'A boost from the bottom up': NDP wants $15 minimum wage

The Sask. NDP has recommitted to the introduction of a $15 minimum wage in Saskatchewan, after a 10 cent increase still leaves Saskatchewan's minimum wage the second lowest in Canada.

Saskatchewan's minimum wage went up by 10 cents this week

NDP leader Ryan Meili is has recommitted to introducing a $15 minimum wage if his party forms government in the next provincial election. (CBC)

Saskatchewan's minimum wage rose to $11.06 per hour, but NDP leader Ryan Meili says the increase is not enough.

Meili has recommitted to the introduction of a $15 minimum wage in Saskatchewan if his party forms government in the next provincial election.

Saskatchewan's minimum wage increased by 10 cents from $10.96 to $11.06 per hour on Oct. 1, 2018.

On the same day, Alberta's minimum wage rose from $13.60 to $15 per hour—​a difference of  $1.40.

Saskatchewan now has the second lowest minimum wage in Canada after Nova Scotia.

Meili says that even with the increase, Saskatchewan's minimum wage is still not enough for workers to live on.

"People working in low wage jobs are having to access food banks, they're having to access various social programs, they're still living in poverty despite having a full-time job," Meili said.

Not everyone believes that the NDP's plan for a $15 minimum wage would be beneficial to Saskatchewan.

Marilyn Braun-Pollon is the Vice-President, Prairie and Agri-business, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, is one of them.

"For those that believe a $15 minimum wage would be good for the province, it's an unrealistic request. But it would also have unintended consequences on the economy," Braun-Pollon said.

Meili, however, believes that a higher hourly wage is beneficial to workers, employers and the economy as a whole.

"Local business does better because...when people—​especially people, it turns out, on the lower end of the income scale—​when they've got more money in their pocket, they spend that money locally and that money stays in the economy," Meili said.

"Really what it is is it's like a boost to the economy, but a boost from the bottom up."

$15 minimum wage a "job killer": CFIB

Braun-Pollon says that those advocating for a $15 minimum wage have not fully examined the cost of such an increase to employers. Higher wages, she said,  may force employers to cut hours or reduce jobs altogether with entry level positions and youth-oriented jobs would be most affected.

Braun-Pollon says that there are better ways to assist low income earners than by increasing the minimum wage.

"We've continued to advocate for more practical and effective ways to help low income earners through allowing them to keep more money in their pockets through tax relief or helping them upgrade their skills to better paying positions," she said. 

Better Good, better wages

Laura Neufeld, owner of Saskatoon store the Better Good, has been a "living wage" employer since 2014.

This means her employees' hourly wage "reflects what earners in a family need to bring home, based on the actual costs of living in a specific community," according to Living Wage Canada.

In Saskatoon, the living wage is about $16 per hour.

Saskatoon business The Better Good is an example of a "living wage" employer. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

"To us it's common sense that if someone is struggling financially it's going to affect their job performance. If you're stressed out and not able to make ends meet you won't be able to focus on being at work," Neufeld said.

Neufeld acknowledges that some business must make changes in order to accommodate a higher wage. But for her, the benefits have greatly outweighed any sacrifices that she's made.

"Investing in your staff is a huge benefit overall," Neufeld said.

"As a business there are benefits...things like lower turnover with your staff, less time spent on hiring and training. These are all ways we save money by paying our employees a higher wage and ensuring that they want to be here."

With files from Lise Ouangari