Soup line statue - Flickr user Oakley OriginalsAccording to this piece in the Vancouver Sun, British Columbia’s aspiring political leaders are mostly lining up in favor of an increase in the provincial minimum wage.  Which is perfectly reasonable: BC’s minimum wage hasn’t budged for almost a decade, and now stands far lower than that of any other Canadian province. (This fact sheet from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives-BC has the details of BC’s minimum wage situation.)

While a one-time pay boost would be welcome to the many BC residents who are trying to get by on low-wage jobs, it would be a temporary fix. And if recent history is any guide, the province’s low-wage workers might be forced to wait a long, long time before the politicians line up in favor of another increase.

So at risk of coming across as a know-it-all Yank, I’d commend to BC’s attention the solution that Oregon, Washington, and eight other US states have come up with: indexing the minimum wage to inflation. By letting minimum wages increase a bit every year to cover rising costs, BC politicians would not only be doing their lower-income constituents a favor, they’d also spare themselves future political wrangles over minimum wage hikes. 

Washington was actually the first state to try this strategy, back in 1998, and Oregon wasn’t far behind. So minimum wage policy is one area of social policy where BC clearly lags behind its neighbors to the south. Now’s the perfect time to fix that: coupling a minimum wage increase to automatic inflation indexing would turn BC from laggards into leaders.

Image courtesy of Oakley Originals, distributed under a Creative Commons license.