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NDP question independence of minimum wage review committee

jordan-brown
New Democratic Party MHA Jordan Brown is challenging the independence of the new Independent Minimum Wage Review Committee. File photo

New Democratic Party MHA Jordan Brown is questioning just how independent the Independent Minimum Wage Review Committee is.

The committee was struck by then-minister Bernard Davis as part of a commitment to review the minimum wage in Newfoundland and Labrador every two years.

Steve Tessier was named chair of the committee, with business owner Brenda O’Reilly and labour representative Allison Doyle making up the trio.

Tessier is a former mayor, deputy mayor and councillor  of Conception Bay South, spent 20 years in public relations through Waterwerks Communications. Tessier also serves on the executive board of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador as regional director, as well as with the federal Liberals as chair of the Avalon riding association.

Brown says he’s not sure if independent is the right word for the committee, considering Tessier’s ties to the governing Liberals

Tessier says he believes his skillset is what stood out to government to make him chair of the committee. He says his work is to listen to what employers and employees have to say about the minimum wage and make recommendations to the department.

“I think I was chosen for my skillset, as opposed to being affiliated with any party,” said Tessier.

Tessier says the department reached out and asked if he’d be interested in the committee, and he said yes.

“My role as the independent chair would be (alongside) an employee rep and an employer rep on the three-person committee,” he said.

“They’re taking their concerns to the table, but we’re doing a lot of stakeholder engagement starting next week, when we meet with a bunch of employee and employer groups. We’re going to sit down and listen to what they have to present.”

Advanced Education, Skills, and Labour Christopher Mitchelmore
Advanced Education, Skills, and Labour Christopher Mitchelmore

Christopher Mitchelmore, who now serves as minister for Advanced Education, Skills, and Labour, said in Question Period on Thursday that the trio will provide balance on the committee.

“In terms of the minimum wage review committee there's a terms of reference that was constructed and the independent chair along with a representative from labour and a representative from the Employer's Council which are public names. Brenda O'Rielly and Allison Doyle along with Steve Tessier will serve and they will do a tremendous job. They will provide the balance between employers and employees and present a report with recommendations,” said Mitchelmore.

“They're going to seek input from stakeholders and provide that information so that we can make a decision on minimum wage here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

On Friday, government announced the committee is seeking public input as their deliberations continue.

An online questionnaire is available to the public to give their input to the committee, through government’s EngageNL.ca portal. Submissions to the committee will be accepted until Dec.r 2.

The current minimum wage in Newfoundland and Labrador is $11.40, which last increased in April. In February 2018, government announced any future changes to the minimum wage would be tied to inflation.

The minimum wage in this province is currently the second lowest in the country, with Saskatchewan at $11.32 an hour.

Alberta brought in a $15 minimum wage in October 2018, the highest minimum wage in the country.

david.maher@thetelegram.com


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