Opinion: Increasing minimum wage makes sense
October 12, 2010 by Jeff Groat
It’s time to raise the minimum wage in B.C. — the province’s students have it hard enough.
Last month, Carole James, leader of the provincial NDP and the official opposition, raised the notion of increasing the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10. Such a raise would take the province from having the lowest minimum wage in Canada to having one of the highest. (The minimum wage in B.C. hasn’t been increased since 2001.)
It’s important to note that Metro Vancouver has one of the highest costs of living in the country, meaning that the dollars spent on rent, groceries and utilities don’t go nearly as far as money being spent in other major Canadian cities.
None of this is lost on Canadian students. Tuition costs continue to climb (up about four per cent this year), as most full-time students continue to work part-time or take out student loans in order to support themselves. It is a common sight to see three, four or five students crammed into a small apartment or suite in any neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver, sharing the rent in one of the most expensive markets in the country.
Of course, one of the biggest arguments against increasing the minimum wage is the fact that the rise in operating costs will hit smaller businesses hardest. Opponents to the increase claim this would result in fewer jobs in the province, and in effect, make circumstances worse than they already are.
The only problem with this argument is that it is an all-too-common refrain of right-wing think tanks such as the Fraser Institute, backed up with questionable data and liberal interpretations of Statistics Canada reports.
That’s not to say that there will never be adverse effects of an increase to the minimum wage, but the effects of keeping it at a Canada-wide low of $8 are adverse enough.
Given the fact that, according to Stats Can, 59 per cent of minimum wage workers are 15 to 24 years old — a large portion of whom are students and are the future cultural, political and business leaders of the country — it is time to consider this as a sound economic investment in our future.
In fact, Ontario pays the highest minimum wage in Canada at $10.25 per hour, but remains as one of the top economic performers in the country.
It’s time to keep up with the times and raise the minimum wage in this province.