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Labour + Industry

NDP Pushes to Reinstate and Raise Federal Minimum Wage

If passed, wage would apply to 820,000 Canadians and 'fight against inequalities,' labour critic says.

Jeremy Nuttall 15 Sep

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee's Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here.

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The New Democrat bill would affect wages for federally regulated industries, such as railways, broadcast media and banks -- a small group, NDP labour critic Alexandre Boulerice conceded.

The federal New Democrats announced they will table a bill Tuesday that if passed would reinstate and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The rate would only apply to federally regulated industries, such as railways, broadcast media and banks. About 820,000 people across Canada work in industries regulated by Ottawa.

The motion will be debated in the house and calls for the reinstatement of a federal minimum wage and to have it increase each year to reach $15 an hour over five years.

NDP labour critic Alexandre Boulerice conceded to reporters on Parliament Hill the increase was partly a symbolic gesture because it would affect a small portion of the labour market, but insisted it would "fight against inequalities and help Canadian families and workers."

Boulerice said the 2008 federal jurisdiction employee survey shows about 100,000 people working in federally-regulated industries earn less than their suggested wage.

"Almost 100,000 earn less than $14 an hour," he said. "Believe me, when you live paycheque by paycheque, this would be a huge difference."

According to the survey, about 66 per cent of employees in federally-regulated industries earn $20 an hour, with about one per cent earning less than $10 an hour.

Liberals 'likely' to give support

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was lukewarm to the wage increase, calling it worthy of discussion. But he said his party "will most likely" support the motion.

"We're interested, however, in creating solutions that serve all Canadians and build a much stronger economy and not just for a narrow few," Trudeau said.

Earlier inside the house, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair took a shot at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accusing him of only interfering in the market when he intends to lower wages, pointed to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program expansion.

Labour unions and other critics have argued that program was expanded to put downward pressure on Canadian wages.

Harper responded by touting the Conservatives' move to lower the GST and bring in the universal benefit for childcare.

The motion to raise the federal minimum wage will be tabled tomorrow morning and is likely to be voted on in the evening.  [Tyee]

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