Nova Scotia must raise minimum wage faster, new report says

Nova Scotia increased its minimum wage to $13.60 last October. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia increased its minimum wage to $13.60 last October. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

A new report says Nova Scotia needs to raise its minimum wage faster.

The province's minimum wage is $13.60 per hour as of October 2022, but the report says the wage needs to be hiked to $15 by October 2023.

The annual report, written by Nova Scotia's Minimum Wage Review Committee and released Thursday, proposes significant increases — 90 cents on April 1 and an additional 50 cents on Oct. 1. It says the boost is needed to attract and retain workers, adjust to rising costs and to fall in line with other Canadian provinces.

Last December, the committee recommended incremental increases that would see minimum wage reach $15 on April 1, 2024.

This year's report also suggests that the minimum wage be adjusted every April 1 "by the percentage change in the projected annual national consumer price index (CPI) for the previous calendar year, plus an additional one per cent."

Speaking after Thursday's cabinet meeting, Premier Tim Houston said he respected the findings of the committee but wants more "input from the community."

"The discussion around wages has broad impacts for sure," Houston said. "I think it's appropriate to speak to stakeholders and speak to the community."

Jill Balser, minister of Labour, Skills and Immigration, echoed that sentiment in a news release.

"As we decide on the path forward, it's important that we take a balanced approach and consider the impacts to employers and employees, particularly as all Nova Scotians and businesses continue to deal with the rising cost of living and inflation," she was quoted as saying.

Opposition reaction

Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said he trusted the process the committee used and supported the recommendations.

Churchill said people in Nova Scotia have been having a hard time making ends meet because of inflation and the cost of living.

Nova Scotia NDP Leader Claudia Chender described the committee's recommendations as "a sensible approach."

The challenge is that even if the minimum wage is increased to $15 and the consumer price index increase is adopted it still does not amount to a living wage, she said.

"People simply can't afford to live in this province right now," Chender said. "I think it's a good approach, but we need to get to a living wage in this province."

Competing for workers

Danny Cavanagh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour and a member of the minimum wage review committee, responded to the report by saying it was "crucial" for the province to keep up with wages in P.E.I. and Newfoundland if it wants to remain "on top."

Both P.E.I. and Newfoundland are planning to raise their minimum wages to $15 on Oct. 1 of this year.

Cavanagh said in a news release that there is substantial evidence indicating that higher minimum wages can strengthen the economy, and that better wages and benefits can lead to lower turnover and more stable jobs.

"We know that increasing the minimum wage benefits the working poor, not just those working for the minimum wage," he said.

"The minimum wage is the benchmark or reference point for employers and employees in setting and negotiating salaries."