All three territories are on the slide when it comes to providing support to low-income earners, regardless of the fact that Northerners face some of the highest living costs in the country.

Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green, left, and Grand Prairie-based economist Michel Haerner speak at a luncheon in November 2017 about Yellowknife’s living wage, pegged at $22.24 in 2017.
NNSL file photo

Earlier this month the Government of of Ontario raised its minimum wage to $15, which has led to a storm of backlash from some business owners who have unfairly penalized workers by taking away paid breaks, bonuses and other benefits.

Just days later the GNWT announced that they would increase the minimum wage from the current rate of $12.50 an hour to $13.46 by April 1, 2018.

The GNWT should be embarrassed by their lack of commitment to boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour alongside their provincial counterparts. With a swoop of a pen the three territories – which in Nov, 2017 had some of the highest minimum wage rates in the country – have now fallen to potentially some of the lowest.

Good luck attracting new workers looking for a fresh start in the North!

In a recent study by Alternatives North, the living wage for a single adult in the NWT is $20.30 per hour, a far cry from the newly promised minimum wage.

With the cost of services rising including garbage fees, passes to community rec centers, property taxes, electricity, rent and food, minimum wage earners are simply running out of money.

Minimum wage earners must often work two or three jobs in order to get by, and for many getting by is not enough. With the inability to make monthly rent, pay bills and still provide the essentials to their families, many have been forced to leave the territories and move south where cost of living is cheaper and there is a true chance that they can provide a better quality of life for their loved ones.

The GNWT continues to announce investment in infrastructure, at the cost of all else, which they seem to think is the most effective way to reduce the cost of living. These investments take years to complete, the people of the NWT need action now!

MLAs protect themselves with their salaries tied to consumer price index increases, and yet refuse to extend the same courtesy to the rest of the public service in the Northwest Territories.

The UNW believes that all workers should be able to work a full time job that pays their bills, rent, and food as a bare minimum – a living wage.

We think that the PSAC North and the Northern Territories Federation of Labour’s campaign “Fight for 15-North” in supporting a raise to $15 per hour minimum wage is a good first step towards improving the quality of life of northerners.

If we want to keep workers in the North, as well as their spending dollars and contributions to community, as well as attract newcomers, this government needs to get serious about addressing a living wage.

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