Minimum wage is going up in Saskatchewan, but earners and advocacy groups say more can be done.
On Oct. 1, the province’s minimum wage will increase 10 cents to $11.06 per hour – six cents above the lowest rate held by Nova Scotia.
On the same day, Alberta’s minimum wage is going up by $2 to reach the highest rate in Canada at $15 an hour.
Prior to Oct. 1, Ontario was leading the country at $14 an hour. Last week, the new Ford government halted a planned increase to $15, originally set for Jan. 1, 2019.
British Columbia is currently at $12.65, but will annually raise the minimum wage to reach $15.21 an hour by June 1, 2021. Among other provinces and territories, rates range between $11 and $12.
Saskatchewan’s rate is calculated using changes in the Consumer Price Index — a collection of goods and services typically purchased by households, and the Average Hourly Wage in Saskatchewan for the previous year.
“This new approach will help to provide security for minimum wage earners and ensure predictability for business owners in the province,” a provincial government release stated Friday.
The changes are announced on or before June 30 each year and take effect Oct. 1 to give businesses time to plan.
According to Statistics Canada, roughly one million people in the country earned minimum wage in 2017. Half of them were either students aged 15 to 24, or non-students the same age living with their parents.
More than 15 per cent of minimum wage workers in 2017 were under 65 and unattached individuals, single parents or partners in single-earner couples. Another 18 per cent were under 65 and partners in dual-earner couples.
Andrea, who didn’t want her last name used, falls in the latter category.
She’s a university student in Saskatchewan, with children and a working spouse, and is currently working two casual jobs — one at minimum wage, the other slightly higher.
“I’m on student loans to be able to get by and those don’t even make a lot. So to pay for our family and a mortgage it’s kind of a struggle,” she said.
Andrea noted that even at the new rate of $11.06 an hour for a 40-hour work week, a minimum wage earner takes home $1,700 a month before taxes.
“People really need to look at the bigger picture,” Andrea said.
“People can’t spend what they don’t have. Put a bit more money into people and you get more money into the economy and it makes for a better society altogether,” she said.
Sask. raise ‘absolutely not enough:’ food bank
Deborah Hamp is the director of operations and engagement for the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre.
She said a 10 cent raise to the minimum wage will have “no impact at all,” adding Saskatchewan is lagging behind other jurisdictions.
“Alberta’s $15 an hour minimum wage — that can have a significant impact on an individual and on a family and certainly decrease the need to rely on emergency food baskets from food banks,” Hamp said.
Hamp noted they continue to see an increase in the number of people relying on food banks over the years. Right now, Saskatoon’s facility serves around 20,000 people a month.
“What people don’t often realize is about half of that is represented by children. So we know a higher minimum wage impacts families, impacts children,” Hamp said.
She added there are many patrons who would be classified as working poor, meaning they’re forced to rely on food banks because the cost of living is too high.
“The minimum wage has not kept up with that reality,” she said.
“A higher minimum wage is good for the economy … it’s good for people’s health and well-being, and I think it’s long overdue.”