Students, labour representatives, and activists alike gathered in front of the Killiam Library on Tuesday to call for a $15 minimum wage in Nova Scotia.
About 50 people gathered to hear speeches from community leaders before marching to the Minister of Labour and Higher Education’s office, where the rally continued.
As of Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has the lowest minimum wage in the country at $11 an hour, trailing Saskatchewan by six cents. The NDP introduced legislation Tuesday that would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020, but it is unlikely to find any support outside of NDP caucus.
Activist Lynn Jones spoke at the rally and said that $11 is simply not enough.
“I just think that people should get fair wages for the work that they’re doing and in Nova Scotia, that’s just not happening,” she said in an interview.
Jones added that people of colour are particularly affected by low wages and that Nova Scotia “has to wake up.”
“They work hard for the work that they do. The conditions and the wages that they’re earning, they can’t feed a family. Many still have to go through our social services system, food banks. This is not acceptable. That’s why I’m out here today.”
According to the annual living wage report from the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives, a living wage in Halifax is $19 an hour, $8 more than the current rate.
“The current minimum wage … means that a worker can be working full-time and be working below the poverty line and we don’t think it’s fair that people should be working full-time and stuggling,” said Sakura Saunders, one of the organizers of the Fight for $15 and Fairness event.
Nova Scotia is currently outpaced by all other Maritime provinces. P.E.I.’s minimum wage is the highest in the region at $11.55 and New Brunswick’s is 11.25.
Minimum wage became a talking point during the election campaign that wrapped up on Sept. 24. Three of the five parties promised an increase, and the PCs have said they would overhaul the framework for the increase, and commission an independent study to look into minimum wage’s effect on business.
WATCH: Alberta’s new $15 minimum wage the highest in Canada
Liberal leader, and premier for now, Brian Gallant, has promised to raise the minimum rate to $14 an hour by 2024. The Greens, who along with the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick (PANB) hold the balance of power in the Legislature, are calling for a $15.25 minimum wage.
When asked if the province was worried about staying competitive wage-wise in the Maritimes, Minister of Labour and Higher Education, Labi Kousoulis, said that he would like to see Nova Scotia’s minimum wage increased to something “that works for Nova Scotia.”
“Whatever the evidence points to, then that’s what it should be. I don’t believe minimum wage should be in a platform,” he said.