Regina, Sask. – July 25, 2020 – After a long delay, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has finally introduced a budget. However, the right-wing leader’s fiscal plan offers little in the way of relief for the people of Saskatchewan as the province struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moe’s budget offers very little for seniors, nothing for child care, reduces per-student funding for education, and contains no money to safely reopen schools. A commitment to hiring Saskatchewan workers and companies to build infrastructure would have gone a long way towards stimulating the economy and helping the province bounce back from the coronavirus, but the budget has nothing to say about these issues.
The government has recognized that the deficit will be considerably larger than it had hoped because of COVID-19, and it has included extra spending on infrastructure in response, but provincial dollars dedicated to helping those who desperately need assistance are few and far between. The government has shown misplaced optimism coupled with inappropriate stinginess in areas where financial stimulus is badly needed.
Moe’s government did use the budget to highlight their upcoming October 1 raise to the province’s minimum wage, as if a measly 13 cents-an-hour increase is something to celebrate. The province’s increase to the minimum wage does little to recognize workers who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of whom make minimum wage. Even with the upcoming 13-cent increase, the minimum wage will only be $11.45 an hour – the lowest minimum wage in the country. Meanwhile, analyses by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives show that a living wage in Saskatoon and Regina would fall between $16 to $17 an hour.
Thankfully, Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili is making the minimum wage an issue for the fall election. He has committed to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in a province where one-fifth of the workforce earns less than that, and 76 percent of those workers are adults over the age of 20. As well, food bank use has increased by 77 percent in Saskatchewan since 2008, suggesting that the current minimum wage is failing to help workers and their families put food on the table. By contrast to the NDP’s proposal, the Saskatchewan Party’s formula for increasing the minimum wage would not reach $15 an hour until 2052.
If ever there was a time for workers on the front lines to be given a real raise, it is now. But 13 cents an hour doesn’t cut it, and that is why the Saskatchewan NDP’s $15-an-hour minimum wage proposal is starting to gain traction with voters.