Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston walked back a comment he made during a debate on raising the provincial minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“I don’t know many Nova Scotians that grow up thinking, ‘Boy, I hope I make minimum wage when I grow up.’ That’s not the way people think, they want real jobs,” Houston said during question period at the Nova Scotia legislature.
The exchange was in response to repeated calls from Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill to increase the minimum hourly wage for Nova Scotians.
“This was insulting and beneath the premier. And I certainly think that he owes the minimum wage workers of Nova Scotia an apology,” Burrill said.
Houston followed Burrill’s remarks by stating that he misspoke.
“Obviously, everyone who gets up and goes to work has a real job. In the heat of the moment, I used the wrong word. What I meant was a better job, a career. I apologize for that,” he told journalists.
The latest study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives puts the living wage for anyone in the Halifax area at $22.05 per hour.
The minimum wage in Nova Scotia increased earlier this year to $12.95 an hour but many people feel that’s simply not enough to afford the rising cost of living.
“In order to afford one bedroom, one bathroom — I mean, the minimum for rent on the peninsula, you’re looking at over a thousand. Now, a thousand dollars a month in rent, 12-something per hour, those two do not match,” said Ryan Bellefontaine, a Halifax resident.
The new living wage report states Nova Scotians would need to earn nearly $10 more an hour than the current standard in order to afford food, housing and child care.
“$12.95 is not nearly enough to pay for rent, and groceries, and if you want to get an education you’re going to have to pay off your student loans eventually, too. So, there’s just no way that you can survive on minimum wage,” said Alix Yallowega, a Halifax resident.
Houston hasn’t committed to a minimum wage increase and says the province is focused on building the economy with higher-paying jobs.