be able to afford them too.

For those worried about potential unemployment arising from a minimum wage increase – rest assured; there is no evidence that increased minimum wages in the rest of Canada has had significant disemployment effects. On the flip side, there is also no evidence to suggest that BC has done better in terms of youth employment as a result of keeping our minimum wage so low for years. As Jim Stanford explains:

In free-market theory, this should have made B.C. a nirvana for low-wage workers (especially young people). In reality, B.C.’s tight-fisted approach didn’t stop youth employment from falling faster, and the youth unemployment rate from rising further, than any other province as the recession hit in 2009. So much for the virtues of a flexible “free market.”

A minimum wage increase in BC is much needed and the provincial government is running out excuses for denying our lowest-paid workers a raise. The rest of Canada is leading by example, it’s time for the BC government to follow suit.

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    7 Comments so far ↓

    • chappyk

      I am absolutely disgusted with the minimum wage level in this province. The only people that can afford to live here are the ones who are retired. I mean come on, why should parents working at minimum wage jobs have to work 2 or more jobs and be away from their families because of it. Come on BC, get with it!!!!!

    • Tired

      I am disgusted at not only the minimum wage in this province but the underinflation of our unemployment. The number of “real” jobs available in this province is VERY low when considering the amount of qualified applicants. Since when do you need to go to school for an entire year to answer a front desk phone? The universities have sure done a great job at marketing themselves as a necessity, no matter content or cost. Like many others in this province, I have over 5 years of formal post secondary education, the paperwork to prove it, an abundant amount of experience….and now I”m going to become a flight attendant. So much for being in business. Gordon Campbell this is your fault. The government pushes for employees to become contractors and consultants to build “businessess” for themselves that allow self employment only to cut us loose at the first sign of budgetary constraint. I am frustrated to hell at my unemployment. I am mad that the government enticed me with contract employment straight out of graduation from school. I feel used. Even worse, thanks to my contract status, I can’t even qualify for EI, dispite working incredibly hard for 7 years. And though I have been searching for any suitable position for 3 months now, it looks like I’ll have to become a restaurant hostess for $8. It takes experience for a server position. Despite schooling and education, I am apparently redundant. Thanks for a shitty economy Gordon Campbell. And good job on hiding the “real” unemployment rate. I guess all of us who were “self employed” don’t count. And … the self employment EI that is being introduced in 2011 is a joke…why do we have to wait over a year to see any benefits and why is the contribution amount so high when so many of us are making shit money to begin with?

    • Wendy McGillivray

      the minimum wage should go up to at lease 11.00 dollars an hour. That way the people that are making 8.00 dollars an hour can live and pay there bills rent and feed there kids. The government seams to like to give them self a rise when they want, but let us starve. So we have to have two jobs to make ends meet, and that is not fair to our children. And taking two jobs puts some else with out a job. So I say the wages should go up. thank you for reading this

    • slantendicular

      90% of those who earn the minimum wage are relatively wealthy high school students. If we’re concerned about people in poverty, we should give them money. This post doesn’t attempt to quantify unemployment effects, just dismisses them anecdotally.

    • Iglika Ivanova

      It amazes me that the minimum wage gap across provinces can be so big – 22% is a lot.

    • Teri S.

      I would love to see the members of our provincial government attempt to live on $8 an hour for a couple of months….. (without having access to their savings accounts)!

    • Scott Andrews

      I think one of the hesitations is that a minimum wage increase would mean that the migrant labor that fills our greenhouses and blueberry fields would be entitled to a higher wage.

      Consider the despicable conditions in which these workers are forced to endure, a minimum wage increase is an absolute must in our province.

      Scott
      http://thirdwaveactivism.com