Fate of middle class in hands of employers

It shouldn’t be surprising that Sicamous businesses place great stock in the community’s working population.

Chamber members go so far as to say the strength of the community is dependent upon its middle class. Furthermore, according to the chamber of commerce’s Vision 20/20 survey, there are those among the business community who argue Sicamous’ working population is not suffering from rising costs of living, but to a lack of “well paying jobs,” and from an inadequate minimum wage. Regarding the latter point, it is true an increase to B.C.’s minimum wage is overdue.

Here in the “most beautiful place on earth,” where personal disposable income increased this year from last by three per cent, where the unemployment rate at 4.5 per cent is below the national average of 6.1, and the average weekly wage rate is $777, minimum wage has remained static at $8 an hour since 2001. This ranks B.C. as having the third lowest minimum wage in Canada, above PEI and New Brunswick where it’s $7.75, and on par with Newfoundland.

In 2005, minimum wage workers in Alberta earned a paltry $5.90 an hour. Since April 2008, employees in the oil-rich province earn $8.40 an hour. Manitoba pays its minimum wage workers $8.50, while it’s $8.60 in Saskatchewan, $8.75 in Ontario, $8.50 in Quebec and $8.10 in Nova Scotia. Yukoners start at $8.58 an hour and in Nunavut, Canada’s youngest province, the minimum wage is $8.50.

B.C.’s ranking doesn’t even take into account the $6-an-hour wage the province allows businesses to pay first time and entry-level workers. This wage, also initiated in 2001, was intended to encourage youth employment, which in 2005 reached a five-year low. Since then, in a market where there are more jobs than there are committed, let alone qualified, employees to fill them, more employers in the province are finding they can’t afford to pay anything less than the minimum wage.

And the fact is, over the past year alone the cost of living in Sicamous, and throughout the province, has risen dramatically.

If the desire to support and preserve Sicamous’ working class is sincere, businesses should not wait for the province to up the minimum wage. Instead, it is the business community that needs to follow the province’s appropriated philosophy of “let the market do it,” and, well, to appropriate a dated marketing slogan, “just do it.”

Being a member of the working “middle class” is far more attractive than trying to make a living as one of the working poor.