As the debate continues to wage across Canada, some Manitobans are questioning if it’s time for the province to review minimum wage here at home.
It’s a conversation fueled by a recent hike in Ontario, where minimum wage just jumped from $11.60 per hour to $14 per hour. Elsewhere, Alberta has plans to increase its minimum wage to $15 per hour by October.
But in Manitoba, the most recent hike was a lot less drastic: the rate basement jumped from $11 an hour to $11.15 per hour in October.
It has some residents questioning the decision by the provincial government to commit to incremental increases instead of one major jump — and it has a few businesses around Winnipeg taking matters into their own hands.
Local coffee chain Fools and Horses pays their employees what they consider to be a “living wage”, and employees like Joshua Davison are thankful they’re being compensated well for their hours spent as baristas.
“It has made a huge difference,” Davison said. “It lends itself to a really healthy work environment where people take pride in their work, they’re more dedicated, and they stay longer.
“The work culture translates to better service for customers.”
The latest data from Stats Canada in 2013 showed 6 per cent of all workers in the province make minimum wage. Some even say that number has climbed as high as 9 per cent in recent years.
On Wednesday, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen told reporters that the PCs are committed to an annual bump, but said the issue goes beyond a one-time hike.
“Minimum wage cannot be seen as an isolated issue,” Friesen said.
“The overall issue is one of affordability, and that’s one we take very seriously as a government.”
In Manitoba, 45 per cent of minimum wage earners have some sort of post-secondary education.
But, as other provinces make the switch to higher salaries for their workers, the debate rages on in the prairies.
“We think that there are better ways to help low income earners than simply increasing wage,” Canadian Federation of Independent Business Manitoba Director Jon Alward said. “Look at reducing their tax burden, increase the basic personal exemption and, first and foremost, improve access to training and skills so they can get out of these kind of positions. By doing that, you’re going to do a lot better job of trying to address the problem before having to increase the minimum wage.”