For many Nova Scotians, life is a constant struggle; making ends meet has been even more challenging this year because of the rising cost of living. If inflation, and job and income losses due to COVID-19, were not enough, people had to also deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona. Some have lost the contents of their fridge and freezer, and others, their entire homes. The financial assistance the Nova Scotia government announced is welcome news but insufficient for those in dire need. $100 in grocery money does not go very far these days.
Dealing with cost increases and emergencies is possible if you have a decent and rising income. That is not the case for the average worker in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia has the second-lowest average weekly earnings in the country—it has been the lowest or second-lowest for many years. And now, thanks to inflation and a lack of wage increases to make up for it, workers face an additional cut in real wages of nearly 5%.
As we have urged again and again and again--the government can and should take action both within and outside the labour market to help Nova Scotians most in need. The government, however, only plans to increase the minimum to $15 on April 1st, 2024.
Our recent living wage report calculated the lowest living wage in Nova Scotia to be $20 in Cape Breton and the highest in Halifax ($23.50). It is well past time for workers to get a substantive raise.
The government can help Nova Scotians by increasing income supports like the affordable living tax credit. It can address costs by regulating the prices of essentials or expanding what is covered by public services outside the for-profit market, whether for housing, health care, or other critical needs. Here’s to continuing the fight to get it right next year.