Marjorie Griffin Cohen is introduced as chair of B.C.’s Fair Wages Commission by Labour Minister Harry Bains, B.C. legislature, Oct. 5, 2017

Marjorie Griffin Cohen is introduced as chair of B.C.’s Fair Wages Commission by Labour Minister Harry Bains, B.C. legislature, Oct. 5, 2017

Economist, union president named to Fair Wages Commission

B.C. Business Council vice-president also named to minimum wage panel

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains has appointed retired Simon Fraser University professor Marjorie Griffin Cohen to chair the Fair Wages Commission, which must decide how quickly to increase B.C.’s minimum wage.

Griffin Cohen is best known as a founder of the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives, an Ottawa-based think tank with support from trade unions. Also appointed is Ivan Limpright, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union and a vice-president of the B.C. Federation of Labour. B.C. Business Council vice president Ken Peacock is the third member.

Bains did not provide a timeline for recommendations on the minimum wage increase.

“The Fair Wages Commission has been directed to work with economists, trade unions, the technology sector, small businesses, youth and others from all regions of the province to put forward a plan to bridge the gap between the minimum wage in British Columbia,” the labour ministry said in a statement.

The issue has been a sticking point for the B.C. Green Party, which demanded and got a commitment from the NDP government to remove its deadline of 2021 to reach a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Green leader Andrew Weaver said the independent commission should decide how quickly the minimum wage rises, after consultations with small business. He objected to the decision being made by NDP politicians, as the B.C. Federation of Labour complained it considers 2021 too slow.

The commission is also expected to consider the Green campaign proposal to examine a “living wage” that would be set to cover basic living expenses for a family of four. That would vary from region to region, depending on housing and other costs that are higher in urban centres.

In August, Bains announced a 50-cent increase to the minimum wage, bringing it to $11.35 an hour, the third highest among Canadian provinces.

It is the same increase that was promised by the former B.C. Liberal government before the 2017 election. The NDP government also kept in place the lower liquor server minimum wage set by the Christy Clark government, and the latest increase brings that to $10.10 an hour.

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