Nova Scotia

N.S. minimum wage hike under fire

The proposed minimum wage increase in Nova Scotia is coming under criticism, for a couple of different reasons.

The proposed minimum wage increase in Nova Scotia is coming under criticism, for a couple of different reasons. 

The province's Minimum Wage Review Committee has recommended raising the wage by $.35  an hour on Oct. 1. That would set Nova Scotia's minimum wage at $10 per hour.

A spokesman for the province's restaurants said the hike could have a dangerous domino effect.

Gordon Stewart, executive director for the Nova Scotia Restaurant Association, said the industry is still recovering from the recent recession.

And he said a small wage hike can trigger a cascade of extra expenses.

"The worst part about it, it's not just that 35 cents an hour, it's 35 cents an hour plus all the benefits that have to go with that. Now you have to share the benefits, and oh, by the way, you have another 12, 14, 30, 80 staff behind me who all want a raise. As minimum wage goes up, they say 'well, they're getting a raise, we want a raise too,' so it really puts pressure right across the board," said Stewart.

Not 'a hugely significant increase'

Stewart said the last minimum wage increase eliminated 500 jobs from the restaurant industry province-wide, and cut the hours for 500 other workers.

Even some who welcome a wage increase are criticizing it, although from a different perspective.

A student advocate said a hike in Nova Scotia's minimum wage is good news, but it won't solve a crisis in student debt.

"Obviously an increase in minimum wage is going to be good for students," said Mark Coffin, executive director for the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations.

However, Coffin said,  "It doesn't look like it's a hugely significant increase."

Coffin said Maritime students face some of the highest tuitions in the country, and high rates of summer unemployment. "There are a lot of other factors at play in Atlantic Canada that mean that students have a harder time affording tuition and the costs of education."

A wage hike isn't the only recommendation from the committee.

It also suggests yearly increases linked to Canada's Consumer Price Index. 

Minimum wage is currently $9 per hour in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. New Brunswick plans to raise the wage to $9.50 on April 1, and to $10 per hour on Sept. 1.