As Canadians continue to grapple with a rising cost of living, six provinces raised the minimum wage over the weekend. However, advocates who have been calling for these increases say it may not be enough to ease pressure on working-class Canadians.
The largest increase comes in Manitoba, where the minimum wage increased from $14.15 to $15.30 on Sunday. Ontario, too, saw an increase of more than a dollar from $15.50 to $16.55. Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador all increased the minimum wage by 50 cents to $15.
While Saskatchewan raised its minimum wage from $13 to $14, it remains the province or territory with the lowest minimum wage.
“Saskatchewan presently has the lowest minimum wage in the country going into this increase and, in fact, over the course of several years we’ve either had the lowest minimum wage or the second lowest minimum wage in the country,” said Peter Glimer, an advocate from the anti-poverty advocacy group Poverty Free Saskatchewan (PFS).
Gilmer said that while the latest increase doesn’t do much to bring people in the province up to livable standards, it’s not nothing.
“Any increase is better than none, but in terms of catching up with both how far we’ve fallen behind in terms of inflation, but also in terms of how far we’ve fallen behind other jurisdictions, in terms of minimum wage legislation, this (increase) really doesn’t do it.”
Suzanne MacNeil from Justice For Workers Nova Scotia said people in Halifax have had to work more than their regular 40 hours a week just to be able to make ends meet.
“Things are definitely dire in Halifax,” MacNeil said. “Things are expensive across the province and this is now one of the more expensive places to live in Canada.”
In Alberta ($15), Quebec ($15.25), B.C. ($16.75), New Brunswick ($14.75), Yukon ($16.77), N.W.T ($16.05) and Nunavut ($16), the minimum wage remained unchanged on Sunday.
Craig Pickthorne of Living Wage Canada said these increases do little to ease the pressure on working-class Canadians.
“Yes, it is an increase, but it’s not nearly enough anywhere,” Pickthorne said.
“Nowhere in the country can you make a living, pay your bills and make ends meet while working full time earning a minimum wage — even after these increases. What else is work for than to pay your bills? If you work full time, you should not be in working poverty.”
Pickthorne said across the country, even some of the new minimum wage figures are below what advocates describe as a “livable” wage. For example, he said in Halifax, the minimum wage is $11.50 below the livable standard.
The Ontario Living Wage Network said the living wage in the Greater Toronto Area is $23 an hour, far above Ontario’s new $16.55 minimum wage. The Alberta Federation of Labour said the Alberta government’s decision to leave the minimum wage unchanged this Sunday was “heartless.”
Pickthorne said raising the minimum wage was not the only solution governments could employ.
“Raising the minimum wage is not the only way to combat working poverty. Governments can also wield levers of affordability with subsidies or with rent control. Try to tackle prices and cool down some of those markets. That’s a way in which you can make these differences not so intolerable.”