Minimum wage to rise to at least $12.65 through 4 increases beginning in April

The provincial government announced four increases to minimum wage on Friday, to happen between April 1, 2020 to Oct. 1, 2021.

N.L.'s current $11.40 is 2nd lowest minimum wage in Canada

Minimum wage for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is slated to increase on April 1, and three more times after that until October 2021. (CBC)

The provincial government announced four increases to minimum wage on Friday, set to come into effect between April 1, 2020, and Oct. 1, 2021.

Two of those increases are scheduled to fall in line with national consumer price index, or inflation, while two others aren't explained in government's Friday news release. 

The announcement comes just days after outgoing Premier Dwight Ball resigned from his position, leaving the provincial Liberals scrambling to find a party leader, table a budget and prepare to call an election over the next year, as required in legislation. 

Provincial legislation also requires that minimum wage be reviewed every two years, with the next review due by April. 

The first of the four increases will come into effect April 1, when the current minimum wage of $11.40 an hour, which took effect in 2019, will increase to $11.65, based on inflation.

On Oct. 1, a 50-cent increase will bring minimum wage to $12.15.

The minimum wage will once again be increased on April 1, 2021, based on the national consumer price index at that time, with an additional increase of 25 cents.

Finally, on Oct. 1, 2021, there will be another 25-cent increase, bringing the new minimum wage to $12.65, plus the national consumer price index increase from the April 2021 bump.

Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Christopher Mitchelmore issued a news statement Friday morning outlining the province's plan to make incremental increases to minimum wage beginning in April, through to October 2021. (CBC)

"Our government is committed to ensuring a fair minimum wage for workers in this province. We realize recent increases have not been enough to keep up with minimum wage rates across the country and that we must do more to help low income earners in Newfoundland and Labrador," said Christopher Mitchelmore, minister of advanced education, skills and labour.

"This is a balanced approach and, as a result of these increases, we expect to be more closely aligned with our Atlantic counterparts."

Figure misses mark for some

Alyse Stuart of advocacy group $15 and Fairness says the amount is lower than she would have liked.

"This recent increase is nowhere near where we actually needed to be to address these large amounts of poverty that we're still seeing in this province," Stuart said, who added that a living wage in Newfoundland and Labrador is $18.85 an hour.

It's also a long wait for what she believes is a small hike.

"People need this money now," she said. "It doesn't address this huge inequality that still exists."

Stuart said talks of a coalition government, which would see the NDP have a seat at the table, are still lending the movement some momentum. The party has committed to a $15 minimum wage.

For the 70,000 people currently earning less than that number, Stuart added, meeting it could be a boost for a panoply of socio-economic issues they may currently face — such as how to afford prescription medication, daycare or education.

"Those large-scale problems won't be solved by piecemeal reforms that give you pennies when what you need is a living wage," she said.

Alyse Stuart, who heads the local arm of a Canada-wide group pushing for minimum wage reform, said the hike is too little, too late. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

According to the Retail Council of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador currently has the second-lowest minimum wage in the country, behind only Saskatchewan, which sits at $11.32.

Other Atlantic provinces, such as Nova Scotia at $11.55 and New Brunswick at $11.50, will also see increases this year, with the former rising to $12.55 and the latter to $11.70 this April.

With the provincial government's promised increases, Newfoundland and Labrador will draw closer to provinces such as Prince Edward Island, which has a current minimum wage of $12.25, and Quebec with $12.50. However, those jurisdictions will also see increases this spring, with P.E.I. rising to $12.85 and Quebec to $13.10.

Alberta leads the country at $15 per hour, with Ontario close behind at $14.

In October,the provincial government announced the appointment of a committee, reporting to Mitchelmore, to look into the province's minimum wage, well before the April 2020 deadline. 

The committee consisted of former Conception Bay South mayor Stephen Tessier, businesswoman Brenda O'Reilly and labour representative Allison Doyle.

It is not evident that government's Friday announcement is a result of the committee's findings.

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