Who will benefit from a $15 minimum wage in Nova Scotia?

The Issue: Nova Scotia has the lowest minimum wage in Canada
On October 1, 2017, Nova Scotia became the province with the lowest minimum wage in the country. This needs to change.

There is a wave of rising minimum wages sweeping our country and, indeed, the continent. In our own country, two of our most populous provinces will raise their minimum wage to $15 by 2019. Alberta will move first in 2018, followed by Ontario in 2019. Already, Alberta’s minimum wage has increased by $1.40 to $13.60, while Ontario’s level has risen to $11.60.

There is mounting evidence of the benefits that a significant increase to the minimum wage brings for workers and the broader economy. In contrast, wage stagnation dampens consumer demand, while growing income inequality takes a toll on our economy and our society as a whole.

Let’s review the facts.

Nova Scotians deserve a raise.
Today, the Nova Scotia minimum wage ($10.85 for experienced workers) is worth less than it was 40 years ago; its peak value was in 1977 ($11.14 after adjusting for inflation).

The value of the minimum wage eroded in real terms by 28% between 1975 and 2002, as it failed to keep up with inflation.

Changes to Nova Scotia's Minimum Wage Over Time

Despite increased productivity, workers have not been given their fair share—even in the best of economic times, as Dufour and Haiven documented. Between 1981 and 2006, Nova Scotia’s economic growth rate (62%) outpaced Canada’s. During this time period, Nova Scotia workers’ productivity grew by 25% while their paycheques actually shrunk. As a result, income inequality has increased.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 would benefit 1 in 3 Nova Scotia workers.
Minimum wage workers make up 6.6% of the provincial labour force (25,595 workers). As of April 2017, Nova Scotia’s minimum wage is $10.85 per hour (for experienced workers) and $10.35 (for inexperienced workers).

It isn’t just minimum wage workers who deserve a raise. In 2016, 125,200 workers in Nova Scotia—that’s 32% of all workers in the province—earned $15 or less. Nova Scotia is consistently ranked as having among the lowest, if not the lowest, average wages in the country (sometimes switching places with the other Maritime provinces to come in second or third lowest).

In some respects, $15 is a symbolic number. While it certainly falls short of many of the living wages calculated in Canada and in our own province (including $19.10 for Halifax and $17.30 for Antigonish), it would still undoubtedly lift many workers out of poverty and allow them a little bit of a buffer.

Those who would benefit from a $15 minimum wage may surprise you.
Statistics cannot tell us the full story of who would benefit from a significant raise in the minimum wage, they do warn against making too many assumptions about who ‘chooses’ to work at these jobs and why. This data does show that low wage workers in Nova Scotia are more likely to be women working full-time in medium to large businesses. Unfortunately, there is no data to tell us whether African Nova Scotians, First Nations, or persons with disabilities who have disproportionately high poverty rates are equally over-represented in low wage work.

Myths about who benefits from $15 minimum wage versus who is earning minimum wage in Canada.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 is good for workers, and for the economy.
An oft-repeated argument against raising the minimum wage is that it will only result in higher prices or job loss, and thus have no net benefit for workers. After decades of analyzing these raises, economists conclude that: “there is no instantaneous, automatic mechanism between higher labour costs and higher prices.” Further, as Brennan and Steinfield concluded in their review of minimum wage raises in Canada, there is also “no consistent evidence that minimum wage levels increase or decrease employment levels.”

Evidence shows that both prices and employment levels are overwhelmingly determined by larger macroeconomic factors, and to suggest otherwise is baseless fear-mongering.

We must not undervalue the positive impact paying people a decent wage and improved worker standards have on attributes including workers’ health, and their ability to bring their best to the workplace. We should also not underestimate the negative impacts a low wage economy has on our society including the higher health care costs that results from trapping people in precarious low-paid jobs without benefits and security.

Atlantic Canada needs a raise
All the Atlantic provinces should implement a coordinated plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

It isn’t just Nova Scotia’s lowest paid workers who deserve a raise, it is imperative that the Atlantic region move together to raise wages. There are 320,000 workers in the region who earn $15 or less. They need to be a priority focus of public policy, both regarding wages as well as labour standards and worker protections, including paid sick leave, greater control over work scheduling, and equal pay for temporary work (all part of reforms rolling out in Ontario). Our leaders need to get on board before more Atlantic Canadians leave to attain higher wages and better working conditions elsewhere.

Do not believe the claims that higher wages will result in job losses, raise consumer prices, and do little to help low-wage workers. As we wrote 15 years ago: “claims that increases in the minimum wage will cause a contraction in the overall number of jobs are as transparently self-serving as they are dubious.”

Let’s focus on stimulating our economy from the bottom-up and take an important step toward building healthier communities together.

Christine Saulnier is the Nova Scotia Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Image credit: Tim Scarth adapted from the Economic Policy Institute


  1. I have over 30 years experience in my job field. I only make $11:50/hr. Ridiculous!! People may loose jobs. I can do the workload of two people. I do deserve $15/hr for my work ability. Minimum wage should be raised to $15/hr. I work my butt off as I did back in my twenties and I was financially better off then!

  2. I do agree that minimum wage should increase in Nova Scotia to $15 per hour. Atlantic Canada I find is behind on following with the cost of living. Households that have 2 working people have a hard time keeping up with expenses…on that note.. 1 person earning a low income is even harder to do.

