As inflation has been pushing up the cost of practically everything over the past few months, Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Janet Brewster is questioning whether Nunavut is offering enough with its $16 minimum wage.

She raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly on March 21, pointing out that the last review of the territory’s minimum wage occurred in 2019, resulting in an increase to $16 from $13 in 2020.

She also cited recent data from Statistics Canada that showed prices consumers pay rose 5.7 per cent overall in February compared to a year earlier, and that followed a 5.1 per cent cost of living hike in January, which is “pinching the pocketbooks of Canadians.” She said she’s concerned about food and other basic staples being unaffordable for lower-income Nunavummiut.

Brewster asked Justice Minister David Akeeagok, whose department is responsible for the Labour Standards Act, when the next review of Nunavut’s minimum wage will take place.

Akeeagok acknowledged that inflation is one factor that can trigger an assessment of minimum wage.

“For sure, it is a shared concern that prices are going really high, really fast,” he said. “It’s a shared concern throughout our cabinet on how to help Nunavummiut and help especially those that are on minimum wage. Those are the very things that we go through when we’re reviewing this, and I applaud the member for raising this in this House.”

Brewster then shared some calculations: at $16 per hour over a 40 hour work week for 52 weeks per year, that equates to a gross income of $33,280, she noted.

“From the minister’s perspective, can he indicate if Nunavut’s minimum wage is actually a living wage?” she asked.

Akeeagok replied that Nunavut has the highest minimum wage in Canada.

“That’s something that we try to do. Through our labour standards, we encourage companies to do more than a minimum wage, and a lot of companies do go beyond that because our staffing is so scarce,” he said. “Through that, a lot of those do get taken into factor, and I’m just being informed that our review will be done this summer as part of our regular review within the minimum wage.”

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