The New Brunswick government has announced it is raising the minimum wage by $2 per hour to hit $13.75 by October 2022.
Trevor Holder, minister for post-secondary education, training and labour, made the announcement on Thursday, calling it a significant step to bring further harmony on minimum wage in other jurisdictions.
The rollout will have two phases: the first $1 per hour being added April 2022 and the second $1 per hour being added in October 2022.
He called the increase a one-time “course correction,” adding this is a 17 per cent increase on wages in the province. It places New Brunswick as having the highest minimum wage in Atlantic Canada.
The Human Development Council recently released a report that shows the livable wage in the major cities in New Brunswick.
In Bathurst, the livable wage is $17.45, Fredericton’s is $20.75, Moncton’s is $18.36, and Saint John’s is $19.55.
Abram Lutes, coordinator for the Common Front for Social Justice, said minimum wage workers have mixed feelings about this news.
“People are still frustrated because there’s still a question of, ‘Well there is some movement on this but I’m still having trouble paying for groceries.'”
His organization is pushing for a $15 minimum wage.
“The $15 is still a starting point,” he said, adding that they are aware raising the minimum wage would be a challenge for some businesses.
Restaurant industry reacts
Luc Erjavec, vice-president for the Atlantic Canadian division of Restaurants Canada, said that while restaurant owners support an increase, this one is too much and too fast during a time where the industry is struggling.
He said the government did not consult with anyone in the restaurant industry about the potential impacts, and he’s already received calls from panicked restaurateurs.
“The minimum wage is an entry level wage that mostly is tied to teenagers, part-timers, or those that earn tips,” he said, noting restaurants often pay bank fees on tips.
However, Lutes said that’s not true.
He also said depending on tips to subsidize the minimum wage wasn’t fair to workers, as it’s unpredictable and makes them particularly vulnerable to discrimination.
“If you are a taxi driver and happen to be an immigrant or a visible minority and your customer is unhappy with that, they may tip you lower than a taxi driver who is not a visible minority,” he said.
Erjavec said the bottom line is this increase is too sudden and too dramatic for business owners to handle.
“It’s not as if we didn’t expect the minimum wage to go up, but to suddenly go up so fast, so much is unprecedented,” he said.
“It’s the largest increase in 40 years. How do you prepare for that in the middle of the pandemic when your business is being devastated?”
— With files from Suzanne Lapointe