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Manitoba plans regular hike to minimum wage, labour group wants more

WINNIPEG — Manitoba minimum-wage earners will make an extra 50 cents an hour as of Oct. 1, Premier Wab Kinew said Wednesday.

The increase, which will bring the hourly rate to $15.80, follows a formula set in provincial law that is tied to the rate of inflation of the previous calendar year. Critics said the NDP government should have gone much further.

"We believe that minimum wage should be a living wage," Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, said.

"I think everyone agrees with the premise that when you work full time, you shouldn't live in poverty, but still today, for thousands of Manitobans, that's the reality."

Kinew hinted future wage increases could be higher, but would not commit to more than the basic formula requires for now.

"We're keeping with the framework that's in place right now. Certainly, we'll have engagements and conversations with many folks about this," Kinew said.

Kinew also pointed to affordability measures the NDP has announced, such as a temporary suspension of the provincial fuel tax that took effect in January, as a way to help people.

Provincial law allows for the minimum wage to be raised even higher when inflation in the current calendar year jumps more than five per cent, under changes enacted by the former Progressive Conservative government. The Tories raised the minimum wage twice last year, by a combined $1.80 an hour, before losing the Oct. 3 election.

The Tories, now in Opposition, accused the NDP Wednesday of backtracking from earlier commitments to set a living wage. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a think-tank, has estimated such a wage in Winnipeg would be $19.21 an hour.

"That seems like another broken promise by this premier," Tory interim leader Wayne Ewasko said.

Josh Brandon, a community animator with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, said he expected the NDP to move toward a living wage, based on their policies before being elected.

"We know that for low-income families, the cost of things like food, shelter, transportation ... is going up even faster than the overall rate of inflation," Brandon said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2024

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press