Harry Bains NDP MLA
Harry Bains, NDP MLA
Harry Bains, NDP MLA

Victoria: Over the next four years, British Columbia’s lowest-paid workers will get predictable wage increases – leading to a $15-an-hour minimum wage in 2021.

Hard work deserves fair reward. People should not have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, or rely on food banks to feed their families.

Right now, 400,000 people in our province are struggling to get by, while getting paid less than $15 an hour. This has left too many people just one step away from homelessness, despite working hard for a living. That’s unfair, and it’s bad for our communities.

Improving affordability for people is one of government’s key priorities. To get there, we need to make sure people working full-time get a fair wage for a day’s work.

For too long the minimum wage in B.C. has been unpredictable for everyone. That’s left workers unable to count on keeping up with costs, and businesses unsure of when wage increases were coming. Years of wage freezes followed by sudden increases didn’t work for anyone.

That’s why one of our first acts as government was to form a Fair Wages Commission, bringing together representatives from labour and business to find a fair path forward to a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

The commission visited communities around B.C. and heard from employers, workers, business organizations, unions, academics, community stakeholders and low-wage workers. They looked at the experience in other jurisdictions, the history of wage increases in B.C., and the impacts of those increases on employers and workers.

Understandably, individual workers and many social agencies want to see wage increases come in as quickly as possible. Businesses, meanwhile, presented thoughtful arguments in support of smaller increases over a longer period.

The commission heard all of those voices, it carefully weighed the facts and the research, and it prepared unanimous recommendations on the path to reaching – and surpassing – a $15-an-hour minimum wage by 2021.

The plan put forward by the Fair Wages Commission is fair for everyone. It gives businesses predictability and certainty about their costs for the future, and it gives the 400,000 British Columbians, who make under $15 an hour today, the knowledge that help is on the way.

B.C. has the lowest unemployment rate in the country; we have strong job growth and a positive economic outlook. It’s time to share the prosperity with B.C.’s lowest-paid workers.

Lifting up B.C.’s lowest-paid workers is not just the right thing to do for people – it’s the right thing to do for our continued economic success.

More money in workers’ pockets means more money to spend and support our local economy. It’s good for everyone in our province.

In the end, as a society, we all benefit.