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Today the province of B.C. acquires an all-new claim to fame: having the lowest minimum wage in Canada.
According to a poll released today by the B.C. Federation of Labour (BCFED), 83 per cent of polled participants think it’s necessary for a person making minimum wage in British Columbia to live above the poverty line.
However, at $10.45/hour, B.C.’s current minimum wage puts full-time workers nearly $6,000 below BCFED’s calcuclated Low Income Cut Off for one person of $24,823.
“What we believe needs to happen is the government to commit to the fundamental principle that if you work you shouldn’t live in poverty,” Irene Lazinger, President of BCFED told rabble. “Raising wages for the lowest paid workers in the province is good for everyone.”
“I have no real faith in this government raising it enough,” she said. “Our government does not take this issue of poverty reduction seriously.”
Lazinger pointed out that 27 per cent of the province’s workers currently earn under $15/hour. Of this 27 per cent, more than half are women and nearly 70,000 are seniors. Even so, Lazinger commented that low-wage jobs affect a widespread demographic.
“Women are affected more than men,” she said. “New immigrants, new Canadians are more likely to be in low-wage jobs. So there certainly are proportions of the population that are more inclined to have low-wage jobs but, really, if you look at 27 per cent of the population, that is really covering a lot of people in the province.”
While a jump from $10.45/hour to $15.00/hour might seem like a large step on the surface for the province, it would actually only bump a full-time worker’s earnings just above the poverty line.
According to BCFED’s caculations, full-time workers earning $15/hour would make $27,300, only approximately 10 per cent above the poverty line.
Data from BCFED’s poll showed that over 75 per cent of British Columbians support raising the minimum wage to $15/hour and that 62 per cent of British Columbians will be looking to political parties to commit to raising the minimum wage in the province’s 2017 election.
“We have known for a long time that this issue of working and living below the poverty line being unfair really resonates with the public,” said Lazinger about the poll’s results. “[Eighty-three per cent is] a huge number. We have very, very broad support for that principle.”
Despite the upcoming increase in the fall, the B.C. Liberals have only made minimal increases to the provinces minimum wage to date and haven’t made any commitment to move towards $15/hour.
While the decision to commit to $15/hour will ultimately come down to action from the provincial government, Lazinger points out that voter pressure and action can make a difference.
“I do think our greatest tool is public support, particularly as we move into an election year next year,” she said. “You actually need a commitment to raise workers above the poverty line and a plan to do that.”
To participate in the push for a $15/hour minimum wage, join the National Day of Action in B.C. and across the entire country on April 15.
Read our series on Canada and the minimum wage:
Part 4: The business of the living wage
Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen’s University and is excited by media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen’s News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer. She is now rabble’s News Intern.
Image: Fight for 15 BC