Changes in B.C. politics

In her first week on the job new Premier Christy Clark reduced the size of cabinet, took strides toward party and raised the minimum wage.

It didn’t take new Premier Christy Clark long to make her mark in Victoria. In her first week on the job she reduced the size of cabinet, took strides toward party unity by giving top jobs to her closest leadership rivals (while also turfing Gordon Campbell’s right-hand man Colin Hansen) and raised B.C.’s minimum wage. She also eliminated the training wage of $6 an hour.

It is time for the minimum wage to reflect inflation and the cost of living in this province, which, at $8 an hour, has the lowest minimum wage in Canada. Not everyone in B.C. is pleased with the hike — to $8.75 an hour in May, then to $9.50 in November and $10.25 by May 2012, when the minimum rate for servers in licensed establishments will top out at $9.

Opponents claim the pay increases will cripple restaurants and small businesses. The “massive” increases are going to hurt the very people they intend to help, as restaurants will have to cut hours to control costs. Oddly, restaurants remain open and staffed in other parts of the country where the minimum wage is equal to what will now be implemented in B.C.

The Liberals consulted stakeholders and economic experts and determined that job impacts are minimized when minimum wage increases are done incrementally over time. The B.C. Federation of Labour, which has for most of the past decade lobbied for an increase in the minimum wage, also doubts that jobs are in jeopardy.

No doubt Clark’s decision is aimed at making new friends, given the possibility of a provincial election before the legislated fixed election date in May 2013. It wouldn’t be a surprise if she calls one while her popularity is peaking, and the NDP is just about to pick a new leader.

Surely she has a few more surprises in store. She did promise change.

— editorial by the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Black Press

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