At first glance the province's announcement that the minimum wage is going to go up by 35 cents in October should be well received. That is until you think about its implications on those small businesses that rely on minimum wage employees and those same employees who know all too well this increase is not even close to keeping up with the cost of living.
Organizations that represent small businesses are complaining about how another minimum wage increase is going to hinder economic activity at a time when the provincial and national economies are still in recovery mode following one of the deepest economic downturns in decades.
According to the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, minimum wage has gone up by 28 per cent in three years while inflation has only increased by four per cent. It has cost the restaurant industry $50 million and resulted in the loss of some 2,000 jobs in the Nova Scotia foodservice industry alone.
At the same time, those people working at or slightly above minimum wage have a long way to go before the hourly wage they receive comes close to paying the bills, putting food on the table and living anywhere but at or just above (or below) the poverty line. It also won't take long for that extra 35 cents an hour to get swallowed up by things like unstable fuel prices, rising grocery prices and Nova Scotia Power's insatiable desire to keep raising power rates.
Labour Minister Marilyn More said the wage increase falls in line with what's happening across the country and ensures Nova Scotians are paid fairly for the work they do. Unfortunately, she's a little off the mark.
We cannot forget a federal government promise from nearly 25 years ago promising to end child poverty in this country by 2000. Raising minimum wage in dribs and drabs is not going to make things any better for children or their parents, but - then again - placing the onus on small business to improve the lot of those living in poverty may be too much to ask as well.