NDP’s White presses Streicker on minimum wage review

What at one point looked like an automatic review of Yukon’s minimum wage will now be up to the government to decide.

What at one point looked like an automatic review of Yukon’s minimum wage will now be up to the government to decide.

Minister of Community Services John Streicker told the legislative assembly April 27 his department has a policy to review the minimum wage if it ever drops to sixth-highest in Canada.

“We also have a piece of policy where, if that ever drops down to the sixth position, we would then have a review here in the legislature on minimum wage,” he said.

Yukon’s $11.32 an hour is currently fifth in the country. If British Columbia, which is in the middle of an election campaign, follows through with a plan to raise its rate to $11.35 in mid-September, Yukon would drop to sixth.

But it turns out falling to sixth isn’t low enough to trigger an automatic review like Streicker thought.

The territory’s employment standards board has an internal policy directive to conduct a minimum wage review if Yukon’s minimum wage rate falls to “the lower half of all minimum wage rates in Canada’s provinces and territories,” according to Department of Community Services spokesperson Bonnie Venton Ross.

With 13 Canadian jurisdictions, sixth place isn’t enough to make it into the “bottom half.”

“The reason that I said six was because that was my understanding of where this would get triggered,” Streicker said in an interview. “Now my understanding is that it gets triggered when you’re in the bottom half.”

Yukon’s minimum wage is tied to inflation. Currently it’s lower than both other territories as well as Alberta and Ontario.

The NDP has been pushing the government in the legislative assembly to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“(The current minimum wage) it’s more than one dollar below the minimum wage in both the N.W.T. and Nunavut. Everyone knows that $11.32 is not enough to meet the basic needs in Yukon,” MLA Kate White said May 2.

“It’s a poverty wage, Mr. Speaker. That’s why we see so many working people at the food bank every month and that is just not acceptable.”

A $15 minimum wage would vault Yukon to the top of the country, eventually tying it with Alberta which is slated to go to $15 starting in 2018.

Streicker ruled that out. “We’re not considering that as a government,” he told the legislative assembly.

His department is doing an analysis, including looking at the cost of living in other jurisdictions compared to the various minimum wages, he said.

“For example, the highest minimum wage in the country (currently) is with Nunavut. Their minimum wage is $13 an hour. I wonder if we took a look at what the cost of housing is in Nunavut and the cost of food and services is in Nunavut compared to a $13 minimum wage — how that would compare.… I actually think we would look somewhat favourable in that light, but let’s do the numbers and figure it out.”

Though a minimum wage review won’t be automatic, Streicker could choose to initiate one himself.

Right now, he said, the government is gathering evidence.

“The question about whether or not I will trigger it will be based on the evidence that we gather between now and then.”

The five-member employment standards board “has historically conducted the minimum wage review process in a public manner,” Venton Ross said in an email, “and has recommended minimum wage rates based on its analysis of that input and statistical evidence.”

White said it would be “shameful” for the government to wait to conduct a review until the territory falls further in the ranks.

“My position doesn’t change at all. Except for now the decision, and that ability, solely rests with (Streicker) and his government.”

White highlighted a study done by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition which found that the living wage for a family of four in Whitehorse with two children is $19.12.

“That’s accessing all the money that you can…. That’s what they would need to earn to have a living wage in Yukon, each,” White said.

There are no easily accessible statistics that lay out how many people in the Yukon make less than the $15-per-hour the NDP is promoting.

Yukon statistics show in 2015, nine per cent of the workforce was working in food service and accommodation and making an average of $463 per week before taxes. The data doesn’t break down how many hours of work that is.

At 40 hours a week, minimum wage earners currently make $453 per week.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Benjamin Poudou, Mount MacIntyre’s ski club manager, poses for a photo in the club’s ski rental area on Nov. 16. The club has sold around 1,850 passes already this year, compared to 1067 passes on Oct. 31 last year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Early season ski pass sales up as Yukoners prepare for pandemic winter

Season passe sales at Mount McIntyre for cross-country skiing are up by around 60 per cent this year

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read