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Employment minister ‘considering options’ on minimum wage increase

Calls to increase the minimum wage from MLAs were heard in the Legislative Assembly this week, but there was no commitment on an increase from the GNWT.

The GNWT is currently topping up minimum wage worker’s earnings, with minimum wage workers being paid $18 rather than the territory’s standard $13.46.

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly said the fact this program is needed is the clearest sign minimum wage is too low.

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly. (Supplied by GNWT.)

“It would be unbelievable, if not completely unfair, if the effective minimum wage in the NWT is rolled back from anything less than $18 an hour, which is what people have been getting for the last 10 months,” he added. 

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In the Legislative Assembly this week, R.J. Simpson said he was considering a number of options, but didn’t give an indication as to whether the minimum wage would increase from $13.46.

Simpson noted there had been lots of discussion about a guaranteed basic income in the Legislative Assembly, but said studies done in B.C. showed that implementing a guaranteed basic income “probably is not going to solve all the issues.”

“What you need are targeted supports,” Simpson said. “You need to deal with people if they have addictions issues. You need to make sure that there are jobs for people to have. You need to make sure people can be trained. You need to make sure people have housing.”

“Just throwing money at a problem, as simple as it seems, and that is probably the allure of it, it does not necessarily mean that it works,” he added.

Simpson adds there was no money in the GNWT’s budget to increase the minimum wage subsidy for apprentices.

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“The larger wage subsidy is funded through federal government programs, and they have a lot more money,” said Simpson. “The other wage subsidies, the $8 wage subsidies, are funded by the GNWT. We have to do our best to stretch our dollars as far as we can, and we don’t have enough to fund all of the apprentices in the territory with that budget.”

“Even as is, we fall quite short of that.”

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