Kelowna and B.C. chambers of commerce concerned about minimum wage hike

The chambers say the province should stick to its plan to peg future increases to the CPI and not add top-up amounts.

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is echoing the stance of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce on the province’s decision to raise the minimum wage in B.C. in two steps over the next 16 months.

The B.C. chamber says it’s concerned about the impact that the two larger-than-expected minimum wage increases will have on B.C. businesses.

Earlier this week, the government said it will raise the minimum wage in September by 40 cents per hour, 30 cents more than the consumer price index, to which the government had pegged future increases just last year. That increase will take the minimum wage in B.C. to $10.85 per hour.

A second increase, planned for September 2017, will add another 40 cents—an expected CPI boost of 10 cents plus another top-up of 30 cents—that will bring the minimum wage to $11.25 per hour, an amount Premier Christy Clark says will be the third highest in the country. Currently,the minimum wage in B.C. is one of the lowest in the country and the planned boost in September will only push it up to seventh.

In making the announcement, Clark reiterated the government’s plan to reduce the small business tax by 1.5 per cent in 2017.

“There’s no denying that these two minimum wage increases will be tough for some of our 36,000 represented businesses across the province,” said Maureen Kirkbride, the B.C. chamber’s interim CEO. “That said, we appreciate government’s efforts to offset negative impacts on business, notably by decreasing the small business tax to 1.5 per cent in 2017.”

Recognizes the government has been clear about its intention to raise B.C.’s minimum wage relative to other Canadian jurisdictions, to match B.C.’s strong recent economic performance, the B.C. Chamber is urging Victoria to return to tying  future minimum wage increases to the CPI and not including any top-up amounts.

“For our businesses, the bottom line is the need for certainty and predictability,” said Kirkbride. “Quite simply, we need to take the politics out of minimum wage increases.”

In 2015, the B.C. Chamber, which represents more than 125 local chambers of commerce and 36,000 businesses across B.C., approved a policy arguing for the need for predictability in minimum wage increases and calling for no minimum wage increases beyond those tied to CPI.