Public Affairs Update Header
March 10, 2014
In This Issue
Province, unions disagree on minimum wage hike
Provincial government awaiting teachers’ contract demands
B.C. government outlines two-part model for liquor sales in grocery stores
B.C. economy lost jobs in February, but employment steady: Stats Can
The Public Affairs Update is your weekly insight, perspective and analysis on politics in British Columbia and Canada.  This newsletter is brought to you by the largest, and most broadly-based business organization in the province, the BC Chamber of Commerce – the Voice of Business in B.C.

Province, unions disagree on proposed minimum wage hike

Premier Christy Clark met with Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, last week to discuss raising the minimum wage from $10.25 to $13 per hour. Sinclair contends that the current minimum wage does not provide enough for employees to make ‘ends meet,’ while Clark voiced concerns over whether such an increase would hurt job creation.

Sinclair is also asking the government to both hire more apprentice workers on government projects, and lobby the federal government to change the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in order to better position British Columbians for entry-level jobs.

Although the Province and B.C. union leaders have not yet come to an agreement on raising the minimum wage, both parties have committed to working together on hiring and training more workers.

Provincial government awaiting teachers’ contract demands

Last week, 89 per cent of teachers’ union members voted in favour of taking potential job action following a three-day strike vote. Teachers currently have 90 days to activate the strike vote if negotiations underway with the B.C. government are not successful. The B.C. Ministry of Education is now awaiting contract demands from the union.

Jim Iker, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said that union negotiators resumed bargaining today, and plan to continue doing so at talks scheduled for next week. At this point, although no immediate job action is planned, part of the union’s negotiating strategy does involve rotating strikes to provoke a settlement.

B.C. government outlines two-part model for liquor sales in grocery stores

The B.C. government has outlined a two-part model for liquor sales in grocery stores. The government says that the model will ensure convenience and choice for consumers, promote B.C. products and create jobs.

Following the B.C. Liquor Policy Review, parliamentary secretary for liquor policy reform John Yap recommended that government respond to calls for convenience by consumers and allow for liquor sales in grocery stores. Government accepted Yap’s recommendations and is moving to implement a two-part model.

This model includes:

  • A “store-within-a-store” model: This will apply to private liquor licences that are transferred into or sold to a grocery store, as well as to government liquor licences that are transferred into grocery stores. This model will allow for sales of beer, wine and spirits through separate cashiers to ensure restricted access to alcohol by minors.
  • A second model that will be flexible to accommodate VQA licences, as well as a limited number of new licences that sell VQA wine in grocery stores: Under this model, VQA wine will be allowed to be sold off designated shelves within the store, and purchased at designated check-out tills.

According to the government, work continues to determine further details around this two-part model and to clearly define “grocery store.” However, as recommended by Yap, convenience stores will not be included in this definition and the current moratorium on the number of private liquor stores will remain in place.

B.C. economy lost jobs in February, but unemployment steady: Stats Can

According to Statistics Canada, the B.C. economy lost 10,400 jobs in February, split evenly between part-time and full-time positions. At the same time, B.C.’s unemployment rate remained steady at 6.4 per cent, because fewer people participated in the labour market.

Slight job gains were found in manufacturing and educational services; however, these were offset by larger declines, the largest of which occurred in:

  • health care,
  • social assistance,
  • professional and scientific services and
  • whole-sale trade.

Across the country, the jobs market lost 7,000 workers in February. This did not impact the unemployment rate, which remained at seven per cent. This was in stark contrast to the 29,000 job increase that occurred in January, and economists’ anticipated 15,000 job increase for February.

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This weekly report produced for the BC Chamber of Commerce by Fleishman-Hillard.  While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information included in this publication as of the date of issue, events and government policies are subject to frequent change.  Therefore, the BC Chamber of Commerce and Fleishman-Hillard cannot assume any responsibility for actions taken solely or principally on the basis on the information contained herein.