It’s no secret that B.C. is one of the most beautiful regions in all of Canada. However, along with the scenery, comes a high cost of living for B.C. citizens. While these high living costs can mean first-rate living standards for many British Columbians, they do not bode well for the many at-risk children and youth of B.C..
According to the First Call B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, 18.6 percent of children in B.C. live in poverty (First Call B.C., 2014). How can this possibly be the accepted reality in a developed country such as Canada? In my mind, the best way for the B.C. government to spring B.C. kids out of poverty is to raise their parents/guardians out of poverty. The most effective way to do this is by increasing the minimum wage.
Why does the minimum wage need to be increased?
According to livingwageforfamilies.ca, in B.C. in 2015, the earnings of a single parent caring for one child, working full-time over a full year, at $10.25 minimum wage, total $8000 dollars below the poverty line annually (Living Wage for Families, 2015). Due to this reality, many minimum wage earners in B.C. are forced to make difficult choices between things such as paying rent, heating the house, or feeding the children. No child should go to school hungry because his or her parents cannot afford to feed him.
My mother, Jodie Haberstock, has taught at W.L. Seaton Secondary for the past four months and has witnessed the breakfast program that is being provided to teens who come to school without having had a breakfast. She pointed out that similar lunch programs are put on by the nearby Faith Baptist Church to provide students with a mid-day meal opportunity as well (Haberstock, 2015). These are just two of many similar programs being operated around B.C. that work to provide students with food that they might not otherwise receive due to the financial status of their families. While these are honourable programs, they highlight an obvious poverty issue that the B.C. government needs to be addressing.
First Call B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition supports the idea that a $15 dollar per hour minimum wage would be necessary to spring B.C.’s at-risk families and youth out of poverty (First Call B.C., 2015).
By the current numbers, about 20 per cent of the B.C. population is under the age of 19 (Wikipedia, 2014) and 18.6 per cent of these children are living in poverty (First Call B.C., 2015). Of B.C.’s total population, a staggering four per cent is made up of children and teens who are living in poverty!
Increasing the minimum wage for these at-risk teens and their parents or guardians would bring about the change required to lift many B.C. kids out of poverty.
In 2014, the president of the B.C. Federation of Labour said that, “$13 represents the poverty line and we believe that no government should tolerate a wage in British Columbia that, when you go to work full-time, you’re not at the poverty line” (CTV News, 2015).
While increases in minimum wage are often feared because they tend to bring about a rise of prices in the market (inflation), this is not always the case. Inflation, in reality, can be caused by any increase in production cost. While an increase in minimum wage would constitute this, it is only one of many factors that could have the same effect.
These factors range from the law of supply and demand to governmental tax changes. While these changes do cause small degrees of inflation, they happen regularly without any astronomical effect on the consumer. Raising minimum wage would likely have a similarly small effect (Dollars and Sense, 2015).
So, what is B.C. afraid of?
As it stands right now, the B.C. government has plans to increase minimum wage by 20 cents in September (the Globe and Mail). While this is a step in the right direction, this increase falls critically short of the increase that is necessary to help at-risk B.C. families and kids rise out of poverty.
It is imperative that the government raise minimum wage to at least $13/hour so that earners can stay marginally above the poverty line and provide adequately for their children. For the sake of at-risk B.C. youth, it’s time to change the amount of change in the pockets of British Columbians.