Workers on minimum wage in Prince Edward Island will soon see a small bump in pay.
Labour Minister Janice Sherry announcement Friday the minimum wage will increase to $10.20 an hour on June 1. Another increase is scheduled for Oct. 1, bringing minimum wage to $10.35 per hour.
“The new rates take into account both the interests of employers and employees,” Sherry said.
“As well, the increase reflects a stronger and more buoyant economy and greater confidence in our prospects as a province.”
Cabinet approved the new rates based on an annual review and recommendation by the Employment Standards Board. The board held consultations with employers and employees last fall.
The current minimum wage is $10 an hour. This rate has been in effect since April 1 of 2012.
But Opposition Leader Steven Myers says this wage increase does not really help Islanders who must work for minimum wage.
He said a better way to help low and middle income Islanders would be to raise the basic personal tax exemption for Islanders.
This has not been done since 2008. By leaving it untouched, Islanders have been paying incrementally higher taxes every year for the last six years because it doesn't increase with inflation.
In P.E.I., the basic amount one can claim before paying tax is $7,708, which is the lowest in the country.
“Taxes are killing people,” Myers said.
“If people had more money in their pockets, they’d spend it and that money would help our economy grow.”
Myers says raising the minimum wage hurts businesses and only really helps government.
“When the minimum wage goes up, the tax (revenue) goes up so ends up getting more money in (Finance Minister Wes Sheridan’s) coffers, so it’s just another way to tax money out of businesses, now he’s just doing it through the lowest incomes in Prince Edward Island,” Myers said.
“They’re not doing them any favours at all, the raise that they’ll see will be minimal at best, they might be able to get a cup of coffee out of it.”
The new minimum wage rates are in line with those of the other Atlantic provinces. The current rate in New Brunswick is $10 an hour, it is $10.40 in Nova Scotia for experienced workers and $9.90 for those lacking experience, and the rate in Newfoundland and Labrador will increase to $10.25 on Oct.1.
The minimum wage has increased from $7.50 an hour in 2007.