The Yukon NDP is accusing the government of only calling for a review of the territory’s minimum wage now to save face ahead of a review of MLA salaries.
“I think they were just trying to avoid the embarrassment at this point of them finishing their review (of MLA’s salaries) and not doing minimum wage,” said NDP MLA Kate White last week.
Community Services Minister John Streicker has announced that the territory will be reviewing its minimum wage in the next six months.
The Yukon’s minimum wage is currently $11.32 per hour. It will increase to $11.51 on April 1, because of current rules that tie it to the Whitehorse consumer price index.
The government says the review is being called now because increases to the minimum wage in other jurisdictions mean the territory would have dropped to seventh place nationally by May. Quebec announced in January that it would be increasing its minimum wage to $12 an hour as of May 1.
A review of the Yukon’s minimum wage is required when the territory drops into the bottom half of jurisdictions.
“Even though it’s two months out, we can all see it coming so I’ve taken this time to reach out to the employment standards board,” Streicker said.
By June the territory would drop even lower in the ranking when B.C. increases its minimum wage to $12.65.
The employment standards board will do the review and make recommendations but the final call for what the Yukon’s minimum wage will be is up to the elected officials.
It will be up to the board to decide how the review is done said Shane Hickey, the territory’s director of employment standards.
The last time the territory’s minimum wage was reviewed was in 2012.
Reviews often include looking at data from the territory and other jurisdictions and consultation with Yukon stakeholders, he said.
White spent much of last sitting calling for a review of the minimum wage. The NDP has been pushing for a $15 minimum wage.
White said she’s feeling a “a mix of elation and maybe disappointment” now that the review is happening.
“If his answer last year, which is ‘I trust the process’ stands, then he would have waited until May … when we dropped.”
White said she “absolutely” thinks the decision to do the review now has to do with MLA pay.
The legislative assembly’s member services board, a committee with representation from all three political parties, has asked for a review of MLA salaries.
The board has contracted with Patrick L. Michael to conduct the review. Michael was clerk of the legislative assembly from 1978 to 2007. He conducted the previous review of salaries and benefits in 2007.
“Mr. Michael’s report has not yet been submitted to MSB,” Floyd McCormick, clerk of the Yukon legislative assembly said in an email last week.
“Once it is, MSB will decide what action should be taken on the report’s findings. MSB will also decide when and how (or if) the report will be made public.”
Any changes to MLAs salaries and benefits would have to be made by amending the Legislative Assembly Act.
Streicker, who is not part of the MSB, said he “didn’t even know” that a review of MLA pay is coming up.
“I don’t believe that those things are related in any way, but I’m sure the NDP is going to think what it’s going to think.”
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Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date when the Yukon’s minimum wage would drop to seventh place nationally. The News regrets the error.