The Northwest Territories government is increasing the minimum wage from $13.46 to $15.20 per hour, putting it second highest in Canada behind Nunavut.
Education, Culture and Employment Minister RJ Simpson announced the increase in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, saying the cost of living and average hourly wage in the NWT has risen. He said the new minimum wage, which will come into effect on September 1, will put the territory more in line with the rest of Canada.
“The GNWT is committed to striking a balance between maintaining fair and competitive wage rates while encouraging economic activity and supporting small businesses,” Simpson said in a statement. “By providing workers across the territory with a minimum wage more suitable to the cost of living, and businesses the option to attract more workers for minimum wage positions – I am confident that this increase will benefit both NWT workers and businesses.”
The NWT government last increased the minimum wage by 96 cents per hour in January 2018. That put the territory’s minimum wage third-highest in Canada at the time, but it still fell short of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s calls for an hourly wage of $15 in the North by 2019.
The minimum wage is reviewed every two years in the NWT by a minimum wage committee made up of representatives from business, labour, and community organizations.
Several MLAs have called for the territory to raise the minimum wage in recent months including Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly who said it should be boosted to at least $18 per hour. An Alternatives North report in 2019, found that a single adult in Yellowknife must make at least $23.08 per hour to earn a living wage.
On Thursday, Minister Simpson pointed to other ways the government has supported employees and businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic including through the wage top-up program, which increases low earners’ wages to $18 per hour. That program has been extended to August 31.