August 19, 2014 11:24 am
Updated: August 19, 2014 4:03 pm

N.B. minimum wage will soon be the lowest in Canada

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MONCTON – Minimum-wage workers in New Brunswick will soon be the lowest-paid in the country.

With other provinces scheduled to raise minimum wage levels later this year, New Brunswick will be knocked down to the bottom of the list.

Alberta will begin enforcing an hourly rate of $10.20 on Sept. 1, while Newfoundland and Labrador will be bumped to $10.25 on Oct. 1.

New Brunswick will remain at $10 per hour, tied for last place with Northwest Territories.

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READ MORE: Where do you set the minimum wage?

At the province’s current wage, people working 40 hours a week will gross about $1,600 each month.

“It’s horrible, you have to work, 50, 60 hours a week just to make ends meet,” said Jason Stirling, who used to make minimum wage.

He said for his family it meant sacrifices.

“You can’t have any fun with your kids — there’s just not enough money to go around after you pay your groceries, your rent, you put food on the table. That’s it. You have maybe enough to buy some clothes for the kids.”

Stirling said he was fortunate enough to find a new job that pays more, but he still has friends in difficult financial situations like he was.

Jean-Claude Basque, the provincial co-ordinator for the Common Front for Social Justice, said workers earning minimum wage have lost purchasing power since the last increase in 2012.

His group is calling on the government to raise the minimum wage to $10.25 immediately, and then increase it another $0.25 per year for the next three years, which would set it at $11 by 2017 — the same as the current minimum wage in Ontario and Nunavut.

Basque said the group also wants the rate to be indexed against the cost of living.

He said that other provinces such as Nova Scotia, already employ a similar system. The province has a committee that reviews minimum wage and raises it by the rate of inflation yearly.

Basque said keeping the wage at its current level is more expensive when counting increased costs to the health care and social assistance systems along with the loss of productivity.

“The whole package is a real drain on the province’s resources,” he said. “So if we’re reducing, partly, the poverty level, we would help the province [have] a better standard of living.”

Erin McGrath-Gaudet of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said such increases make sense, provided they’re predictable.

“I think a lot of small business owners as a general rule aren’t opposed to the concept of minimum wage increases, given that they do stay within the cost of living bracket,” she said.

She said businesses have complained in the past because they felt the changes were too aggressive, with the minimum wage increasing from $7.75 to $10 between 2009 and 2012.

An increase tied to inflation between two and three per cent would be acceptable, she said.

“That’s something that I think is quite fair, but it’s also predictable and it’s also something that makes sense for businesses,” she said.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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