'It's embarrassing': Labour groups calling for a living wage for Manitobans

Manitoba is set to become the province with the lowest minimum wage later this year, prompting labour groups to call for a living wage for Manitobans.

Saskatchewan is set to raise its minimum wage from $11.81 per hour to $13 on Oct. 1. Even with a 40-cent increase from $11.95 to $12.35 on Oct. 1, Manitoba will be dead last across the country when it comes to minimum wage.

Four years ago Monika Vrecar worked at a bakery earning minimum wage. With a baby in tow at this point in her life, she can’t fathom living off that now.

“Food is extremely expensive, daycare is insanely expensive, all the stuff for a baby is insanely expensive,” said Vrecar “I can’t really imagine, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.”

Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck says people need a living wage.

“It’s embarrassing, we will have the lowest minimum wage in Canada,” said Rebeck.

Rebeck feels the province should raise the minimum wage by more than 40 cents, suggesting we should be in the middle of the pack in Canada.

“No one should work full time and live in poverty but that’s the reality for far too many people, and really for far too many people in Manitoba.”

The Stefanson government said it monitors minimum wage across the country to ensure Manitoba’s is sufficient. Labour minister Reg Helwer says the increase planned for October is based on last year’s inflation rate, as prescribed in law.

“So that employers and employees have a stable, consistent wage increase that they can look towards,” he said.

The province also says the 40-cent raise this year is the largest to Manitoba’s minimum wage since 2017, and the fifth-highest increase since 1999.

Like workers, small businesses, still reeling from the ongoing pandemic, are feeling the pinch from high food and fuel costs, as well as debt.

Kathleen Cook from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says a big hike to minimum wage could be tough for some small businesses to handle.

“They’ll have no choice but to raise their prices and of course, that’s concerning for small businesses,” said Cook “Because there’s a ceiling to how much of these costs businesses can pass on to their customers and still remain viable.”

Monica Vrecar would support subsidies to help small businesses cope with a larger wage hike. She doesn’t want Manitoba to fall behind.

“We don’t have to be last in every single category, so I feel we should step it u,” said Vrecar.