By the hour

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - Editorial -

Ev­ery prov­ince in Canada is try­ing to find the right bal­ance with the min­i­mum wage, but the is­sue par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing for At­lantic Canada.

This re­gion has long suf­fered high un­em­ploy­ment and low wages, a com­bi­na­tion that crip­ples ef­forts to keep young peo­ple at home.

Mean­while, On­tario, Al­berta and Bri­tish Columbia in­tend to raise the min­i­mum wage to $ 15 an hour in the next two to three years. It’s seen by many as a rea­son­able liv­ing wage.

But it cre­ates a ma­jor con­cern in this re­gion for gov­ern­ments and busi­nesses.

In Nova Sco­tia, the is­sue is be­fore the leg­is­la­ture, where the NDP has pre­sented a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill propos­ing the min­i­mum wage move to $ 15. It’s sent Pre­mier Stephen McNeil scur­ry­ing for cover be­cause Nova Sco­tia cur­rently has the low­est hourly min­i­mum wage in the re­gion — $ 10.35 for in­ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers and $ 10.85 for ex­pe­ri­enced ones. New Brunswick and New­found­land and Labrador have reached $ 11, while P. E. I. is at $ 11.25.

The Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­ness warns that a $ 15 min­i­mum wage is a job killer that could re­sult in 29,000 jobs lost among young peo­ple in the At­lantic re­gion. To their credit, most CFIB mem­bers pay above min­i­mum wage, but cer­tain sec­tors that em­ploy large num­bers of young peo­ple — such as re­tail and hospi­tal­ity — say they can’t af­ford large in­creases.

The CFIB es­ti­mates that if all prov­inces adopted a $ 15- an- hour min­i­mum wage, be­tween 185,000 to 422,000 youth jobs would be at risk.

What busi­nesses don’t like are sur­prise in­creases. Most prov­inces plan­ning to move to­wards $ 15 an hour at least have sig­nalled their in­ten­tions and es­tab­lished time­lines. Oth­ers, not so much.

This spring, for ex­am­ple, the P. E. I. gov­ern­ment an­nounced plans to in­crease its min­i­mum wage to $ 11.25 on April 1. Busi­nesses had lit­tle more than a month to pre­pare, and there was wide­spread crit­i­cism. The Greater Char­lot­te­town Area Cham­ber of Com­merce — which rep­re­sents more than 1,000 busi­nesses — was quite vo­cal be­cause there had al­ready been two wage in­creases in 2016.

If prov­inces are go­ing to leg­is­late in­creases in the min­i­mum wage, they must con­sult busi­nesses well in ad­vance.

The les­son was learned in P. E. I., with the prov­ince agree­ing that any fu­ture in­creases to the min­i­mum wage would be an­nounced well in ad­vance and will al­ways oc­cur on April 1.

Nova Sco­tia’s gov­ern­ment says it wouldn’t raise the min­i­mum wage this year and ar­gues that a $ 15 rate would have a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on its busi­ness sec­tor. But it may not have a choice. If it wants to keep young peo­ple at home, they will have to be paid a com­pet­i­tive wage.

Find­ing a bal­ance in At­lantic Canada will be­come an in­creas­ing chal­lenge.

If parts cen­tral and west of­fer jobs for $ 15 an hour, will young peo­ple stay here for $ 11 or $ 11.25?

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