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article imageBC: Academics comment on Clark minimum wage increases Special

By Gibril Koroma     Mar 19, 2011 in Politics
Vancouver - A few days ago, Christy Clark, British Columbia's new Premier, announced the province's hourly minimum wage rate will rise to $ 10.25 in 2012 to match that of Ontario. Several experts weight in on the decision.
Making the announcement last Wednesday, Clark said the first increase ($ 8.75) will occur on May 1st, the second ($9.50) will be in November and the final one before the province goes to the polls will kick off on May 12, 2012. Clark will face voters in the provincial elections slated for 2013 but she has the constitutional power to call for a snap election before that.
The minimum wage changes have received mixed reactions here. There are three major viewpoints: That they are not enough, that they are okay, or that they are a good start and that they are neither good nor bad, just politics and the usual political manipulation.
One of the British Columbians that do not think the wage increases are enough is Seema Ahluwalia, head of the Sociology department at BC's Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She said BC has been waiting for a review of the minimum wage for ten years and that the proposed $10.25 hourly rate is not enough to live in this province, which she said is the most expensive in all of Canada.
Seema said, according to the Centre of Policy Alternatives, a living wage for Metro Vancouver is $18-19/hour.
She noted that one of the biggest problems in British Columbia is lack of affordable housing. As long as there is lack of affordable housing, she insists, the proposed minimum wage increases would amount to nothing for the average low income earner.
"They (proposed minimum wage increases) will only help to maintain poverty. There are many issues affecting this province. Minimum wage is just one of them" she noted.
Seema, who describes herself as a Canadian settler of Punjabi ancestry, teaches and conducts research on Women's Studies, Racism, the Sociology of Health and Illness, among others. She also commented on premier Clark's much talked about Families First slogan.
"I would say it's rather Rich Families First, right now in BC. Education is a privilege for the rich," she said.
She pointed out that "one of the serious issues facing Canadian families today is the lack of affordable and licensed child care."
The Kwantlen professor, who is also a mother, said Day Care costs for families in BC are prohibitive and that what is needed is a living wage to address this and other issues.
"$10.25 is too little," she said.
BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada.
Ahluwalia however applauded Clark for winning the BC leadership race and going on to become the province second female premier.
"I welcome female faces in politics. At present female representation at the federal level is just 20 percent. It's great to see she won the race, but she is not an elected premier, " Seema said.
Dr. Charles Quist-Adade, who also teaches Sociology at Kwantlen was happy about the announced wage increases which he described as astep in the right direction while hoping to see more changes. He could not however assess Clark's record as a politician.
"I do not know her very well," he said.
The following are the current hourly minimum wage rates across the country: Alberta ($8.90), BC ($8.00), Manitoba ($9.50), New Brunswick ($9.00) Newfoundland ($10.00), NWT ($9.00), Nova Scotia ($9.65), Nunavut($ 11.00), Ontario ($10.25), PEI ($9.00), Quebec ($9.50), Saskatchewan ($9.25) and Yukon ($8.93).
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