Manitoba proposes path to increase minimum wage above inflation

WINNIPEG โ€” The Manitoba government is proposing legislation that would allow for a higher minimum wage to help people cope with inflation, but said it will consult with business and labour groups before deciding on an exact figure.

"We are living in very uncertain times right now," Labour Minister Reg Helwer said Monday.

The province adjusts the minimum wage every Oct. 1 to match the inflation rate from the previous year. That means the hourly rate is to rise 40 cents to $12.35 this October.

That would be the lowest in Canada. Saskatchewan has had a lower minimum wage than Manitoba, but recently announced it is raising it to $13 an hour this fall and to $15 an hour by 2024.

Helwer introduced a bill that would give the Progressive Conservative cabinet authority to impose a higher wage increase when inflation in the current year is running above five per cent.

Helwer said he hopes to set the new minimum well before October.

"We want to make sure that we can give a pretty clear indication early to labour and business where this is going to go, so they can prepare."

The Opposition New Democrats said that with inflation running high, workers need more money.

"What we'd like to see is to have that minimum wage in Manitoba move to $15 an hour and then to set up a process where we can ensure that's a living wage after that," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

The Manitoba Federation of Labour said it welcomes the consultation, and is looking for a minimum wage of $16 an hour to start.

"We think that's an appropriate step to move to immediately, and then to make sure that we establish a regular review on how do we make sure when people work full time, they don't live in poverty," federation president Kevin Rebeck said.

Premier Heather Stefanson said last week she wanted Manitoba's minimum wage to stay competitive with rates in other provinces.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2022.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press