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Opposition NDP bring $15 minimum wage debate to Sask. legislature

Opposition leader Ryan Meili (right) is calling for a $15 minimum wage. Premier Scott Moe is satisfied with the current formula. File Photo / Global News

There may not be a set date for Saskatchewan’s next election, but the Opposition NDP are starting to unveil items in their upcoming campaign. Among those ideas, a $15 minimum wage.

“We look at the places around the world where you’ve seen increases in minimum wage; you see improvements in health outcomes, improvements in people’s quality of life and improvements in local economy,” Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said.

“Having a strong minimum wage, rather than what we have now, which is the lowest minimum wage, would be really good for our economy.”

READ MORE: Lost jobs, cut hours, no paid breaks. Do minimum wage hikes hurt workers?

Saskatchewan’s minimum wage is $10.96 per hour. Nova Scotia has the second lowest minimum wage at $11 per hour.

Saskatchewan’s minimum wage is based on the average change the year prior for both the average hourly wage in Saskatchewan and the Consumer Price Index. This change take place annually on Oct. 1 pending cabinet approval.

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READ MORE: Minimum wage in Saskatchewan going up Oct. 1

Meili asked Premier Scott Moe for his thoughts on a $15 minimum wage, citing 15 per cent of food bank users saying wages are their primary income source, during the April 30 question period.

Moe stood by the current minimum wage formula. The premier said that Saskatchewan is a more affordable place to live than other jurisdictions, like Alberta or Ontario, that are introducing a $15 minimum wage.

“We feel we’re in a strong position. We also feel we have strong supports for all of those Saskatchewan people to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed here in the province,” Moe said.

“We must remember this is the minimum wage in the province of Saskatchewan and our average weekly earnings are strong here in the province and we need to continue to do everything we can to ensure we have people that are earning above the minimum.”

According to Statistics Canada, the average weekly wage in Saskatchewan, including overtime, was $1,010.47 in 2017. The year prior, the average weekly wage was $988.40. It has been rising since 2013 when it was $945.37.

READ MORE: Minimum wage debate reignites after data shows Albertans are spending less at restaurants

Meili said that despite this, Saskatchewan’s minimum wage still does not adequately address the growing cost of living in Saskatchewan.

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“We’ve seen cost of living rise significantly and we’ve seen significant issues in rent going up. In terms of cost of food, we’ve seen this government increase the PST on a number of things,” Meili said.

If the NDP forms government in the 2020 election, Meili said he believes it would be possible to phase in a $15 minimum wage within the four year term.

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