Min­i­mum wage gaps

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Editorial -

Nova Sco­tia Premier Stephen McNeil isn’t find­ing much sup­port for his idea of hav­ing a com­mon min­i­mum wage in At­lantic Canada by as early as next spring. What­ever his tar­get might be, he’s quick to re­ject any plans to join the $15-an-hour club. That fig­ure is now the goal for On­tario and Al­berta. It’s in­evitable that by 2020 or 2021, it will be the law in sev­eral prov­inces, but don’t ex­pect it to hap­pen soon in all of At­lantic Canada.

The is­sue is back in the news be­cause At­lantic prov­inces ad­justed their min­i­mum wages April 1. Nova Sco­tia’s min­i­mum wage for ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers in­creased from $10.85 to $11 an hour — the sec­ond low­est in the na­tion be­hind Saskatchewan’s $10.96. New­found­land and Labrador’s jumped 15 cents to $11.15; New Brunswick in­creased its min­i­mum wage by 25 cents to $11.25; and P.E.I. upped it by 30 cents to $11.55.

McNeil has strong views on the sub­ject. He feels sig­nif­i­cant in­creases will have a detri­men­tal im­pact on his prov­ince’s econ­omy and is pre­pared to de­fend and main­tain that po­si­tion.

But that’s no rea­son for the other three At­lantic pre­miers to take a sim­i­lar stand. At­lantic co-oper­a­tion makes sense on many is­sues — ed­u­ca­tion, pre­scrip­tion drug pur­chases, mar­i­juana reg­u­la­tions and in­ter­provin­cial trade — where the re­duc­tion of bar­ri­ers and red tape is ben­e­fi­cial for economies and cit­i­zens. Min­i­mum wages and gaso­line price reg­u­la­tions are among the ex­cep­tions to the rule. Pre­miers need some flex­i­bil­ity to re­act on mea­sures deemed es­sen­tial or unique for their prov­ince.

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauch­lan didn’t get too ex­cited with his fel­low premier’s trial bal­loon. The Is­land has made it pol­icy in re­cent years to of­fer the high­est min­i­mum wage in the re­gion. The cost of liv­ing on the Is­land is among the high­est in Canada and a higher wage is es­sen­tial to pay for the ba­sics. It of­fers a rea­son for young peo­ple to re­main in the prov­ince and for oth­ers to move to the Is­land.

P.E.I. doesn’t re­gard a higher min­i­mum wage as detri­men­tal to busi­ness. The prov­ince has ba­si­cally bal­anced its bud­get for the past three years, en­joyed an in­crease in pop­u­la­tion and a de­crease in unem­ploy­ment. Its econ­omy is boom­ing. Nova Sco­tia has also bal­anced its bud­get but eco­nomic good times are slow to take ef­fect.

McNeil would like other At­lantic pre­miers to slow the pace of wage in­creases and al­low Nova Sco­tia time to nar­row the gap. New­found­land and Labrador just brought down a tough bud­get aimed at re­duc­ing ex­pen­di­tures with­out ma­jor job re­duc­tions or cuts to ser­vices; New Brunswick is headed to­ward a Septem­ber elec­tion; and rum­blings are grow­ing louder on the P.E.I. po­lit­i­cal land­scape about a snap spring vote. So, don’t ex­pect much re­gional sup­port at curb­ing min­i­mum wage in­creases to aid McNeil.

On this is­sue, the Nova Sco­tia premier is a voice in the wilder­ness.

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