The PC government’s plan to raise the minimum wage at the rate of inflation isn’t ambitious enough for Flin Flon MLA Tom Lindsey.
Under new legislation, the province will boost the minimum wage every October 1 to match the increase in the consumer price index.
This year’s increase is expected to be 15 cents, for a total of $11.15 an hour.
“We’re not going to hold up passage of this bill, because 15 cents is better than nothing,” Lindsey, a New Democrat, told the legislature on Wednesday, May 31, the day the legislation passed. “But this government should be ashamed of the way they treat minimum wage workers in this province.”
Lindsey, who is the NDP labour critic, called a 15-cent raise “insufficient over the course of two years,” a reference to the PC government’s decision to freeze the minimum wage in 2016.
Earlier in May, Lindsey said last year’s freeze “hurt Manitoba families” at a time when Premier Brian Pallister and his cabinet received a 20 per cent pay raise.
But Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen said tying the minimum wage to inflation is fair for both workers and their employers.
“This will ensure working Manitobans take home more of their hard-earned money, along with predictability for businesses,” Cullen told the legislature, as quoted by CBC.
Lindsey has advocated for a minimum wage that puts all full-time workers above the poverty line, though both the NDP and PCs have failed on that count.
Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, told the Winnipeg Free Press the most commonly accepted poverty measure in 2016 was $15.53 an hour for a full-time worker supporting another person.
The minimum wage has become a political football across North America in recent years, with advocates for the poor urging a $15 minimum wage across Canada and the US. That would see a full-time minimum wage worker earn $30,000 a year.
Alberta has pledged to increase its minimum wage to $15 on October 1, 2018. Ontario is proposing to do the same on January 1, 2019 but has not passed legislation to that effect.
Manitoba NDP leadership hopeful Wab Kinew has said he would hike the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 at the latest if he is elected premier in 2020.
“For people who have one job and they’re earning the current minimum wage, it’s not enough to make ends meet,” Kinew said last month, as quoted by the Winnipeg Sun, “so they’re struggling, they’re making decisions about whether to buy food or clothes this month and they’re using food banks to fill in the other needs that they have.”
Minimum wage across Canada
Northwest Territories: $12.50
Alberta: $12.20 ($13.60 on Oct. 1)
Ontario: $11.40 ($11.60 on Oct. 1)
Prince Edward Island: $11.25
Manitoba: $11 ($11.15 on Oct. 1)
New Brunswick: $11
British Columbia: $10.85 ($11.25 on Sept. 15)
Nova Scotia: $10.85
Newfoundland and Labrador: $10.75 ($11 on Oct. 1)
Source: Gov’t of Canada