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By Jeremy Hainsworth
The mayor of British Columbia’s largest city challenged the provincial government and private sector employers to meet Vancouver’s new minimum wage of C$20.62 ($15.27) per hour for municipal employees.
“We are now the biggest living wage employer in Canada,” Mayor Gregor Robertson told a news conference June 8.
The change puts the city on par with New York State’s living wage of $15 an hour.
“We want to challenge other employers—both public and private—to meet the living wage challenge,” Robertson said.
The provincial minimum hourly wage is currently C$10.45 and will rise to C$11.35 on Sept. 15.
Deanna Ogle, organizer of the Living Wage for Families Campaign, called the new Vancouver minimum a living wage for the region, which has among the highest living costs in Canada. According to Ogle, a living wage meets family expenses but does not allow future planning and precludes higher education for children and home ownership.
“Work should lift you out of poverty, not leave you there,” Ogle said. “There is a role for government in keeping these costs down.”
Other cost assistance for lower income people to contribute to a living wage rate would be child care and subsidized housing, she said.
The makeup of the next British Columbia government remains uncertain following a May 9 general election that left the governing Liberal Party of British Columbia and a coalition of the opposition Green Party and New Democratic Party deadlocked for seats in the provincial parliament.
The NDP advocates a C$15 hourly minimum, and the Greens have promised to establish a fair wages commission to set a new minimum wage and oversee regular rate reviews.
Business Council of British Columbia president Greg D’Avignon told Bloomberg BNA June 9 that the main concern with such wage increases is “rate shock.”
“If you move from the current [minimum wage] to $20 overnight, businesses shut down and students and those most vulnerable pay the price with job loss or limited access to their first job,” D’Avignon said.
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For more information on British Columbian HR law and regulation, see the British Columbia primer.
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