Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise Members of this House that starting on June 1, 2015, the minimum wage in the Northwest Territories is going up.
The minimum wage in the NWT will increase from $10.00 per hour to $12.50 per hour, making it the highest in Canada today. This is the first increase to the minimum wage in the Northwest Territories since 2011.
In 2013, I appointed a Minimum Wage Committee consisting of business, non-governmental organizations and other community representatives, which included the NWT Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Territories Federation of Labour.
This decision to increase the minimum wage was informed by the thorough and considered research of the Minimum Wage Committee, which reviewed relevant information including social and economic factors as well as current minimum and average hourly wages in other Canadian jurisdictions and the cost of living across Canada.
The Committee provided three options on the minimum wage rate. The option chosen carefully balances the needs of our minimum wage earners with the cost to small businesses that employ them.
The average minimum wage for each jurisdiction in Canada is about 45 percent of its average hourly wage. In 2013, the average hourly wage in the NWT was $27.80. The present minimum wage of $10.00 per hour only reflects 36 percent of the average hourly wage in the NWT. Increasing the minimum wage to $12.50 per hour brings it up to approximately 45 percent of the NWT average hourly wage, which is in line with the average for Canada.
Most employers in the NWT already pay more than the minimum wage because this is what is required to attract and retain employees in the NWT. It is anticipated that a higher minimum wage may improve employee retention, enhance recruitment opportunities and attract more people to the workforce.
On its own, increasing the minimum wage rate is not an effective means of fighting poverty. Across this Government we have many strategies in place to help Northerners achieve their goals, support their families, and live healthy, successful lives – the Early Childhood Development Framework, the Anti-Poverty Strategy, the NWT Housing Corporation Transitional Rent Program, the Income Assistance Program, the Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan, Community Wellness Plans, and Child Care User Subsidy that help to support the most vulnerable in our society. The increased minimum wage joins these strategies to help Northerners.
Mr. Speaker, we have a shared vision of a prosperous NWT where people can afford to support themselves and their families. Raising the minimum wage is one part of creating a vibrant and diversified economy supported by a strong labour force that will share in the economic prosperity and opportunities emerging in the NWT. We believe increasing the minimum wage in the NWT to $12.50 an hour is a much-needed, tangible and practical way to help make that happen.
Masi, Mr. Speaker.