Statement made on 19 October 2007 by Senator Jerahmiel Grafstein (retired)
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein:
Honourable senators, yesterday I questioned the wisdom of the Government of Ontario, a region I proudly represent, with its refusal apparently to increase the minimum wage to $10. Senator Murray, after my statement, questioned whether the federal government had an existing minimum wage standard. To my surprise, and I think to his as well, we discovered that the federal government some years ago had given up the attempt to establish a minimum guideline for wages across Canada.
I went further into this question. I did not mean to single out my own province, but I think this would be of interest to senators who represent all provinces and all regions. I have a short outline of the minimum wages across Canada for adult workers, as of 2004 — and these are the latest statistics I was able to find; I will try to update them if I can. The list is as follows: Alberta, October 1999 to 2004, $5.90 — again, I repeat, $5.90; British Columbia, as of November 1, 2001, $8; Manitoba, April 2004, $7; New Brunswick, January 2004, $6.20; Newfoundland, November 2, 2002, $6; Northwest Territories, December 2003, $8.25; Nova Scotia, April 2004, $6.50; Prince Edward Island, January 2004, $6.50; Quebec, May 2004 $7.45; Saskatchewan, November 2002, $6.65; and the Yukon, $6.20, as of October 1998. We talked about Ontario earlier.
In looking at this, honourable senators — and the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce has examined the question of productivity — I have been able to discern no satisfactory evidence that raising the minimum wage to $10 across the country would in any way, shape or form impair either our productivity or our competitiveness. I encourage honourable senators to give consideration to this matter and to urge their provincial governments and the regions they represent to change what I consider to be a very unsatisfactory failure to salute the working poor of this country who are seeking to educate their children and to raise them to be contributing members of this country.