Today is April Fools’ Day. It’s a day to tell a few jokes, have some fun, and be a bit of a prankster.
But today is also notable for something else.
It is also the day that British Columbia wins the shameful distinction of having the lowest minimum wage in the country.
That’s right — as of today, no other province or territory in Canada pays their workers less than in B.C.
And that is no joke.
Today, B.C.’s lowest-paid workers get a raise. Today is the day that the minimum wage increases by a whopping 20 cents — from $10.25 an hour to $10.45.
But before we celebrate, let’s put this raise in context.
More than 110,000 working people in B.C. earn the minimum wage. And despite the common stereotype, they are not all young people living at home and saving up to buy another video game.
In fact, nearly half are over 25 years old. Almost two-thirds are women. And more than 12,000 are over 55.
The reality is that minimum- wage earners are mothers and fathers; they are students putting themselves through school; they are seniors who can’t afford to retire.
And right now, a minimum wage earner, working full-time, is living $6,000 below the poverty line.
The government’s pathetic 20-cent lift will do nothing to help these hard-working people make ends meet. In fact, it will only serve to deepen the already stark income divide in B.C.
Even organizations not traditionally seen as champions of poverty-reduction efforts are sounding the alarm bells that increasing poverty is hurting economic stability.
For example, a recent report by five economists with the International Monetary Fund claims: “Increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth, while a rising income share of the top 20 per cent results in lower growth. That is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down.”