Minimum wage hike could boost political fortunes

Last week’s announcement was the premier’s attempt to change the optics ahead of the election campaign, her Etch A Sketch moment

With the tentative date of the next provincial election now less than a year away, the B.C. Liberal government is taking action to stave off what will likely be one of the opposition’s main lines of attack.

Premier Christy Clark announced last week that the province’s minimum wage would rise to $10.85 an hour in September, an increase of 30 cents more than had been scheduled. The additional boost to the minimum wage was made necessary by the political tone-deafness displayed by the provincial government last year when they tied increases to the minimum to the rate of inflation without addressing the underlying fact that many workers are struggling to make ends meet. While linking hikes to the minimum wage with inflation makes sense in providing some certainty for business, it does little to benefit those working for wages that lag behind the rest of Canada.

Last week’s announcement was the premier’s attempt to change the optics ahead of the election campaign, her Etch A Sketch moment as it were.

“What the premier did today was a response to being embarrassed by the fact that we were last,” said NDP labour critic Shane Simpson.

The minimum wage is scheduled to jump 30 cents above the consumer price index again in September 2017, likely hitting $11.25. That still falls well short of the $15 an hour wage called for the B.C. Federation of Labour and being adopted by many U.S. jurisdictions.

While many might dispute the need for a $15 an hour minimum wage, it’s hard to dispute that British Columbians face some of the highest costs of living in the country. The province’s minimum wage must reflect that reality.

When the B.C. Liberal party is topping up the premier’s $195,000 salary to the tune of $50,000 a year, it would be a tough sell politically to say there’s nothing wrong with full-time workers living below the poverty line.

If this latest hike to the minimum wage can take that issue off the table, it will be political capital well spent.