HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's premier says he hopes the Atlantic provinces can land on a common minimum wage as early as next spring — but he maintains the goal will not be $15 an hour.
Stephen McNeil said Tuesday talks are continuing with his fellow Atlantic premiers, and they will also have to find a mechanism to help a common minimum wage keep pace with inflation.
"We are working with them to try to say, where is the right spot here?" said McNeil, who added the private sector would also have to be involved.
"We know the biggest change would be in Nova Scotia and I'm obviously prepared to entertain that conversation because I brought this issue to the table."
Currently Nova Scotia has the region's lowest minimum wage — a 15-cent increase on Sunday brought the rate to $11 per hour.
Newfoundland and Labrador's minimum wage also went up by 15 cents on Sunday to $11.15, while New Brunswick's wage went up by a quarter to $11.25. Prince Edward Island's minimum wage remains the highest in Atlantic Canada, increasing by 30 cents to $11.55 per hour.
Nova Scotia's NDP is calling for a $15 minimum wage — such as announced in Ontario and Alberta — and has introduced a bill that would see the rate gradually implemented over a three-year period.
Alberta's minimum wage will reach $15 later this year, while Ontario will hit the mark on Jan. 1, 2019.
Leader Gary Burrill said the NDP bill's three-year wait time would give businesses time to adjust, while giving workers a more significant boost.
"The evidence that I have seen is that jobs are in fact increased because there is economic activity increased and because people have a little bit of spare money, which on $11 an hour you never have."
But McNeil says he believes that would mean fewer hours for workers. He says the province can do more to help lower-income earners through such measures as tax cuts and universal pre-primary.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press