Activists say New Brunswick, Nova Scotia minimum wage hikes still not enough

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WATCH: Thursday saw New Brunswick increase minimum wage 5 cents and Nova Scotia kick its up 40. Activists in both provinces say, those figures need to be a lot higher – Apr 1, 2021

April 1 saw annual minimum wage increases take effect on both sides of the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia border.

New Brunswick added a nickel for an $11.75-an-hour minimum wage, while Nova Scotia’s went up 40 cents to $12.95.

Activists in both provinces say neither is sufficient.

“Those who work minimum wage jobs have every reason to expect that they will not be living in poverty,” says ACORN Nova Scotia member Hannah Martin.

ACORN, a membership-based activist group advocating for low and moderate-income individuals, has chapters throughout Canada – recently starting up in New Brunswick.

READ MORE: Advocates demand rent control in New Brunswick amid affordable housing ‘crisis’

The group was one of several that organized a “phone zap” Thursday afternoon when members bombarded phone lines at MLA constituency offices with an onslaught of calls to express their dissatisfaction with the minimum wage – especially in pandemic times.

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“We’ve often called a lot of minimum wage service workers heroes and yet we’re not offering them a hero’s pay,” Martin says.

Across the border, member Jill Farrer says this conversation shouldn’t be necessary.

“People start debating about what jobs are worthy of a living wage when really anyone who’s working should be getting a living wage,” she says.

“People just aren’t being paid what they deserve.”

The two provinces arrive at their annual increases to minimum wage by different methods.

In Nova Scotia, the Minimum Wage Review Committee calculates its recommendation at arm’s length from the province, before releasing an annual report with its advised increase.

The increase for 2021 was confirmed by Labour Minister Lena Metlege Diab in January.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia minimum wage increasing to $12.95 an hour in April

New Brunswick ties its increase to the consumer price index (CPI) – rounded to the nearest nickel.

The province first announced its five-cent increase in February, with the new minimum wage the lowest among the Atlantic provinces and second-lowest in Canada.

New Brunswick Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Trevor Holder told Global News the current method allows employers to better plan for the increased wages each year – but that could change.

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“Our government is committed to creating a well-balanced labour market,” Holder said in an emailed statement Thursday.

“A statutory ministerial review of the minimum wage is scheduled for next year. This review will examine the effects of indexing the minimum wage to the CPI.”

When finally resting her dialling fingers after the “phone zap,” Farrar says she didn’t get through on any try – but says she hopes messages left will be returned.

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