Anti-poverty advocates are criticizing Nova Scotia’s upcoming minimum wage increase, concerned that an extra 40 cents an hour won’t do enough to guarantee all residents can make ends meet.
The provincial government confirmed Tuesday minimum hourly rates will increase from $12.55 to $12.95 on April 1 — a 30-cent raise plus 10 cents for the national consumer price index in 2020.
Labour Minister Lena Metlege Diab said the top-up takes a “balanced” approach to advancing everyone’s interests.
“We need to ensure that our economy can grow in a fair and balanced way for everyone and in this case, both employers and employees,” she told Global News. “In the following years, we will be looking at different options to see how we can look at the minimum wages, and explore other options as well.”
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), the living wage in Halifax is $21.80. The living wage is what a person would need to earn to support their family and pay for all basic necessities, with the current cost of goods and housing considered.
Christine Saulnier, director for the CCPA in Nova Scotia, said Tuesday’s wage increase announcement does not demonstrate a commitment to leadership when it comes to quality of life.
“We saw a $1 increase last year, we could have seen at least the same this year,” she said in an interview.
“It’s time for us to really think about which workers really need support in order to move the dial on this. To me it really is about leading.”
Metlege Diab said minimum wage increases are determined by a formula and a recommendation from the province’s Minimum Wage Review Committee. That committee includes both employer and employee representatives, and Metlege Diab said those parties reached an agreement on this year’s increase.
“They studied it, they debated it, they consulted — they did whatever they needed to do, and they came to a consensus,” she said. “For that I’m grateful.”
One of the committee’s recommendations, submitted on Jan. 4, was that the province review new options for setting minimum wage increases.
According to the province, April’s increase means Nova Scotia will have the second-highest minimum wage in Atlantic Canada, five cents behind P.E.I., whose rate will increase to $13 on April 1.
Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the 40-cent increase doesn’t reflect the value of minimum wage workers, whose critical role in the economy was thrust into the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes gas station workers and grocery store staff, to name a few, he said.
“They deserve to be paid enough to live, and $12.55 isn’t enough to live and $12.95 isn’t enough either. We need to take as a floor, step one, $15 an hour.”
Nova Scotia will have a new Liberal premier next weekend, and anti-poverty advocates said they’ll continue pushing that premier to bring minimum wages closer to the costs of living.