British Columbia's minimum wage is set to increase twice over the next 17 months to $11.25 an hour, prompting concerns from business groups about covering the significant payroll hike.
Premier Christy Clark said Wednesday the first increase will be 40 cents and will bring the minimum wage rate to $10.85 an hour, effective Sept. 15.
She said she expected the second raise, due Sept. 15, 2017, to also be 40 cents an hour, increasing the minimum wage to $11.25.
The 2017 wage would put the province about in the middle of Canadian minimum wages. Nunavut has the highest rate at $13 an hour.
B.C.'s current minimum wage of $10.45 an hour is the lowest in Canada.
Clark said the announced increases in B.C.'s minimum wage reflect the province's strong economic growth compared to the rest of the country.
"We want to make sure everybody shares in that dividend," she said.
It means full-time workers earning minimum wage in B.C. will receive an extra $1,400 in a year. Clark said this is the sixth time her government has raised the minimum wage since she became premier in 2011.
Prior to Clark, the minimum wage was not increased for a decade under successive Liberal governments.
The two minimum wage increases go beyond the government's earlier plans to tie raises to the Consumer Price Index, which measures the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.
Clark said the CPI numbers currently amount to 10 cents of the 40-cent increases in both years.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the B.C. Chamber of Commerce said the increases would have a significant impact the payrolls of businesses across the province.
The chamber urged the government to return to its policy of linking increases with the CPI.
"For our businesses, the bottom line is the need for certainty and predictability," said chamber interim CEO Maureen Kirkbride in a news release. "Quite simply, we need to take the politics out of minimum wage increases."
Opposition New Democrat jobs and labour critic Shane Simpson said the increases do little to help people earning minimum wage in B.C. make ends meet. He said the government announced the increases after being embarrassed over having the lowest minimum wage in Canada last month.
"What the premier did today was a response to being embarrassed by the fact we were last," Simpson said.
He said the New Democrats will announce plans for the minimum wage as part of their election platform next year. He said it will be higher than the Liberal wage, but did not directly endorse calls by labour groups for a $15 minimum wage.
"I don't necessarily want $15," Simpson said. "What I want is an understanding of what it takes for somebody on minimum wage to be able to have a modest standard of living."