Nunavut MLAs make the case for a living wage

Ten MLAs submitted petitions calling for wages tied to the territory’s high cost of living

Cathy Towtongie, MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, was one of 10 MLAs to bring forward a petition signed by constituents, calling on the government to enforce a living wage in Nunavut. (Photo by Elaine Anselmi)

By Elaine Anselmi

Nunavut’s regular MLAs are pushing for the territory to increase its minimum wage to a living wage.

Ten of the territory’s regular MLAs spoke in favour of adopting a living wage on Oct. 29 and submitted petitions signed by their constituents.

“This petition recognizes our territory has the highest cost of living in the country and calls on the government to raise the minimum wage to a living wage over the next two years,” said Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak, who was the first to speak on the matter.

Nine others submitted similar petitions: Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, Kugluktuk MLA Mila Adjukak Kamingoak, Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main, Pangnirtung MLA Margaret Nakashuk, Tununiq MLA David Qamaniq, Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq, Aggu MLA Paul Quassa, Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie and Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt.

The signatures on the petitions ranged from numbers in the 30s in smaller communities to 600 in Iqaluit.

A similar petition was put forward in 2018 by the Public Service Alliance of Canada as part of a campaign across the three territories to bring minimum wages in line with the cost of living in the North.

A minimum wage is the lowest possible amount of money a business can legally pay workers, legislated by the territorial government. Nunavut’s minimum wage is currently under review.

A living wage is calculated as the lowest hourly amount a person could be paid to still meet their basic needs, such as rent and food costs.

The current minimum wage in Nunavut is $13 per hour, but according to PSAC’s estimates the living wage would be around $26 per hour.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Thomas on

    Even the feds are calling for an increase to wage, but our slow government needs more ? Like what more do they need ? Man this living in the north is to much, like we are living in the past, it is almost 2020 and we have to Scruggs over things we cannot afford

  2. Posted by Northerner on

    Yes it is the same in Greenland they pay alot but there wages are higher

  3. Posted by Andy on

    Even though an increase of minimum wages is needed, but it also will have a trigger effect. The cost of groceries and services will increase to compensate for the higher wages

    • Posted by Nevada Bob on

      and hours will be cut, businesses will no longer to be able to support local sporting teams, food banks, churches etc. A very slippery slope. Anywhere this has been tried, it has failed.

  4. Posted by Place all MLAs on minimum wage on

    I wonder how quickly the government would move to increase if they were required by law to only earn the minimum wage?

  5. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Changing the minimum wage is a tricky business. Yes we live in the mostr expensive jurisdiction in Canada and the costs for everything is horrendous. So it seems a simple thing to up the minimum wage so people in minimum wage paying jobs will have more money to spend in their pockets. However, ask yourseld the question “which workplaces pay minimum wage?’ Generally it’s the stores, small businesses etc…..who can’t afford to pay the same rates as the GN or Inuit orgs etc…… so when you increase the minimum wage those increases will get passed along to the consumer for goods and services. Catch 22.

  6. Posted by a on

    The concept of a liveable wage has been studied extensively – over time and across numerous jurisdictions. The outcomes have been demonstrated, without fail, to provide a meaningful increase in the standard of living across-the board. It is nonsense that small business owners are impacted disproportionately. Well run businesses with humanitarian owners already pay their employees a living wage and provide living benefits. As a result they tend to be the most successful at delivering higher quality service and products, higher employee satisfaction and productivity and higher profit margins – than their competitors.

    From the current $13, an increase to $16 will be nominal to employers, representing a 23% increase in labor cost which in nearly all cases reflect about 20% of total burden for increase of 5%. Factor in the increased tax savings for an employer at nominal 30% and the overall increase reflects an additional 3.5% burden (and a concurrent 3.5% increase in prices at checkout). Get it done now.

    • Posted by Fact on

      I’m sorry, can you please point me to these studies?

      You can’t state a fact as a fact just because you want it to be true.

      • Posted by David on

        I’m very curious about these extensive surveys too? Considering how rarely “living wages” have been adopted, I don’t see how there could be extensive surveys period?

    • Posted by Nevada Bob on

      you seem to leave out a couple of important facts. The article states $26 not $16 as a livable wage (50% increase not 23%). There is also an increase in the employers EI contributions and WSCC payments. You also fail to factor in the bump up that current employees making over minimum would require. You cannot have a cashier making more than an assistant manager or labourer or apprentice making more than a mechanic or carpenter.

      Min wage is not designed to be a living wage. It is for teenagers with weekend or after school jobs, it is for the entry level people just starting out. It is not meant to be a living wage for a 40 year old man with a family. The GN would be far better off focusing on the promotion of education to ensure that 40 year old is in a position to have a career or trade to support himself and his family.

    • Posted by a on

      Anyone who wants to learn and grow can do an easy search for “living wage” or “living wage employers”. You could start with http://livingwagecanada.ca/ to start disproving your thesis.

      Also, as Putuguk and others have said, acceptance of the massive discrepancy between those who have and have not is well past its place in time. Adopting minimum wages that are fitting for dependent teenagers, and living wages that are fitting for independent individuals is a hallmark of a good society and is good business and community strategy.

      The same advocacy of fiscal and living standard applies whether wage or incentive is considered for dependent or independent individuals. Labor costs form at most 20% of most employers’ overheads. Where the ratio is higher, it is typically in organizations that have higher paying careers. Costs should be passed to the consumer, and in part to the employer. That’s how it works. No one is advocating proximation to slavery I hope.

      Even $26 per hour in Nunavut is a near-menial wage. Try living on $52,000 gross income per year here. Survival at best for anyone who isn’t a consumer expert

  7. Posted by Putuguk on

    The poorest among us are the ones accessing income support. A whopping 4 in 10 of us here in Nunavut.

    Most on social assistance cannot work. There are also many on social assistance that do not want to work, whether the wage is $15 or $20 an hour or whatever.

    Go ahead and increase the minimum wage. High School students running the cash registers at Northern and Coop will thank you for the extra pocket money before they head to NS.

    Minimum wage does nothing for those not working. What is needed is social assistance reform. Social assistance does not provide the necessities of life, as it should. If you want to know who is very food insecure, it is a single mother in Nunavut that cannot feed her kids on SA.

    Our MLAs need to get over this minimum wage thing very quickly and start dealing with the real problem.

  8. Posted by Colin on

    Minimum wage should merely be an entry-level wage that allows new employees, especially teenagers, to gain experience—instead of working for free to get experience with a community service.

    It’s not intended to be a living wage.

    The challenge then is to get education and skills training that permits a much higher wage rate.

    The higher the minimum wage, the less incentive there is for employers to hire the unskilled so they can get marketable experience.

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