Montreal

Parti Québécois, Québec Solidaire promise $15 minimum wage

Quebec's campaigning politicians appealed to workers on Labour Day Monday, with two different parties promising to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

PQ looks to regain its union-friendly image, QS promises funding for small businesses

Two of Quebec's political parties are pledging a $15 per hour minimum wage if they are elected. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

Quebec's campaigning politicians appealed to workers on Labour Day Monday, with two different parties promising to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

On Day 12 of the provincial election campaign, Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée said the starting wage would be raised gradually from the current rate of $12 per hour.

Lisée said his party had always been close to workers, despite the fact that his predecessor, media magnate Pierre Karl Péladeau, presided over lengthy labour disputes with two of the newspapers in his chain.

Péladeau led the party from 2015 to 2016 before quitting politics for family reasons.

Lisée acknowledged that that the party's pro-worker stance might be more apparent in the absence of its former leader, while denying anything had fundamentally changed with the party that has traditionally been a favourite choice of the province's unions.

"It might have been harder to see, with the last leader, but the party itself, the members themselves, our closeness towards those who work hard has always been there, and perhaps it's more apparent now," Lisée said at a news conference where he also unrolled a plan to create a group insurance plan for the self-employed.

Québec Solidaire promises $100M per year to soften wage impact

The left-wing party Québec Solidaire also expressed its commitment to a $15 minimum wage, which the party has long called for and would implement in 2019 if elected, co-spokesperson Manon Massé said Monday, detailing the plan.

The party would also invest $100 million per year over five years to help smaller businesses, farmers and community organizations adjust to the change, Massé announced in Gatineau.

'Huge impact' on small businesses

CFIB senior vice-president Martine Hébert says small businesses don't have the ability to absorb a minimum wage hike in a short time period. (Kate McKenna/CBC)
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says every worker deserves to make a decent wage, but raising the rate so quickly could be disastrous for small businesses.

"It's the speed that they want to raise the minimum wage at $15 — within a year or two, that's very fast for small businesses," Martine Hébert, senior vice-president at the CFIB, told CBC.

"We know that such an increase in minimum wage would have a huge impact on small businesses in the retail sector for example, also in some restaurant businesses…because they don't have the margin of profit to absorb such a shock in labour costs."

Hébert said she supports the idea to subsidize businesses.

"Both Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois proposed compensation programs for smaller businesses so it means they agree that this would have huge impacts on smaller businesses. So we're very happy about that."

Developing digital infrastructure

Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, meanwhile, set his sights on regional development with a promise to invest an additional $200 million to extend high-speed internet and cell phone coverage in remote areas.

That would bring his party's total investment to $500 million, he said at a campaign stop in Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

If re-elected, Couillard also promised to name a minister of the regions whose mandate would include the development of high-performing digital infrastructure.

With files from CBC News

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