City of Vancouver to follow suit
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
Port Coquitlam became yet another BC municipality—after New Westminster, Quesnel, and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations—to award its staff a living wage at the beginning of 2017.
All those employed by the city are now guaranteed a minimum wage of $20.64 per hour—$9.84 more than BC’s current minimum wage. Those who have not had their contracts renewed yet may still be paid under the new wage, but can expect the raise by the end of the year.
A task force of city managers will calculate the exact costs of the new living wage, with a formalized report due in the spring to be certified by the Port Coquitlam city council.
The change will hopefully raise some of Port Coquitlam’s families above the poverty line. Last year, the Living Wage for Families Campaign reported to the Port Coquitlam city council that 15 per cent of children in the city, or approximately one in seven, lived below the poverty line.
“Implementing a living wage is a small cost for a big impact in the lives of low-wage workers and contractors who will breathe a little easier at the end of the month,” said Deanna Ogle, member of the Living Wage for Families Campaign, in a statement.
However, it is unknown whether the wage increase for city employees will make a significant difference for Port Coquitlam families living under the poverty line as a whole, since the wage increase will only affect those hired by the city, not those who make their living in the service industries.
Port Coquitlam’s changes will be soon followed by the City of Vancouver, who will be awarding living wages to not only its city staff, but also staff members of the Vancouver Public Library and the police board.
“Changing this reality requires a host of policy initiatives at all levels of government. But without question, having a major city government adopt a living wage policy is an important piece of the mix,” said Seth Klein, the director of the BC branch of the Living Wage for Families Campaign, to the CBC.
Ogle scrutinized the provincial government for being relatively absent from the growing conversation on living wage, noting that it is something the BC Liberals should be taking interest in with the provincial election around the corner.
“This is an opportunity to make poverty an issue. Affordable living is something that we want to see all political parties endorse,” Ogle said to the Tri-City News.