Sask.'s minimum wage rising to $15/hour later this year, but some say it's not enough

Saskatchewan increased minimum wage to $13 from $11.81 in 2022, with a promise to bump it another dollar in each of the next two years. (Canva - image credit)
Saskatchewan increased minimum wage to $13 from $11.81 in 2022, with a promise to bump it another dollar in each of the next two years. (Canva - image credit)

Saskatchewan's minimum wage will increase to $15 on Oct. 1, pulling even with Alberta as the lowest in the country.

This is the last incremental increase promised by the Saskatchewan government in 2022. That year, the province increased minimum wage to $13 from $11.81, with a promise to bump it another dollar in each of the next two years.

Kent Peterson, secretary-treasurer at Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, said it's too little too late. He said minimum wage isn't keeping up with the rising costs of living including rent, grocery prices, higher mortgages, gas bills and taxes.

"We see things like people with full-time jobs, having to work two or three jobs and only then just barely making ends meet," Peterson said.

"It means sacrifices. Maybe they can't send their kids to hockey or enrol them in dance classes or buy basic necessities."

Kent Peterson is the secretary-treasurer at Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. He said the increase in minimum wage is too little, too late as people are struggling to make ends meet.
Kent Peterson is the secretary-treasurer at Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. He said the increase in minimum wage is too little, too late as people are struggling to make ends meet.

Kent Peterson is the secretary-treasurer at Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. He said the increase in minimum wage is too little, too late as people are struggling to make ends meet. (Submitted by Kent Peterson )

Peterson said the gap between earnings and cost of living is why there has been a dramatic increase in food bank usage and people defaulting on mortgages.

"Minimum wage earners are not what you might stereotypically think of as teenagers earning a little extra spending money," he said. "These are primarily people trying to feed their families."

Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don McMorris said in a news release that the increase is one way the province is supporting workers.

"Saskatchewan also continues to have among the lowest personal taxes in Canada which makes it a great place to live, work and raise a family," McMorris said.

Brianna Solberg, director of provincial affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said she appreciates the government making incremental increases rather than a sudden jump, giving business owners stability and predictability to plan wage costs.

"Business owners often feel pressured to raise their prices to make up for those new wage costs. And that just means things become more expensive. So it's a bit of an inflationary cycle," Solberg said.

She said she hopes the province can find ways to make food, fuel, rent and utilities cheaper, rather than placing the burden on businesses by increasing wages.

"Looking at ways to provide targeted support to lower-income individuals, lowering personal income taxes, increasing the basic personal amount, helping people who are earning lower wages keep more of their paycheck is a way to address those affordability challenges," she said.

Peterson said the notion that increasing minimum wage hurts small businesses is misguided. He said it's not local small businesses that pay minimum wage, it's multinational corporations that can afford to pay more but choose not to.

"We're talking Walmart, McDonald's, Cineplex, these types of corporations," he said.

Stevens an associate producer at the Faculty of Business Administration at the University of Regina, said Saskatchewan's minimum wage falls short of the national standard and the living wage index for urban cities in Saskatchewan.
Stevens an associate producer at the Faculty of Business Administration at the University of Regina, said Saskatchewan's minimum wage falls short of the national standard and the living wage index for urban cities in Saskatchewan.

Andrew Stevens, an associate professor in the faculty of business administration at the University of Regina, said Saskatchewan's minimum wage falls short of the national standard and the living wage index for urban cities in Saskatchewan. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC News)

Andrew Stevens, an associate professor in the faculty of business administration at the University of Regina, said the increase falls short of the national standard of $17 that people working in a federally regulated private sector receive.

He also said the living wage, which is indexed to the cost of living, comes up close to $17 in Saskatchewan's urban centres like Regina and Saskatoon.

"We have to talk about all sorts of other supports and income distribution measures that help the lowest paid workers afford rent, the basic necessities, have a bit of cash to save and actually have a life, in addition to paying the necessities of today and tomorrow," he said.

Stevens said he would like the province to index the minimum wage to inflation with legislation.