Canadian Minimum Wage – Quebec VS Ontario – How It Stacks Up
Canadian Minimum Wage – Another election year and another round of timely political announcements coming forth from the provincial assembly doors of government – particularly those of Quebec and Ontario.
Ontario was out of the gates first, passing their labour reform legislation on November 22nd 2017, which included increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, up from the previous rate of $11.60. It will be phased in, with the first increase to $14 per hour already in effect as of January 1st 2018 and rising to $15 on January 1st 2019 – a $3.40 per hour (or 21%) increase.
Quebec on the other hand was a little slower out of the gates, announcing a minimum wage increase of only 75 cents per hour (or 6.5%) bringing it from $11.25 per hour to $12.00 – but it only goes into effect on May 1st of this year. It was announced earlier than expected and touted as the ‘biggest increase in the province’s history’ and that the increase is part of their plan to raise the minimum wage to the equivalent of 50% of the average wage in Quebec by 2020.
In comparison to Ontario’s hike, Quebec appears to be lagging far behind – even behind Alberta whose minimum hourly wage is currently at $13.60 and will rise to $15 by 2019. After Quebec’s increase kicks in on May 1st, the province will have the third-highest minimum wage in Canada – but that will not last long. The minimum wage in the Northwest Territories is already $12.50 per hour and will rise to $13.46 on April 18th 2018 and in Nunavut the minimum wage is presently at $13 per hour.
Quebec’s approach simply does not stack up. And neither will the 75 cents per hour actually make any significant difference to most employees – as it really does not keep up with the rising cost of living. The plan to bring the minimum wage to 50% of the average wage by 2020 might not be the silver lining they are hoping for. According to Statistics Canada, as of last December the average hourly wage in Quebec was $25.28 – which at 50% would presently make the minimum wage only $12.64. How much can that possibly rise by 2020, now less than two years away? To even align with Ontario’s $15 per hour minimum, the average wage in Quebec would have to rise to approximately $30 per hour – an over 20% increase. If realistic, it would certainly be welcome.
Quebec’s Labour Minister, Dominique Vien, said in a statement, “The good economic performance of Quebec allows us to substantially increase the minimum wage. This increase will improve the quality of life for low income workers, as well as provide stronger incentives to work, increase net disposable income and contribute to reducing the incidence of poverty, without harming jobs or the competitiveness of our businesses.”
According to the province, the increase will directly benefit over 352,000 minimum wage workers, with at least 60% being women. How much it will actually benefit them is a matter of interpretation. In reality, the average minimum increase in a household (depending on the number of people and the hours worked) will be between $462 and $979 annually. It will allow for some breathing room; perhaps a little more food on the table for the year or some new clothes and other household needs. Maybe even a little indulgence such as a weekend away.
Yet there are also other elements to consider as for how Quebec really stacks up, such as; Vacation Time Entitlement, Minimum Wage for Workers Who Make Tips, Personal or Medical Leave and even pay scales for work like Berry Pickers. You can find more details at the Retail Council of Canada’s website at: https://www.retailcouncil.org/quickfacts/minimum-wage-by-province or with the Commission des normes, de l’équité de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) at: https://www.cnt.gouv.qc.ca/en/leaves-and-absences/vacation/index.html
Minimum wage increases have been received well-enough by labour advocates and are usually popular in the polls with the public, but for businesses who will be paying the price (those who are unable to transfer the increases to their customers) many are voicing their discontent, saying it is too fast and will inevitably lead to the loss of jobs – as it means a 6.7% increase in their payrolls.
With the elections coming up in Ontario on June 7th and Quebec on October 1st the increases could play an important part in how people will vote – and if the governments are listening, some changes or supporting measures could possibly slip through the assembly doors. And then again, doors can also be shut tightly.