Manitoba

Liberals, NDP promise sick note ban, tout $15 minimum wage pledge

Manitoba New Democrats and Liberals were promising to make the lives of workers better Monday while using Labour Day as a backdrop.

Both parties say they would beef up workplace safety and health enforcement

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew promises to raise Manitoba’s minimum wage to $15 an hour if elected premier next week. He says he'll raise it by a dollar a year and then to inflation after that so in 2024 it will be about $15 and change. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Manitoba New Democrats and Liberals were promising to make the lives of workers better Monday while using Labour Day as a backdrop.

Both are committing to raising Manitoba's minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current $11.35 rate and both parties said they would introduce a ban on employers asking for sick notes for an illness that lasts 72 hours or less.

"The reason we want to get to $15 dollars an hour isn't because there is something magic about the number 15 it's because $15 dollars and hour is a symbol and the symbol that it represents is a living wage," said NDP Leader Wab Kinew who made the promise in front of a streetcar sculpture on Main Street that pays tribute to the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew promises to raise Manitoba’s minimum wage to ( Austin Grabish/CBC)

Kinew said if elected premier next week he would raise the minimum wage by a dollar a year until it hit $15. From there he said he would index it to the inflation rate. He also said he would introduce a ban that would prevent employers from requiring sick notes from staffers who are ill and away from work for 72 hours or less.

This he said would free up doctors and nurse practitioners who have to write sick notes.

"It seems too much of a burden to have to go get an appointment with your doctor," he said.

$15/hour in two years: Liberals 

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said he would match that promise and touted his party's promise to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in just two years if elected.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont says the Liberals would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in two years. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

"What Manitobans need is a raise. What they need is stability and they need safe workplaces to make sure they get home from work safe," he said.

Kinew said he would raise the small business tax exemption by $50K to $550,000 so business owners can get $50K more before they have to start paying corporate taxes.

He rejected criticism that such a hike would have a negative impact on small business owners. 

"Moving toward a living wage actually benefits the business community because people who are on a minimum wage are very likely to spend their new income locally at the small businesses in their area," he said.

Estimated $82K annual cost to small businesses

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is against the proposed raise. It estimates a minimum wage hike to $15.00 per hour would cost a business with 10 full-time employees $81,977 annually.

"There are other better way to help low income earners that we support," said Jonathan Alward, the Manitoba director of the CFIB. He said raising the basic personal tax exemption is one such way.

Jonathan Alward is the the director of provincial affairs for Manitoba with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. (CBC)

Lamont and Kinew are both promising to beef up workplace safety and health enforcement by increasing the number of inspection officers though neither leader offered a specific number. Lamont added he would make enforcement tougher and ensure offenders were fined properly.

He slammed the NDP's record on workplace safety while it was in power. "Under the NDP you had inspectors begging the government to actually fine companies."

Lamont slammed the NDP's record on workplace safety and health from when it was in power in Manitoba. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

The Liberals and NDP both say they will rescind a wage freeze on public sector employees and the Liberals say they will ensure contracts are negotiated promptly.

The NDP is also promising to make sure workers who go on employment insurance due to illness are guaranteed their job when they come back.

Midland PC candidate Blaine Pedersen said the Tories are committed to providing predictable and sustainable increases the minimum wage that are tied to the rate of inflation. 

"By contrast, the NDP is politicizing wage increases by tying them to an election cycle in order to buy votes, and in doing so would kill jobs and hurt the economy," he said in a statement.

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About the Author

​Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. In 2019, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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