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Minimum-wage hike takes effect in October

Fourteenth consecutive increase for Manitoba

Manitoba's minimum-wage earners are getting another financial boost Oct. 1.

The province is increasing the minimum wage by 25 cents an hour to $10.70. It is currently $10.45.

It's the 14th straight year the province has hiked the minimum wage, which it says is the best way for hourly workers to earn a bigger paycheque.

Neighbouring provinces are also hiking their minimum wages. Ontario raised its minimum wage by 75 cents to $11 an hour effective June 1. Saskatchewan will increase its minimum wage to $10.20 from $10 per hour effective Oct. 1.

"It will put $364 (a year) into the pockets of minimum-wage earners after income tax," acting Finance Minister Stan Struthers said of Manitoba's increase.

However, Opposition Leader Brian Pallister and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the hike will do little to increase the buying power of minimum-wage earners.

Pallister and CFIB spokesman Elliot Sims said to help low-wage earners, the government should reform the provincial income tax system by raising the basic personal exemption.

Sims said Manitoba's basic personal exemption (BPE) of $9,134 is the fourth-lowest among the provinces.

He said since 2004, the minimum wage has increased 53 per cent, while the BPE has increased only 20 per cent.

Sims said after the Oct. 1 rate increase, Manitoba's minimum-wage earners will make 50 cents per hour more than their counterparts in Saskatchewan, but will see just 12.6 cents per hour more in take-home pay after the deduction of provincial income taxes.

Pallister said when a minimum wage is raised too aggressively, it in turn reduces the number of entry-level jobs.

"There's only so many dollars in the pools for payroll," he said, adding business has also been hurt by last year's increase to the PST and the extension of the PST to other items such as insurance the year before.

Struthers said Pallister's plan would be a "reckless tax cut" to essential services such as health care.

"They say they take on an initiative that would cost $136 million that would only provide $215 dollars for minimum-wage earners in Manitoba. That's the same comparison to our $364," Struthers said.

Struthers said the increase to the minimum wage is one aspect of the government's plan to address poverty.

"We have a lot of working families that depend on this support," he said.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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