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

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announce the first COVID-19 related death in a press conference announcement Friday morning. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
UPDATED: Yukon announces first COVID-19-related death

The person was an older Watson Lake resident with underlying health conditions, officials said

Wyatt's World for Oct. 30.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 30

Health Minister Pauline Frost insists no one who shows up at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter for dinner will go without a meal, despite no drop-in dinner service being offered starting on Nov. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Non-profits concerned as Whitehorse Emergency Shelter ends drop-in dinner service

Minister Pauline Frost insists everyone who needs one ‘will be provided with a meal.’

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29. Affordability challenges is being described as being among the most pressing issues facing housing markets throughout the north in a report released Oct. 29 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Home, rent prices increasing in Whitehorse, northern housing report says

Affordability continues to be a major challenge, report says

Premier Sandy Silver talks to media in Whitehorse on March 19. According to the premier, who is also the finance minister, the Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, instead of the surplus it had originally predicted. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in 2019-2020

Deficit attributed to lower-than-expected revenue, higher expenses on health and social side

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and management roundtable discussion Sept. 26, 2019. During an Oct. 29 meeting, Constable highlighted a number of potential changes to the City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Work on City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw continues

Officials will look at procedures for other municipalities

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Aug. 26. Hanley said the source of the outbreak in Watson Lake may not ever be found, but contact tracing in the community continues. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
New Whitehorse COVID-19 case is unrelated to Watson Lake cluster, officials say

Chief medical officer of health says avoid indoor Halloween parties, monitor for symptoms

Joel Krahn/Yukon News file Whitehorse City Hall.
Whitehorse city council, briefly

Updates on matters before city council on Oct. 26

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
GoFundMe for Whitehorse boy hit by car on Range Road raises more than $62k in a day

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council passed first reading on a bylaw for the designation change at its Oct. 26 meeting, prompting an upcoming public hearing on Nov. 23 ahead of second reading on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Local contractors will be given an advantage on a contract for the design and construction services that will see a new reception building at Robert Service Campground decided city councillors during the Oct. 26 council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local firms will get advantage on contract for new Robert Service Campground building

Yukon-based companies competing for contract for new reception building will receive 20 extra points

Fallen trees due to strong winds are seen leaning on to power lines which caused some power outages around the territory on Oct. 26. (Courtesy of ATCO)
Wind knocks out power around the Yukon

High winds on Oct. 26 knocked out power to Faro, parts of Whitehorse and beyond

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

Most Read