(KMR Photography/Flickr)

Editorial: Raise rate sooner, not later

The new B.C. government should not wait four years to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The new B.C. NDP government is making life a little easier for those on minimum wage in this province—and promising a whole lot more in the future.

In addition to following through on the promised 50-cent-per-hour hike that the previous Liberal government made, the NDP says it plans to push up the minimum wage to $15 per hour…by 2021.

And that, more than the latest incremental hike, seems to have raised the most eyebrows—by people on both sides of the issue.

For many business owners, the thought of a $15 per hour minimum wage is problematic and for those at the lowest end of the pay scale now trying to scrape by, a four-year wait for $15 per hour is equally difficult.

In a province as expensive as B.C., it’s hard to imagine many people thinking $10.85 an hour ($11.35 as of Sept.15) is anything close to a living wage. As new premier John Horgan rightly pointed out, many parents, seniors, new Canadians, students and others are struggling to get by.

That’s why the NDP, in the provincial election campaign earlier this year, promised the $15 per hour minimum wage. And many likely voted for his party—especially in the Lower Mainland—because of that. But few expected it to be a four-year wait, a time-frame conveniently coinciding with the next provincial election.

While not explicitly stated by Labour Minister Harry Bains when he made the now-and-then minimum wage hike announcement earlier this week, the message is clear: a $15 per hour minimum wage is dependent on the NDP being reelected to government.

Bains has said he heard loud and clear from businesses that gradual, predictable increases in the minimum wage are needed to minimize the impact on their operations.

So the government plans to establish a commission to figure out a way of meeting the $15-per-hour promise.

But in the meantime, calls are already being made to compress that time-frame.

The previous Liberal government had said it wanted to tie the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index.

Currently, B.C.’s minimum wage is tied for third lowest in the country and will jump to the fifth highest when September’s hike kicks in.

But even then, many will continue to struggle to get by.

Alberta and Ontario have also announced plans for a $15 minimum wage—by September 2018 and January 2019 respectively. B.C. needs to keep pace and should also shorten its time-frame.

The government needs to do what it promised, within the current mandate, and not make it dependent on the next provincial election.

Horgan ran on a promise to lead a government for all, so he needs to start by helping those who need assistance sooner rather than later.