Wage issue exposes rift in Liberal ranks
The current and former leaders of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal party are at odds over changes in the minimum wage, suggesting a division within the key opposition party.
Liberal Leader Jim Bennett suggested earlier this month that there should be a two-tier minimum wage.
Under Bennett's proposal, workers under 17 would be paid $6 per hour. Workers 18 and older would be paid $8 per hour.
Gerry Reid, who serves as Opposition leader in the legislature because Bennett does not hold a seat, said Bennett's proposal is not the party's position.
Moreover, he thinks Bennett is wrong.
"We shouldn't have a two-tier system discriminating based on age, because in Canada, we're not permitted to discriminate based on anything," Reid said.
Reid had served as interim leader of the Liberal party after Opposition leader Roger Grimes resigned from public life last spring.
Bennett, a lawyer based in Daniel's Harbour, ran unopposed for the leadership. Reid said he declined to run for the job, saying he wanted to concentrate on his constituents.
Reid said he was not speaking for other members of the Liberal caucus while presenting his views on the minimum wage.
The minimum wage is currently $6.50 per hour. It will be raised in 25-cent increments to $7 by 2007, before another mandatory review of the wage is undertaken.
The provincial government has estimated that about 16,000 people work for minimum wage.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour has labelled Bennett's proposal ridiculous.