The provincial government’s recently announced minimum wage increase is being endorsed as the right approach by the local chamber of commerce.

Minimum wages in B.C. will rise from $10.25 to $10.45 per hour ($9 to $9.20 for servers) this September and, from then on, will be tied to increases in the consumer price index.

“When you add costs to a business, it’s not necessarily a good thing. It does put an additional burden on businesses, but we recognize that these things have to happen,” said Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Clovechok. “(However) few businesses in the vallley pay minimum wage so the impact (of the 20 cent increase) will be negligible from that perspective,” said Mrs. Clovechok.

The Valley Echo contacted several small business owners in Invermere and although none wanted to comment on the new formula, all confirmed they pay wages several dollars per hour above the minimum wage. Larger resorts in the valley were also contacted for comment, but The Valley Echo was unable to get a response except from Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, which — like many of the small businesses in the valley — already pays above minimum wage.

“It’s not going to affect us. Our focus is on local employment and retention so almost all our jobs already pay more than minimum wage,” said Fairmont Hot Springs Resort human resource manager David Sheedy, adding the only employees paid minimum wage at the resort are newly recruited servers (current servers have already moved up to higher wages) and it’s no problem for the resort to absorb those increased costs.

“As a private business, we need to stay competitive so we offer higher wages,” said Mr. Sheedy, adding that he’s happy the province has given several months’ warning about the coming increase and that the move is necessary for B.C. to stay competitive with other provinces in the country when it comes to attracting employees.

Local Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald said the increase is good, but more needs to be done.

“The idea of tying the increase to inflation is good, but this isn’t a huge increase and it’s debatable whether it’s enough,” said Mr. Macdonald. “The larger issue is around inequality, and the government needs to address it in a way that doesn’t put the onus solely on businesses. We need a poverty reduction plan that looks at everything and not just a single element.”

Mr. Macdonald also suggested the minimum wage increase doesn’t take into account differing circumstances in different B.C. towns. “What is a reasonable minimum wage in one place might not be reasonable in another,” he said. “Your cost of living is different, even in places that are close together, even from Canal Flats to Invermere. It’s the housing. To find an affordable place in Invermere is pretty difficult. It’s not as difficult in Canal Flats or in Kimberley.”

According to the B.C. Federation of Labour, which has called for an immediate increase in minimum wage to $15 an hour, there are currently more than 120,000 people in B.C. earning minimum wage, with 47 per cent of those older than 25, and 63 per cent of them women.