The minimum wage in Saskatchewan increases to $14 from $13 on Sunday, but remains the lowest in Canada.
Some experts and those earning minimum wage say it won’t be enough, as inflation fuels the rising cost of living.
“I don’t think it’s enough. I have a family, I have children and grandchildren. They all depend on me and working minimum wage 22 hours a week is not enough,” Sarah Marr, who works at Taco Bell in Saskatoon, said.
Marr shares a $1,600-a-month house with five other people and said she is “struggling every month,” borrowing money from her mother, roommates or friends to pay the bills.
“I’m like a working poor. Right now, I’m almost a month and a half behind on rent. I have utility bills I can’t pay and I don’t have food in my house.”
He said he barely has $10 left at the end of the month. She wants rents to go down or minimum wages to go up, a demand echoed by most people CBC spoke to in Saskatoon.
Marr said he has already lost power at his home twice and is often in the dilemma of buying groceries or paying bills.
“Canada is the land of the free and the friendly, but I feel like a slave. I have to work every day just to pay my bills,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“I can’t send money to my son at home or buy birthday gifts for my grandchildren. Three Christmases in a row, my son hasn’t received anything from me because we can’t afford anything.”
He said the provincial government should “finally open its eyes” to people’s plight and stop having the lowest minimum wage in Canada.
“I shouldn’t have a problem with where my next meal comes from,” he said.
‘This is not the life I wanted before coming here’: worker
Maksudur Raahman, who works 40 to 50 hours a week for minimum wage at two restaurants, agrees. He said that he had only had one weekend off in the last month.
The 38-year-old moved to Saskatoon from Bangladesh in March with his wife and three-year-old daughter in search of a better quality of life.
“But if you make minimum wage, then you don’t have that quality of life. I don’t even have enough time to be with my son. It’s difficult,” she said.
“This is not the life I wanted before I came here.”
He said the wage increase could help a little with his $1,300 rent, which takes up most of his $2,000 to $2,500 monthly income.
“Another $500 goes to food, $200 to utility bills and cell phone or internet. So it’s pretty tight,” he said. “Even a $1 increase will help a little. It’s better than nothing.”
Sanjeev Kumar, who works as a cook at A to Z Cloud Kitchen, is in the same boat.
“With the kind of inflation we have now in the country and the interest rates and high gas prices, I don’t think a dollar increase would make any difference to us,” he said.
The 32-year-old said he wants wages to be adjusted to reflect inflation and that the minimum should be at least $16 to $17 an hour.
TO report of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives says the same, stating that a decent standard of living requires a wage of $16.23 per hour in Regina and $16.89 per hour in Saskatoon.
Saskatchewan’s minimum wage will further increase to $15 per hour in 2024. Saskatchewan Party government noted in a press release That will be an 89 per cent increase over 2007, when the minimum wage in the province was $7.95.
Asked during a news conference Friday about having the lowest minimum wage in the country, Premier Scott Moe said his government committed years ago to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a number of years.
“In the meantime, I think we’ve seen unprecedented inflationary pressures that have occurred not just here in Saskatchewan but across Canada and, to some extent, across North America,” Moe said.
“We are going to move forward with respect to the course we have set.”
Kumar said he makes $1,400 a month, but with his bills, including an $800 car payment, he has almost nothing left.
“After all the bills, if I have anything left, I buy some food; otherwise, these days I only eat at this restaurant,” he said.
“Since I came to Canada from India, I haven’t had any savings. Now I’m in the negative.”
Tianna Morin is no stranger to that feeling. The single mother of two works as a gas jockey and cashier in Pleasant Hill.
“The cost of living is also very high and they tax everything. I don’t even get 40 hours, so the salaries are kind of low,” he said.
“Give us a raise.”
‘With 14 dollars an hour you barely make ends meet’: associate professor.
University of Regina associate professor Andrew Stevens, who is also a Regina city councillor, said the increase won’t do much for workers or the economy.
“If you’re making minimum wage and that’s your basic form of income, you’re still going to struggle with the cost of living, rising rents and grocery bills,” he said.
“$14 an hour barely makes ends meet for most people.”
Stevens said Saskatchewan should have moved to $15 an hour years ago. He said the province should now consider setting the minimum wage in line with local living wages.
Dionne Pohler, an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business, said the increase definitely won’t solve many of the challenges the province faces around homelessness and poverty.
“There’s really no consensus among academics about the short- and long-term effects on the economy and raising the minimum wage,” he said.
These increases can help alleviate poverty for people, but they also mean increased labor costs for businesses, Pohler said.
“Labor markets and economies are complex at any given time. The effect of an increase in the minimum wage could be different depending on a variety of factors in the economy.”
He said reducing cost of living and housing costs, including rental costs, making changes to social assistance programs and providing guaranteed basic income for people living in perpetual poverty are other possible avenues available to the government.
“If the goal is poverty reduction, the minimum wage is an instrument that can be used, but it is a very blunt instrument. It often does not have the impact on poverty rates that we want.”