The Weyburn Chamber of Commerce lobbied Weyburn-Big Muddy MLA Dustin Duncan on the issues of immigration and the minimum wage, expressing concerns how both of these issues are affecting the local business community.
The province recently announced they would increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour as of Dec. 1 from its current level of $9.50.
In explaining the increase, the Labour Relations minister Don Morgan said the increase was part of an overall review of labour relations and workplace safety legislation, and the government is considering indexing the minimum wage as part of that review.
“This increase in minimum wage, together with the significant tax reductions our government has provided to low income earners, means that Saskatchewan will have one of the highest rates of take-home pay in Canada for minimum wage earners,” said Morgan.
In a comparison with other provinces, Saskatchewan joins most other provinces with a minimum wage at $10 or higher. Only Alberta and Quebec have a wage below $10, at $9.75 and $9.90 respectively.
The Weyburn Chamber asked the government to examine the real reason behind the calls for increases to the minimum wage, and presented to the MLA research that shows how increasing the wage can have a negative impact on the wage earners.
“A far more effective method of putting money into people’s pockets is certainly to decrease their taxation rates, not to increase the cost of consumer goods, which rising labour costs will create,” said chamber manager Jeff Richards.
The chamber also asked that the government find more creative solutions for the minimum wage, and that future increases be better forecasted so business owners can prepare their budgets. They also asked that the wage not be indexed to economic indicators, as minister Morgan indicated may happen.
The Chamber also asked that the government be firm in their review of labour legislation; Duncan was receptive to this suggestion, and assured that the government would proceed in a balanced way.
On immigration issues, the chamber indicated there is an ongoing labour shortage in the southeast, and both the federal and provincial governments are being encouraged to make legislative changes to ease that strain.
Changes made to the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program may have slowed down the number of immigrants coming into the province, and the Chamber asked Duncan to look into possible solutions.