Keeping the provincial minimum wage below $15 an hour will hold many people in Victoria under the poverty line, said the organizer of Victoria's Fight for $15 campaign.
Premier Christy Clark announced work is underway to extend the series of increases that brought the minimum wage up to its current rate of $10.25 an hour.
Tara Ehrcke, organizer of the Fight for $15 campaign and a teacher in SD 61, said providing regular increases is good, but she is disappointed the focus was on ruling out increasing minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“That number represents pulling people out of poverty,” she said. “A government who's thinking about the long term health of our communities would want people who work to live above the poverty line. We can afford to ensure that everybody has adequate housing, has adequate food on the table [and] is able to have a good education.”
People working full time earning minimum wage currently have a difficult time paying basic expenses, said Victoria MLA Rob Fleming.
“The minimum wage needs to move in the upward direction,” he said. “Making life more affordable and allowing people to have money left over after they pay for expensive rents and housing costs here is essential.”
The effects of increasing minimum wage on employment is mixed, said University of Victoria economics professor Martin Farnham.
Although it is generally predicted that a wage increase will result in a higher supply of labour and a lower demand, therefore reducing employment, the empirical results are not as clear.
Increasing the minimum wage could cause employers to change the type of employees they hire.
“Firms that rely on teenage part-time workers may shift to more educated or experienced employees who weren't willing to work at the old minimum wage, but are willing to work at the new, higher minimum wage,” said Farnham.
While increasing minimum wage may have a positive impact on employees who see increased pay, those costs could be passed off to the consumer, said Elisabeth Gugl, University of Victoria economics professor.
“If employers would just hire the same amount of people but pay them more, then at least for local businesses, you would probably see higher prices for the consumers.”