WEYBURN - Minimum wage in Saskatchewan will rise to $14 an hour on October 1. The current objective of the provincial government is to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.
It is a good start, however one of the side effects of a minimum wage increase is that consumers notice inflation rates increase around the same time. In the end, are we not a little like Sisyphus – who was punished by the god Zeus to push a boulder up a hill for eternity? The work to increase the minimum wage is important, but we need solutions to high grocery costs – otherwise those at minimum wage are still struggling to maintain their basic needs.
With food prices on the rise, our illustrious prime minister Justin Trudeau has summoned Canada’s top grocers to Ottawa to come up with a plan to solve surging food prices, and part of the statement puts the blame on grocery chains’ profits for food price increases. In fact, much of the blame for increased profit margins can also be laid at the doorstep of the federal government itself.
The pandemic lockdowns led to many smaller grocery stores shutting down temporarily, and the temporary closures, in many cases, turned into permanent closures. There was no help or assistance to small communities who lost their grocery stores, and now have to deal with high gas prices to drive to the closest major shopping centre.
Also, as we are all very familiar with in this province, the impact of the federal government’s carbon taxes on food prices has been considerably higher than grocery chain profits. The protests from the western provinces that have been hit hard by the carbon taxes sadly continue to fall on deaf ears. Energy is needed at all stages of food production from planting the seeds to refrigerating the produce on store shelves.
Canada’s Food Price Report 2023, which was released in December 2022, is estimating price increases will mean an average Canadian family of four will spend around $16,288 per year on food, a jump of $1,065 compared to the yearly cost of food observed in 2022. The biggest increases in food prices are expected to be seen in vegetables, dairy and meat.
Raising the minimum wage does not automatically guarantee workers higher income, employment, and welfare for all workers in our community. An increase to the minimum wage does not guarantee better hours, or improved benefits, nor job security. A better idea is to invest in proper recruitment and retention as there are many local businesses who are struggling to find suitable employees and a clear way to build the economic security of workers and their families.
Now I admit that I am no economist – I definitely do not know the solution to this current issue. I just know that many people in our community are still struggling, and there should be a better way to help them.