Nunavut to review minimum wage as consumer price hikes hit 30-year high

‘I am very concerned about the increasing unaffordability of food and other basics,’ says Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA

Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster asked Education Minister Pamela Gross this week what her department is doing to improve programming geared towards youth mental health in Nunavut. (Photo by David Venn)

By Nunatsiaq News

The Government of Nunavut will review the territory’s minimum wage this summer after prices across the country have increased more in the last year than any other since 1991.

Justice Minister David Akeeagok, who is responsible for the territory’s Labour Standards Act, committed to the review in the legislative assembly on Monday. 

Nunavut currently has the highest minimum wage in Canada at $16 an hour.

Akeeagok said many factors go into the decision to raise the minimum wage, but inflation is one of them.

It is a shared concern that prices are going really high, really fast,” he said.

Akeeagok addressed the topic after Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster asked him about minimum wage in the territory during question period.

Brewster noted the Government of Nunavut is legally required to review the minimum wage amount every year, but hasn’t since 2019.

The last minimum wage increase was in April 2020, nearly two years ago, when the hourly rate went from $13 to $16.

Brewster brought up data on inflation released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday.

Across the country, the consumer price index, which tracks how much people pay for basic goods, increased 5.7 per cent between February of this year compared to the same time last year.

It is the largest jump since August 1991, according to Statistics Canada.

Food prices have increased partially due to higher transportation costs, according to Statistics Canada.

“I am very concerned about the increasing unaffordability of food and other basics for lower-income Nunavummiut,” Brewster said during Monday’s discussion.

Brewster calculated that if someone is paid the territory’s minimum wage and works 40 hours per week without taking a single day off all year, their gross yearly income — before taxes or other deductions are subtracted — would be $33,280.

She asked Akeeagok whether that’s a living wage.

In response, Akeeagok noted Nunavut has the highest minimum wage in Canada, but didn’t specifically say whether he thinks it is a living wage.

“We encourage companies to do more than minimum wage, and a lot of companies do,” he said.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    Gotta work 2 hours just to buy a pack of cigarettes at Nunavut Minimum Wage

    • Posted by Lena Takoonagak on

      quit smoking then , simple as that

  2. Posted by Tax payer on

    Min wage in Nunavut should be $20- 25 hr , no person can live off $16 hr . Thank god i have a good boss , that pays me $27 hr

  3. Posted by Many pieces of the puzzle on

    It feels like we need a more robust conversation around economic development in Nunavut also.

  4. Posted by Narrow Minds on

    Unfortunately minimum wage is more complicated than simply “a living wage”. I think, Janet, you should ask yourself if a 16 year old stocking shelves in a grocery store during the summer months while living under their parents’ roof needs a “living wage” the same way that a 25 year old renting a one-bedroom for $1,800/month, paying their own electricity, insurance, internet, phone, transportation, groceries, and other costs needs a “living wage”.
    They don’t, and quite frankly, paying that 16 year old a living wage while they don’t need a living wage sets them up for a lifetime of disappointment when they get to the stage that they have to pay their own bills and realize they don’t have as much money left over at the end of the month as they did when they were 16. How demoralizing.
    Also unfortunate is that setting up a different minimum wage for teenagers and adults makes for quite a perverse incentive to hire teenagers over adults.
    Truly, the best solution is to actually lower the minimum wage while supplying a guaranteed minimum income to adult-age residents. People that argue against a guaranteed minimum income fail to realize that it already exists in Canada, it’s just shrouded by bureaucracy and red tape and is complicated by being distributed through numerous programs that go by various names.
    I wish our politicians were better.

    • Posted by Open mind on

      Brewster is a proponent of universal basic income for artists if memory serves me correct during her responses at the all candidates forum.
      It will be interesting to see where she takes this line of questioning to.

      • Posted by 867 on

        Here’s the quote: “Aside from being concerned about feeding their families, people are asking whether there’s any way for artists to have some sort of a baseline income through this pandemic,” Brewster said.

        Pandemic is more or less over so it would be interesting to see if she has changed her stance. Brewster, what qualifies as an artist? There are so many very talented, gallery-worthy artists in Nunavut, yet just as many ‘artists’ who will try and sell just about anything to earn a buck.

        • Posted by Is that you talkin…? on

          That would be a good subject for advocacy by the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association! What happened to them?

    • Posted by Brian Willoughby on

      This is a complex subject. It would be a huge mistake to tailor the structure of a program because less than 5 % of those impacted are young, and why would you?
      I contend that the wage should be double.
      This would reflect the cost of living, and help address the issue of transporting, housing, and feeding unskilled workers to Nunavut.
      Northerners are not offered equal benefits that large companies offer their foreign, to Nunavut, unskilled workers.
      If a local worker cannot make enough to feed their family, they will be subsidized by family services.
      While I can understand the importation of foreign workers for positions requiring specialized education, or skills, that are not available from Nunavummiut, this is not the case for unskilled workers. If we have less foreign workers, we will not have to house them, Nutrition North would not need to subsidize the food they consume, and more Inuit would be employed. Assume that everyone wants to contribute, but not for less, in reality, than a southern worker doing the same job in the south. Most of the money that local people make stays in Nunavut
      The largest taxpayers have large incomes so they support the poor.

  5. Posted by Ian on

    Ok so you have a couple, 33.600.a year that adds up to 67,000.a year living in public housing. at 60.00 month for working a entry level job 5 days a week with no responsibility at work.not bad. Times are tough here in nunavut

    • Posted by Full Picture on

      This is a lack of understanding of the public rent scale. If a couple in public housing makes $67,200/year, their monthly rent for public housing would be around $740/month. Definitely still highly subsidized, under market rent, but that takes their annual income down to $58,320, about $46,600 after tax, which works out to about $900/week for 2 people. You can make your own judgement on whether or not that’s enough for groceries, clothing, communications, tenant insurance, etc.
      However, considering my net income after deductions, for a job that I’ve worked up to over the course of the last dozen or so years, is about $1,600 per week and about $500 of that goes to my mortgage/municipal/electricity/heat/insurance/land lease/property tax, leaving me with about $1,100 per week for everything else, plus I have to do my own house maintenance, I’d say it’s actually not too bad.

  6. Posted by Isuma on

    When stores have to pay their employees more that also means that the price of items will go up. Never ending story. Government needs to look at a different approach.

  7. Posted by S on

    A legislated minimum wage of $16 is appropriate for a minimum wage. Even the lowest-skilled position deserves something like that.
    One of the greatest incentives for private-sector employers to pay higher wages to an employee is an inctease in productivity and profitability. For employees, one of the best tools to prompt higher wages is to increase their value to their employer. ,
    Successful employers want employees who are valuable to them.

  8. Posted by Jordan on

    Most communities should start standardizing drivers license in all fields because I see the majority of people without a drivers license and the better your license the better the pay and the more companies will be interested in you work on getting class 1 you’ll be proud to tell anyone who asked you what class you have

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