Stefanson says many employers already paying above minimum wage due to labour shortage

Premier Heather Stefanson said she will consider raising the minimum wage in Manitoba but said her primary concern is addressing labour shortages in the province.

Stefanson made the comments at a provincial news conference Monday.

Manitoba is set to have the lowest minimum wage in the country come fall, after Saskatchewan announced it will raise its minimum wage from $11.81 to $13 in October.

Meanwhile, the Manitoba government announced in April that minimum wage will rise in this province to $12.35 on Oct. 1. Although the wage is increasing, it will become the lowest across Canada.

When asked if she would do anything about Manitoba’s low ranking status, Stefanson said her priority is addressing the current labour shortage, noting the province’s minimum wage is indexed to inflation.

“I've talked to several different industries where they're having difficulties finding labour and where it's a supply and demand issue,” she said.

“So right now, I suspect that there's less that are actually paying minimum wage. They're probably paying above that right now because of the shortage of labour, but it’s obviously something we’ll take into consideration.”

Although Stefanson acknowledged inflation has ballooned across the country, she said she is focused on ensuring workers can be trained through the provincial nominee program to address the labour shortage.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said it is time for the minimum wage to go up in Manitoba, saying the PC government indexed the minimum wage to a poverty wage.

He said his party wants to raise it to $15 and then tie it to a living wage that would keep pace with inflation.

“Most people say right now $15 an hour is a proxy for a living wage in Manitoba, but given the inflation that we’re all feeling right now, the cost of gas, the cost of groceries going up, we know that in the coming years it’s going to increase. So it’s important for minimum wage in Manitoba to keep pace with that so that,” he said.

Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck said Stefanson’s comments are disappointing.

He believes the labour shortage won’t be solved until minimum wage is increased more significantly above inflation.

“The reality is there's many workers who want to be in the workforce, but if it doesn't bring them up out of poverty working full time, then what's attracting them there?” he said.

“If she says that it's going to happen naturally, well it's not. The reality for 23,000 workers are unless government makes these businesses raise their minimum wage, they don't.”