  3. Don’t worry about wage going up its not ,the Government don’t want a person to save money or even be a little more comfortable.

  4. I moved to Albert because of the min wage. I find most employers pay over the min wage here where no one in ns offers more for entry level jobs. Would probs move back home if ns would raise the wage.

  5. You’re doing a good job speaking out for the workers in Nova Scotia! The majority of them are scared to give an opinion, as they fear having their hours cut or getting fired. In order for change to happen, people must feel that they can give an opinion. If not things will never change in our province. Should minimum wage be raised to 15 dollars an hour? Yes it should be raised but with the stipulation that it’s indexed with inflation every year. If it’s not indexed with inflation every year, we will all be back in the same situation again. Having said this, these corporations aren’t stupid, they will be thinking ahead…always trying to be one step ahead of you. Cutting hours, which they do now without an increase, contracting out work to other companies to cut work hours. Self serve check outs etc. Whether or not the prices increase, these companies companies will do all of the above because they are greedy. All of the companies in grocery stores were named in bread price fixing, but they have no money to increase the minimum wage. Now think long and hard about this…you paid more for bread over the years but they have no money to increase wages. One of the companies stored their money in an off shore account…400 millions dollars. Now if one of them is doing it, I can bet that the rest are doing it too. Again, they tell you they can not afford a minimum wage increase. Seriously this is an insult to anyone who believes this garbage that they are telling you. Imagine if I went into one of these stores and stole bread to feed my family because i could not afford to buy one? I’d be in jail. The government should throw the book at these guys…and fix the loop holes with all this money going out of our country that could pay wages and get us some much needed doctors. Maybe it’s time to cap CEO and share holders wages? This is where all the money is going and the little people suffer. Having sad this…inequality is not only in what you make, it’s about sick days too. In Ontario they now get paid 2 sick days and 10 of them you do not need a doctors note. This should be law here also. If you are sick you’re not taking up an appointment from someone who may need to get in right away. Plus if you are sick, you’ll be able to stay home with out passing germs on to other people making the situation worse. Time off is important as well and it’s an inequality. Politicians don’t want to discuss it. I really hate it when people think they are above you and think you do not deserve this and that, yet they have it better. I’m talking about an issue, Christmas Eve and New Years Eve closing stores at 4 pm. All levels of government are off. These people represent us , plus they have the whole week off over the Christmas break. The premier and opposition leaders and not one MLA has answered my emails or even commented on air to one of my interviews. I’ve had a letter in a local paper , plus interviews, and no response from any of them. Is this the way someone who has been elected to represent you , to treat you this way? One of the arguments being used…. it will create extra work for the people who want to work. What non sense…if you think this way, then open everything on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve so that everyone can have the opportunity to make extra money. You’re being fed a load of crap people. Their are 365 days to prepare for Christmas, let retail workers have time off to be with their families. It’s inequality, it’s Ok for other occupations to be off but people think it’s OK for stores to be open. One of the arguments used on retail. A business should be allowed to open when they want too, you’re telling them what to do. Guess what you’re doing when you want 15 dollars an hour legislated? You’re telling a company what to do. It’s no different. Workers should also have the right to refuse to work on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve after 4 pm. This should be made law in labor standards with the Right to refuse to work Sundays and holidays. The reason why this should be included even if stores are closed , so that employees are not made to work in these stores stocking shelves etc. This is the 21 century, it’s time this inequality stops. 472 people signed our petition to see this happen. Let’s think about other people, humans need time to bond , Not just to make money. It’s traditions that make memories, we lost a lot of loved ones in our family . Every day I see the importance of these traditions and how important they are to keep. I’m asking Behind the numbers to support us and this province. Inequality isn’t only in you’re wages, but time off as well. One another important note about Christmas Eve, their are people who are religious and attend church services. It’s discriminating against Christians who want to attend these early services. If stores are open til 6 pm or 8 pm it’s too late , some church services are after 5 pm. Then their are workers who aren’t church goers, that want to be home with their families on Christmas Eve. They should never feel be made to work on Christmas Eve either. Thank you for reading my post , have a great day .

  6. Raising minimum wage is ridiculous and harmful to the vast majority of Canadians.

    It makes it much more difficult for small business or new business startups to compete with franchises and large corporations. The larger businesses, such as convenience store chains for one example can raise prices and cut back full-time staff to reduce benefits and coverages, and people are still forced to rely on such larger businesses. A larger company can close locations, forcing customers to travel farther and pay their prices for goods, and still not suffer loss of profit, while the higher minimum wage virtually prohibits small business and makes new startups virtually impossible and unaffordable.

    We should be looking at shortening the base work week instead, to 30 hours. This economically allows businesses to pay benefits and coverage for employees, instead of cutting them back to part-time, and taking away benefits. It also encourages growth and more job positions to meet demand. A growing number of European countries have happily benefited from this approach In an age with increasing automation. A shorter work week has infused more life and stability into families as well as a prosperous economy and healthy job market.

    Look it up, and you’ll smack yourself in the forehead and wonder what on earth you were thinking!

  7. raising the min. wage to $15/hour would benifit the economy by taking the money out of peoples hands who dont spend it and put it in the hands of people who do , however if it was implemented the cost of living would have to be frozen and not allowed to go up to truly make it work and make it illegal to cut jobs .

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