Liam Crouse knows how challenging it is to make ends meet while making minimum wage in Nova Scotia.

The NDP candidate for Hants East watched his family's small tea room in Elmsdale go under in 2007 during the economic collapse. Both his parents had to take on minimum-wage jobs. His dad worked 16 hours a day, but it still wasn't enough to support the family of six.

Crouse's dad eventually went West seeking work, but their struggle continued.

Liam Crouse

Hants East NDP candidate Liam Crouse says his family would be among the 130,000 people in Nova Scotia who would benefit from a higher minimum wage. (CBC)

"In 2014, my family for the first time had to use a food bank because we could not afford to put food on our table," Crouse said Thursday during a media event in Halifax.

Today, Crouse earns minimum wage as a security guard, and his mom and two of his siblings work minumum-wage jobs. They still struggle to pay off the debt from when the business collapsed.

It's stories such as Crouse's that inspire one of the NDP's central campaign planks: raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour within three years.

Nova Scotia's minimum wage increased by 15 cents in April and now stands at $10.85 per hour, the third-lowest rate in the country. 

Annual increases for 3 years

The change proposed by the NDP would affect 130,000 people in Nova Scotia, more than half of them women.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said it would mean thousands of people would have a better chance of participating more fully in their communities and of escaping poverty.

"What we are saying in our party with this announcement is that the road to prosperity in our province is not paid with poverty-level wages," Burrill told reporters.

Burrill said his model, which would see an increase of $1 in the first year and $1.575 in each of the subsequent two years, is based on what's happening in Alberta, where a $15 per hour minimum wage will be in effect next year.

Exemptions

He said there could be exemptions under the legislation, including for some small businesses where the model is based on particularly small salary levels.

Burrill said the NDP has not calculated what the change would cost businesses, but he said there are benefits for everyone to the change, including having more customers with more money in their pockets to spend.

Almost half the people making minimum wage in the province work for companies that employ at least 500 people, he said. 

"In Nova Scotia, we have such a significant part of our working population working for so little," he said. "Forty per cent of the people who live below the poverty line have a full-time, year-round job."

The NDP would also do away with the so-called inexperienced worker rate, which allows businesses to pay some people below minimum wage if they have worked for an employer for less than three months and have less than three months total experience in the work he or she has been hired to do. That rate is currently $10.35 per hour.