The minimum wage in Saskatchewan increases to $14 from $13 on Sunday, but is still the lowest in Canada.
Some experts and minimum wage earners say it will not be nearly sufficient as inflation fuels rising costs of living.
"I don't think it's enough. I've got a family, I've got kids and grandkids. They all depend on me and working minimum wage for 22 hours a week is not enough," Sarah Marr, who works at Taco Bell in Saskatoon, said.
Marr shares a $1,600-per-month home with five other people and said she is "scrambling every single month," borrowing money from her mother, roommates or friends to pay bills.
"I'm like a working poor person. Right now, I'm behind by almost a month and a half on my rent. I've got utility bills that I can't afford and no groceries in my house."
Sarah Marr says she has not been able to get her son anything for three Christmases in a row. (Pratyush Dayal/CBC)
She said she is left with hardly $10 at the end of the month. She either wants the rents to go down or minimum wages to increase – a demand most people CBC spoke to in Saskatoon echoed.
Marr said she has already lost power at her place twice and is often left in a conundrum to either purchase groceries or pay bills.
"Canada is the land of the free and the friendly, but I feel like I'm a slave. I have to work every day just to pay my bills," she said with tears in her eyes.
"I can't send money to my son back home or buy my grandkids birthday presents. Three Christmases in a row, my son hasn't gotten anything from me because we can't afford anything."
She said the provincial government should "finally open their eyes" to the plight of people and move away from having the lowest minimum wage in Canada.
"I shouldn't be struggling with where my next meal is coming from," she said.
'This is not the life that I wanted before coming here': worker
Maksudur Raahman, who works 40 to 50 hours a week for minimum wage at two restaurants, agreed. He said he had only had one weekend off in the past month.
The 38-year-old moved to Saskatoon from Bangladesh in March with his wife and three-year-old daughter for a better quality of life.
"But if you are on the minimum wage, then you don't have that quality of life. I don't even have enough time to spend with my kid. It's hard," he said.
"This is not the life that I wanted before coming here."
Maksudur Raahman moved from Bangladesh to Saskatoon in March with his wife and a three-year-old daughter for a better quality of life, but says he isn't seeing it on minimum wage. (Pratyush Dayal/CBC)
He said the wage increase might help a little with his $1,300 rent, which occupies the largest share of his $2,000 to $2,500 monthly income.
"Another $500 goes for the food, $200 for the utility bills and mobile or Internet. So, it's pretty tight," he said. "Even a $1 increase will help a little bit. It's better than nothing."
Sanjeev Kumar, who works as a line cook at A to Z Cloud Kitchen, is in the same boat.
"With the kind of inflation we have right now in the country and the interest rates and high gas prices, I don't think that $1 increase would make any difference for us," he said.
Sanjeev Kumar, who works as a line cook in Saskatoon, says he has no savings and often finds himself unable to buy groceries. (Pratyush Dayal/CBC)
The 32-year-old said he wants wages to be adjusted to reflect inflation and that the minimum should be at least $16 to $17 per hour.
A report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says the same, stating that a decent standard of living requires a wage of $16.23 per hour in Regina and $16.89 per hour in Saskatoon.
Saskatchewan's minimum wage will further increase to $15 per hour in 2024. The Saskatchewan Party government noted in a news release that will be an 89 per cent increase from 2007, when the minimum wage in the province was $7.95.
When asked about having the lowest minimum wage in the country during a media availability Friday, Premier Scott Moe said his government made a commitment years ago to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour over a series of years.
"In the meantime, I think we've seen unprecedented inflationary pressures that have occurred not just here in Saskatchewan but but across Canada and since some degree across North America," Moe said.
"We're going to follow through with respect to the course that we have chartered."
Kumar said he earns $1,400 a month, but that with his bills — including an $800 car payment — he is hardly left with any.
"After all the bills, if I have something remaining then I buy some groceries, otherwise I'm just eating from this restaurant these days," he said.
"Since I've come to Canada from India, I have had no savings at all. I'm in negative right now."
Tianna Morin says the government should either increase the minimum wage or work on reducing the cost of living. (Pratyush Dayal/CBC)
Tianna Morin is no stranger to that feeling. The single mother of two works as a gas jockey and cashier in Pleasant Hill.
"The cost of living is really high too and then they tax everything too. I don't even get 40 hours, so the paycheques are kind of low," she said.
"Give us a raise."
'$14 an hour will barely barely make ends meet': associate prof.
University of Regina associate professor Andrew Stevens, who is also a Regina city councillor, said the increase will not do much for the workers or the economy.
"If you are on minimum wage and that's your basic form of income, you'll still be struggling with cost of living, increasing rents and grocery bills," he said.
"$14 an hour will barely barely make ends meet for most people."
Stevens said Saskatchewan should have moved to$15 an hour years ago. He said the province should now potentially look at setting the minimum wage according to local living wages.
University of Regina associate professor Andrew Stevens, who is also a Regina city councillor, says increasing the minimum wage will not be a silver bullet to solve poverty. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)
Dionne Pohler, an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan Edwards School of Business, said the increase will definitely not solve a lot of the challenges the province is facing around homelessness and poverty.
"There's really no consensus among academics about the short and long term effects on the economy and raising the minimum wage," she said.
Such increases can help alleviate people from poverty, but also mean rising labour costs for businesses, Pohler said.
"Labour markets and economies are complex at any given point in time. The effect of a minimum wage increase could be different depending on a whole variety of factors in the economy."
She said decreasing cost of living and housing costs, including rental costs, making changes to social assistance programs and providing guaranteed basic income for people who are living in perpetual poverty are other possible avenues available to the government.
"If poverty reduction is the objective, minimum wage is one instrument that can be used, but it is a very blunt instrument. It often doesn't have the impact on poverty rates that we want it to."