Manitoba and five other provinces raised minimum wage Saturday, October 1st.

Minimum wage employees in Manitoba will see a tidy $1.55 hike in their hourly pay as the provincial minimum wage leapt up from $11.95 all the way to $13.50 on the weekend. This recent bump was the biggest by far in the past decade, a whopping 12.1%, where past increases were only $.20 to $0.30 each.

Premier Heather Stefanson announced the wage increase in a press conference on August 18. 

“Our government recognizes the financial challenges many Manitobans are facing as a result of global inflationary pressures,” said Stefanson.

This is only the first of a three-phase process which will see the minimum wage increase to $14.15 in April 2023 and again in October 2023 to $15.00 per hour.

“Our balanced approach to increasing the minimum wage will help workers make ends meet while also recognizing the concerns of small businesses who are struggling during this difficult time,” the premier added.

The official release also indicated that because this increase will affect small businesses, the Conservatives will consult with small businesses to create support programs intended to off-set the rising labour costs.

But who does it really help?

Southern Manitoba restaurant owner, Chris Krushel, doesn’t see many positives coming from this wage increase.

“It will only hurt the customer,” Krushel said. “Our menu has already jumped 12 per cent to stay in line with the minimum wage increase.”

Krushel owns the Chicken Chef in Morden, MB–located around 150 km from Winnipeg. The restaurant has been around for 40 years and has a lot of loyal customers in the community despite rising menu prices.

“Everything needs to rise to compensate,” he said. “My food order used to be around $2,500 per week a couple years ago, pre-COVID, now it’s around $4,000.”

He sees the hike to minimum wage as detrimental to small businesses like his own and many others in the area who have only recently begun to recover from the strain of health regulations due to COVID-19 and the skyrocketing cost of goods.

“Pulling out of this pandemic, it’s just a kick in the teeth, “he said. “A lot of restaurants did shut down or are in the process of shutting down. So the places that made it through all the mandates and restrictions are finally seeing the light.”

Too little, too late?

Others claim the announcement is too little too late, saying the $15 minimum set to take effect next October is far behind the needed living wage in Winnipeg.

“This amount is entirely insufficient for minimum wage workers to live on given soaring food, shelter and energy costs,” said Molly McCracken, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) Manitoba director in a statement released in mid-August.

“Data showed Manitoba should have had a $15.00 minimum wage back in 2018, we are set further behind by the schedule announced [on August 18th].”

In a separate report, the CCPA, revealed that the bare bones living wage for a family in Winnipeg is $18.34, much higher than the proposed $15.00 slated for next fall.

“Although these increases will provide a significant boost to working families,” states CCPA Errol Black Chair in Labour Issues and Senior Researcher Niall Harney, “many will still struggle to meet their basic needs until Manitoba’s minimum wage approaches relative parity with the living wage.” 

Meanwhile, in Ontario, the minimum wage increase to $15.50 may be long overdue since the Ford government cancelled a minimum wage bump that was previously scheduled for 2019 by the Wynne government. Ontario workers only reached the lauded $15.00 per-hour minimum wage in January 2022, and then added $0.50 per hour this past Saturday stating the raise was done to improve affordability for Ontarians.

“For many Ontarians, wages haven’t kept up with the increasing cost of living, making it harder than ever to make ends meet,” said Premier Doug Ford in a press release back in April. “Ontario’s workers are the best anywhere, and they will be at the forefront of building the province. They deserve to have more money in their pockets.”

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