Could city-specific wage-hikes creep north of the border?

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Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago have all increased the hourly minimum wage within their borders and now Los Angeles has become the latest US city to follow suit – but could a similar approach soon be seen in Canada? It is possible, concedes one leading economist, but there’d be no shortage of problems.

"I think it's an idea that has some potential," Sheila Block told CBC News. "I also think there are a number of difficulties associated with it."

Block is a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – she says larger cities like Toronto and Vancouver are a good fit for their own minimum wage rates but added that the same isn’t true for less-populous territories.

A city that raises its minimum wage would need to have the capacity to enforce its own rules, explains Block – “if your rights aren't enforced, they don't have much muscle or teeth," she said. 

Toronto alone has the same population of several provinces and has the man-power to monitor such laws but the same issue probably wouldn’t be a priority for other smaller cities.

Block also acknowledged the fact that, should such a change come into effect, some employers would be more likely to relocate outside of big-city borders than to raise wages.
Because of that, Block said a province-by-province approach would bring fewer problems. "I don't think we've exhausted the options we have at the provincial level,” she said. “I'd go there before I tried to do that municipally.”

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