Quebec to make largest-ever increase to minimum wage
Published Wednesday, January 17, 2018 10:18AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 17, 2018 8:49PM EST
Quebec is making its largest-ever hike to the minimum wage, raising it to $12/hour.
The 75-cent increase will take effect on May 1, 2018.
It will affect the 353,000 people who earn minimum wage in Quebec.
Last year, when Quebec increased minimum wage by 50 cents, provincial officials said their eventual goal was to make minimum wage equal to half of the average wage in the province.
Labour Minister Dominique Vien said Wednesday that the province is on track to hit that mark in 2020.
Pierre Arcand, the president of Quebec's Treasury Board, said the increase is more than was predicted because Quebec's economy is doing well, and because of Ontario's drastic hike.
"Of course the economy is in good shape right now in the province of Quebec and of course traditionally when we have been talking about minimum wage we have been aligned to a certain degree with Ontario - and you know what's been happening in Ontario. There have been huge increases. So of course we have to take into account the state of the economy, we have to take into account what the employers are telling us. We have to take into account what the community groups are telling us also. So we're trying to come up with the best possible approach and $12 I think that we feel that it's quite reasonable under those circumstances right now," said Arcand.
The increase comes earlier than the government first projected.
“Our objective has always been to get to 50 per cent of the average wage in Quebec. Because the economy has been doing well and because average wages have risen faster than expected, the minimum wage increase is also faster than what we had anticipated. But I think it's relatively modest,” said Finance Minister Carlos Leitao.
This year Ontario raised its minimum wage to $14/hour, while Alberta's minimum hourly wage is currently $13.60. The minimum wage for both provinces will be $15/hour in the next 12 months.
The minimum pay for those who earn tips will also rise.
On May 1 they will get a 35-cent increase, to $9.80/hour.
The pay scale for berry pickers will rise to $3.56/kg for raspberries, and $0.95/kg for strawberries.
For now, Quebec has no plans to bump the minimum wage to $15/hour, arguing the cost of living in the province doesn't justify it.
“$12 an hour in Quebec, if you look at it in terms of purchasing power, is very close, is even a little higher, than $15 an hour in Ontario,” said Leitao.
Critics say even at $12 an hour, some employers will struggle to adapt to the changes.
“Particularly the ones that have a low margin and they cannot transfer the increase of their costs to their customers, of course those companies will have a challenge to meet because it represents an increase of 6.7 per cent,” said Yves-Thomas Dorval of the Quebec Employers’ Council. “Among the payroll tax, there are some elements that the government can easily reduce in order to help the companies to face the challenge.”
Leitao said those businesses can look forward to some relief in the upcoming budget.
“We will put in some measures that will partly offset that,” he said.
Quebec solidaire has been pushing for minimum wage increases, and says the Liberals are reacting to that pressure in an election year, also arguing the government isn't going far enough and only $15 an hour would truly help more Quebecers.