In Gatineau, it's business as usual despite Ontario's wage hike

Small businesses in Gatineau say they're not worried about losing workers to employers across the Ottawa River despite Ontario's more generous minimum wage — in fact, some say they're gaining from it.

Quebec's lower minimum wage hasn't resulted in migration of workers to Ottawa, Gatineau business owners say

Employees at Moca Loca in Gatineau are staying put despite the higher minimum wage offered across the Ottawa River, the chain's owner says. (Supplied)

Small businesses in Gatineau say they're not worried about losing workers to employers across the Ottawa River despite Ontario's more generous minimum wage — in fact, some say they're gaining from it.

I think what's going to happen is a lot of people are going to lose their jobs or lose some hours, and they're probably going to cross the bridge to get a job here.- Sami Chakie, owner of Moca Loca

Quebec's minimum wage will rise by 75 cents in May to $12 per hour. That's still $2 per hour less than Ontario's new minimum wage, the highest in the country.

Sami Chakie said when he first learned about Ontario's wage increase, he worried about the impact it would have on his chain of Gatineau coffee shops, Moca Loca.   

But earlier this month his concern subsided when he interviewed an Ottawa woman for a job. Chakie said the applicant's hours had just been cut by her employer in the Byward Market, and she was looking for more steady work, even at a lower wage.

"I think what's going to happen is a lot of people are going to lose their jobs or lose some hours, and they're probably going to cross the bridge to get a job here," Chakie said.

Gatineau has its advantages

Eric Gaudreault, owner of Hull sector bar Le Troquet, agreed that Gatineau has advantages over Ottawa that will help businesses on the Quebec side compete for workers.

Gaudreault sits on the board of Vision Centre-Ville, a business group dedicated to reinvigorating downtown Gatineau.

He said Quebec's lower cost of living is one factor. As well, the province's lower minimum wage means he can afford to offer his workers more consistent hours.

Gatineau's Chamber of Commerce also feared workers would migrate to Ottawa to take advantage of Ontario's higher wages, but president Jean-Claude Desrosiers said there's been no evidence of that trend yet.

Instead, he said he's seeing small business in Ontario cutting back hours, and in some cases cutting jobs.

"That means people on the Quebec side will stay here," Desrosiers said.