Manitoba's minimum wage will rise to $15 per hour by October 2023
Phased-in approach will see wage go up to $13.50 this October, 2nd-lowest in Canada
Minimum wage earners in Manitoba will make just over $3 per hour more than they currently do by the fall of 2023, when the hourly rate goes up to $15, the province says.
Premier Heather Stefanson announced the phased-in approach to raising the minimum wage Thursday, saying Manitoba has fallen behind other jurisdictions.
"We know that to attract and retain new workers and immigrants in Manitoba, wages need to be competitive with other provinces," she said at a news conference on Thursday.
The lowest wage in Manitoba is currently $11.95 an hour. Under the province's existing formula of indexing wage hikes to inflation, that was slated to rise to $12.35 by Oct. 1.
That would have become the lowest minimum wage in the country, with Saskatchewan set to boost its minimum wage in October to $13 an hour.
But the province now says following consultations with the labour and business communities, minimum wage will increase to $13.50 this Oct. 1.
Manitoba's minimum wage will then be the second-lowest in the country, ahead only of Saskatchewan.
New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia all currently have minimum wages below $13.50, but all are set to rise past that mark on Oct. 1, according to the Retail Council of Canada.
On April 1, 2023, Manitoba's lowest wage will go up an additional 65 cents, to $14.15 per hour.
With the expected consumer price index increase for 2022, the indexed adjustment following that will bring Manitoba's minimum wage to around $15 for Oct. 1, 2023, Stefanson says.
'A fair and balanced approach': Stefanson
This announcement comes after the Progressive Conservative government asked the labour management review committee — a group made up of both labour and business representatives — to recommend a new minimum wage, but they couldn't reach an agreement.
The business representatives wanted a wage in the range of $13 to $14 an hour, while labour advocated for $16.15, which they described as a living wage in Manitoba as determined by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
"Labour is always going to be on one side and management is going to be on the other," Stefanson said Thursday. The hikes she announced are "a fair and balanced approach to getting to where we think is a competitive place across the country," she said.
The owner of Chocoberry Dessert House in Winnipeg's Osborne Village said she started to pay above minimum wage to attract employees at her café.
So the October increase is "not a big difference for me right now," said Tien Nguien, who took over the businesses in April 2020.
She worries more about keeping her prices competitive when the wage rises to $15 in 2023.
"I can't increase [prices for] my stuff, right?" Nguien said. "I can't go $10 for the drink. People are not going to take it for $10."
Around the corner, Judy Coy and her family operate three Osborne Street retail businesses, including Silver Lotus, Rooster and Small Mercies.
Coy said she's always tried to pay above minimum wage, and supports this year's increase.
"It's good for people to have a baseline of that — $13.50," said Coy, who currently employs 10 to 12 people.
"Everything has gone up in price. I know when I go to the grocery store, I think if I had three young kids to feed, I don't know how I'd do it — especially if you want fresh food."
As the wage rises to $15, she'd like to see the province help businesses that have worked hard to stay open despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
For example, she said the province could kick in a portion of the hourly wage for new employee while that person is in training.
"Maybe ease it in that way — that would be helpful," she said.
Stefanson acknowledged the new minimum wage rate may put pressure on small businesses that are struggling because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues and other barriers.
"We will be consulting with small businesses on how we can bridge them through this necessary, but significant, increase," she said.
The president and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce said it's looking for measures from the government that will help businesses.
"What is government going to do to provide that financial assistance?" said Loren Remillard.
"Otherwise many businesses are going to have to face some very hard choices — reducing staff, reducing hours, reducing offerings and potentially some closing their doors for good."
'Entirely insufficient': think tank
Advocates for minimum wage earners in Manitoba say the increase is not nearly enough to keep up with the cost of living.
"Even with the increase, which is more significant than it's been in recent years, it'll still leave workers in Manitoba working at a poverty wage," said Josh Brandon, a community animator with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.
"It does need to be significantly higher than what the province announced today."
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says it calculated living wage data for Manitoba in 2020 — but that was before soaring inflation rates spurred huge cost of living increases.
Molly McCracken, the CCPA's Manitoba director, says the think tank's data shows the province should have had a $15 minimum wage back in 2018.
The increases announced Thursday are "entirely insufficient" for people to survive on, she said.
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he wants to see the province adopt a living wage so people who work hard can get ahead, no matter their job.
The latest wage bumps won't achieve that, the Opposition leader said.
"At the end of the day, you will still have a situation where people can work full time in Manitoba and live in poverty."