The pay gap between future provincial cannabis store workers and existing early childhood workers shows misplaced priorities, says an opposition MLA.
Clerks at P.E.I.’s four cannabis stores will be paid more than early childhood educators in Early Years Centers (EYC), an issue that Rustico-Emerald MLA Brad Trivers took the province to task over during Wednesday’s question period.
Job postings for P.E.I.’s cannabis stores advertise hourly wages ranging from $18.70 to $20.35 for clerks, $22.44 to $25.49 for senior clerks and $25.91 to $36.23 for managers.
Trivers said early childhood educators in the EYCs are paid less than that, making between $15.30 and $17.22 an hour last year while directors were paid around $21.42.
“Why does selling cannabis pay so much better under your government than educating young children,” asked Trivers, later adding that “this government has chronically under-funded child educators’ wages and now they’re hiring pot clerks that will make up to eight dollars an hour more.”
“(Early childhood educators) are laying the educational foundation for our children, which people often refer to as our greatest resource. They add a lot of value ... and if we want to have dedicated early childhood educators continue to enter that field we need to pay them what they’re worth.”
– Brad Trivers
Finance minister Health MacDonald took issue with the comparison.
“That’s comparing apples to oranges as far as I’m concerned ... anybody who thinks we’re doing that, in regards to the honourable member’s comments, is completely off,” said MacDonald.
While this budget has an increase of two per cent for those early childhood educators, Trivers said they have only seen a single raise equalling about 30 cents during the past eight years.
During an interview with The Guardian, Trivers said educators should be “compensated for the value they add” noting the training and certification required for the job.
Comparably, the minimum educational requirement for cannabis store clerks is a successful completion of Grade 12 or equivalent.
“(Early childhood educators) are laying the educational foundation for our children, which people often refer to as our greatest resource,” said Trivers. “They add a lot of value ... and if we want to have dedicated early childhood educators continue to enter that field we need to pay them what they’re worth.”
A spokesperson for the province said government does not regulate early childhood educator wages; however, EYCs are required to follow the provincial wage grid set by the department.
The spokesperson said the province was also partnering with Early Childhood Development Association on an RFP for a workforce strategy that would address challenges such as wages, working conditions, education requirements, recruitment and retention.
Trivers also criticized the wages in general in the province, stating that P.E.I. has the lowest average weekly wages in Canada.
“This government has to really sort out their priorities. I think there were much better ways they could have implemented the distribution of cannabis on P.E.I.,” he said.