EDITORIAL: More money, in due time

And we’re off and running.

The provincial NDP government began making good on some of its campaign promises — and those of its Green Party coalition partner — this week, announcing both a ban on B.C.’s grizzly bear trophy hunt and a hike in the provincial minimum wage.

The ban of the trophy hunt, a particular point of emphasis for the Greens in the recent provincial election, was met with cheers from groups ranging from the Wilderness Committee to the B.C. SPCA.

The minimum wage hike, however, has drawn a prompt and vigorous response from both proponents and critics, including what may be the first publicly visible chink in the NDP-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement.

The NDP announced Tuesday a 50-cent an hour hike in B.C.’s minimum wage, to $11.35/hr, starting Sept. 15. It also announced the formation of a Fair Wages Commission to work toward a $15/hr minimum wage in the province by 2021.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver released a statement the following day applauding the moving forward of one of the parties’ agreements. But he complained the NDP’s arbitrary setting of a 2021 deadline will tie the new commission’s hands, while it should work at arms-length from the government.

Weaver’s statement did not specifically call for a quicker jump to $15, but did cite “skyrocketing costs of living and increased income insecurity” for British Columbians in a changing economy.

Keeping the commission at arms-length from the government is a fine idea. But so is the concept of easing in the minimum wage increase in increments.

We recognize workers at the lower end of the income spectrum are struggling, and in many cases have not kept up with gains made in the larger economy or the increased cost of living — we’re looking at you, BC Hydro and ICBC.

But disrupting local small businesses or forcing a sudden jump in retail prices will benefit neither employers nor the labour force.

In the Parksville Qualicum Beach tourism sector, finding and retaining workers is currently a bigger challenge than paying them.

There will be ripple effects with a minimum wage increase. Will workers already making more than $10.85 receive a corresponding lift? Will costs at the counter or the drive-up window rise overnight?

Let’s give business owners the appropriate time to adjust to the new reality while doing the right thing for B.C.’s workers. — Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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