Letter: A low minimum wage costs us all more

The editor:

Imagine you’re a minimum wage earner here in Saskatchewan, trying to meet all your household expenses while earning $10.96 an hour.

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It’s really tough, sometimes impossible. You are encouraged when you hear the news that the province is raising the minimum wage, then deflated when you discover it’s by only 10 cents an hour.

On the same day the minimum wage went up by a dime in Saskatchewan, it went up by $1.40 an hour in Alberta. So while a Saskatchewan person working full-time for minimum wage will see an increase of about $180 a year, a worker in Alberta sees their wages rise by over $200 a month.

The government says not to worry, though, our minimum wage is indexed, so it will eventually get to $15 here as well – in 2052. 

Thirty-four years is far too long to wait for a decent wage. Saskatchewan is the only province where the minimum wage is less than half the median wage. This means it’s especially hard to afford the basics for low-income workers here. The Saskatchewan Party’s refusal to review their wage policy keeps people in poverty.

To justify this lost opportunity, the Sask. Party has tried to stoke all kinds of fear about raising the minimum wage. Fortunately, we have lots of evidence from other places of the benefits of paying people enough to live.

Whether it’s Alberta or Ontario or Seattle, studies of minimum wage increases throughout the years and around the world have shown positive impacts on employment and the economy, not to mention improvements in people’s lives. 

An increase to the minimum wage is a boost from the bottom up. More money in people’s pockets results in more money being spent locally. Businesses also see the benefit of keeping employees longer and attracting more qualified workers.

Raising the minimum wage helps people get out of poverty, improves the economy and decreases costs to the public. That’s why we have introduced a bill that would phase in a $15 minimum wage over the next four years, starting by boosting the minimum wage to $12 per hour in 2019. If the Sask. Party truly cares about the people of Saskatchewan, they will pass this bill.

Warren McCall

Regina

McCall is the NDP’s critic for labour relations and workplace safety 

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