B.C. has lowest minimum wage in Canada, CBC, September 2009:
As of Tuesday, B.C. has the distinction of having the lowest minimum wage in the country…
The B.C. government has steadfastly refused to increase the wage, saying it would hurt business and result in fewer jobs for young people.
Champion of working people Gordon Campbell froze the minimum wage for ten years.
After Christy Clark became Premier in 2011, her Government immediately raised the rate from $8.00 to $8.75 and promised another boost to $9.50 would follow six months later. By no coincidence, an election that many expected Liberals to lose was pending.
In July 2017, BC’s new NDP Government increased the minimum wage by 50 cents and followed with a plan to move the minimum above $15 an hour by 2021.
Of course, BC Liberals objected. Said Chilliwack MLA John Martin, the BC Liberal labour critic:
Overall it’s a pretty frightening time for small and medium-sized businesses. We’ve seen in Alberta the job losses that now are being specifically associated with a rapid increase in the minimum wage.
Incidentally, Martin is the guy who worried that regulations aimed at protecting children from workplace injury and exploitation would make it impossible for 13-year-olds to save up for new bicycles.
Complaints are often heard from from LibCons when people-friendly governments impose workplace improvements. They prefer the opposite. This year in Alberta, Jason Kenney cut the minimum wage for young workers by $2.00 an hour, saying it was still a very generous wage because it was a lot more than nothing.
If business groups and right-wing politicians were correct, BC NDP increasing the minimum wage 28% in two years ought to be causing the province’s economy to collapse. So, how comes this?
- Provincial GDP grew more in BC than the national average,
- BC had the lowest unemployment rate in Canada throughout 2018,
- BC wage growth (nominal) at 5.9%, (h/t UBC Prof. Kevin Milligan),
- Provincial government direct operating debt eliminated,
- Taxpayer–supported debt to GDP is the lowest in a decade,
- All four major rating agencies affirmed BC’s high credit ratings.
Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California, Berkeley, examined concerns about negative impacts of paying more to workers at the bottom margin. IRLE published a paper this month titled Minimum Wage Effects in Low-Wage Areas
We find positive wage effects but do not detect adverse effects on employment, weekly hours or annual weeks worked. We do not find negative employment effects among women, blacks and/or Hispanics. We do find substantial declines in household and child poverty.
This finding, and others like it, will not change the minds of people who prefer economic rewards go to the wealthy, not the poor.
Yet, there are common sense conclusions we can make.
Raising the income of already wealthy citizens encourages them to buy more non-essential and luxury goods, travel internationally, and expand savings and the use of income shelters and tax havens.
Increasing income of the working poor ensures that extra dollars are spent in local communities on things like food, clothing, medical and dental care, and housing.
According to the University of California report, higher minimum wages reduce poverty rates among households and children, without affecting employment levels.
To most of us, that is an admirable outcome.