“I think it’s very disappointing that the Saskatchewan government made this announcement without any consultation with the small business community. If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of years it’s that small businesses need predictability and cost certainty,” said Kathleen Cook, the Saskatchewan Director of Provincial Affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB).
The new wage will peak at $15 per hour in 2024 but some including the Sask Federation of Labour argue that still isn’t a satisfactory living wage based off data collected even before the pandemic and current inflation.
“It would be our hope that we would be moving immediately to the $15 per hour which is really something that should have been done some time ago. With then the plan being from there to be moving to an actual living wage which is much closer to $17 per hour,” said said Poverty Free Saskatchewan spokesperson Peter Gilmer.
Meanwhile small business owners are also unhappy about not being consulted with another rising expense.
“Well, for a lot of small businesses this is one more cost increase at a time when they can least afford it. This comes on the heels of a budget that is increasing the small business corporate tax rate this year and then again next year,” said Cook. “SaskPower is proposing to hike electricity rates this year and next. Canadian Pension Plan and employment insurance premiums are on the rise and that doesn’t even take into account all of the pandemic related challenges we’re still dealing with”.
According to CFIB less than half of small businesses in Saskatchewan are back to normal sales levels and many are carrying tens of thousands of dollars in pandemic-related debt.
“What I’m hearing from small businesses is that when minimum wage goes up it means that they have to increase their prices,” added Cook.
Employer and employees can’t agree on a solution either.
Cook suggests the creation of a youth wage that is slightly lower than the general minimum wage or other measures to offset costs like reducing taxes or payroll costs.
Gilmer disagrees. “We have always taken a position in opposition to a two-tier minimum wage. We believe that youth deserve to be paid for the work that they do as does anyone else.”
“I think everyone is feeling squeezed right now. Gas is going up, groceries are going up, transportation, housing costs, everything is costing more and small businesses care about their employees,” said Cook.
In the current situation it appears as though no one feels like a winner.
“Just as their employees are getting squeezed by inflation and rising prices so are small business owners. There are no easy answers,” admitted Cook.