The B.C. NDP has revealed which big election promise will be the first its new government breaks.
Yesterday (August 31,) Labour Minister Harry Bains said the province will not commit to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.
The NDP still wants to get to $15, Bains maintained, but there’s no longer a timeline on this pledge.
He appointed blame—or credit, depending on who you ask—to Green MLA Andrew Weaver, with whom the NDP has a power-sharing arrangement.
“He’s saying that we should not be prescriptive of the fair wages commission and I agree with him,” Bains told the Vancouver Sun. “I think we should give them the authority and mandate to decide when we reach $15, and how we reach $15.”
When B.C.’s three Green MLAs agreed to work with the NDP to maintain a minority government, Weaver, their leader, said he wanted minimum-wage increases coordinated with input from a Fair Wages Commission.
Yesterday Weaver told the Sun he’s happy the NDP is now following his advice on that.
“Empowering the commission to determine how and when the minimum wage is increased is absolutely crucial to depoliticizing the setting of minimum wage in B.C.,” Weaver told the Sun’s Rob Shaw.
The NDP platform prepared for the May 2017 election is critical of the former Liberal government for its record on the minimum wage despite Christy Clark implementing regular increases beginning in 2016.
“As the cost of living in B.C. skyrocketed, Christy Clark let B.C.’s minimum wage fall behind,” it reads. “Today, a person working full time in a minimum wage job simply can’t make ends meet.
“John Horgan and the B.C. NDP will bring in a $15/hour minimum wage by 2021, with increases each year,” it continues. “Phasing in the increases will allow businesses to adjust, ensuring that jobs aren’t at risk and that employment in minimum wage sectors actually increases, as has been the case in Seattle. Once we reach $15/hour, we will index the minimum wage to inflation to ensure that we don’t fall behind.”
In May 2016, Clark announced that B.C.’s minimum wage would rise from $10.45 an hour to $10.85 in September 2016 and then to $11.25 in September 2017. Then, going forward, B.C.’s minimum wage would be tied to the consumer price index (an economic indicator similar to inflation), which would see it rise by about 10 cents each year.
That means that if the Liberals had not been defeated in the May 2017 provincial election, their government would have seen B.C.’s minimum wage arrive at $15 an hour around the year 2054.
So even with the NDP’s deadline of 2021 now scrapped, it’s fairly certain Horgan’s government will still get B.C. to $15 an hour sooner than a Liberal government would have. But until the new Fair Wages Commission reports back, advocates for a higher minimum wage won’t know how much sooner.