—— By Stefan Labbé/Glacier Media

 

Minimum wage is set to go up across British Columbia over the coming months as the province moves to permanently counteract impacts from inflation.

On June 1, a 3.9 per cent pay hike will raise the minimum hourly wage to $17.40, up from the current $16.75 per hour.

Wages will also go up for farm workers by the end of 2024. That’s when minimum piece rates for 15 hand-harvested crops will climb the same 3.9 per cent.

“B.C. has gone from having one of the lowest minimum wages in the country to the highest of all the provinces,” Labour Minister Harry Bains said in a statement Monday.

“And today, we are enshrining that commitment into law.”

The wage increases come as part of amendments to B.C.’s labour laws, which went into effect Monday. Those changes will now automatically adjust future minimum wage increases to the previous year’s average rate of inflation.

Every year, most of the adjustments will be applied on June 1, while agricultural piece rates will change on Dec. 31, said the Ministry of Labour in a statement.

B.C.’s minimum wage increased 6.9 per cent in 2023 amid relatively high rates of inflation. While inflation has since slowed, economic growth has remained sluggish across much of the global economy following a COVID-19 pandemic rebound.

The June wage increase is below recent seven per cent increases in Ontario and Quebec. But it would still give B.C. the highest minimum wage of any province in Canada (all three territories have higher minimum wages).

It comes as B.C. remains among one of the most expensive places to live in Canada — an expense often driven by soaring housing prices.

A recent analysis from Royal LePage looked at the average square footage $1 million would buy a homeowner across the country. Vancouver recorded the lowest square footage, with $1 million buying 900 square feet, compared to 2,675 square feet in Edmonton.

Last week, Finance Minister Katrine Conroy presented a budget pledging to introduce a home-flipping tax to deter real estate speculators.

The budget projected a record-high $7.9-billion deficit for the coming fiscal year, prompting criticism from the B.C. Business Council that the 2024 budget lacks “fiscal discipline” to get B.C.’s economy back on track.

The budget laid out a 25 per cent increase to the BC Family Benefit Bonus — which will now provide an average of $445 more per family every year — and up to a $400 tax credit for B.C. renters.

Some of the rebates aim to ease the cost of the province’s carbon tax and hydro electricity squeezed by persistent drought. A one-time BC Electricity Affordability Credit will give a $100 rebate to households across the province, while saving the average small business about $400 a year, according to the government.

Rebates under the Climate Action Tax Credit, meanwhile, would go up 10 per cent, so that a family of four will receive $1,005 a year.

“In the face of global challenges, like inflation and high interest rates, we are taking on big challenges and supporting people to build a good life in B.C.,” said Conroy.