This is the best place on Earth, if you’re Gordon Campbell. If you’re a renter living on eight bucks an hour, not so much.
The minimum wage in B.C. has been $8 an hour for eight years. We now have the lowest minimum wage in the country.
Lower than Newfoundland. Lower than P.E.I., the world’s smallest province, where the only industries are potatoes and Anne of Green Gables.
If you work eight hours a day, five days a week on minimum wage, you make $64 a day or $1,280 a month, and when the price of an average apartment is north of $900, that doesn’t leave much for, uh, food.
People cope. They work seven days a week at three or four jobs — although it’s tougher to get one job in this economy, never mind three or four. They double and triple up in studio apartments. They get by.
But there is zero wiggle room. Get the swine flu, lose your job, you’re on the curb. The best place on Earth can turn into hell on Earth pretty quickly.
B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair says we should hike the minimum wage to $10 an hour, and it’s hard to argue. That means $80 a day or $1,600 a month, just enough to keep the wolves from making themselves at home on your doorstep.
Campbell is reluctant to raise the minimum wage for the mysterious reason that most people make more than that anyway. Well, if that’s so, why worry about raising it? He certainly has no qualms about hiking his own salary at the taxpayers’ expense, lest we forget the 50 per cent, $60,000-plus (!) hike he granted himself in 2007.
It’s usually the NDP’s job to hike the minimum wage, a thankless task at best. They can stand the whining from business as business doesn’t vote NDP anyway, unless the businessman is Gregor Robertson, and are we sure he votes NDP?
But eight years is too long without a raise. If, according to the Liberals’ own calculations, raising the minimum wage would cost $450 million, that’s about the same as the new roof on B.C. Place. And I haven’t heard any business people complain about that not-so-little boondoggle.
So it’s time for the premier and his business constituency to step up to the plate and do something for the little guy. They’ve certainly spent more than enough on themselves for the last eight years.
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