Ontario's $15 an hour minimum wage not coming to Quebec any time soon

Philippe Couillard says he will be watching closely to see how Ontario's commitment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour affects the economy in that province, but he steered clear of committing to a similar raise here.

Premier Philippe Couillard finds new policy 'interesting,' employment minister says 'It's not our plan'

Demonstrators gathered last October to press for a $15 minimum hourly working wage in the province of Quebec and across Canada. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Philippe Couillard says he will be watching closely to see how Ontario's commitment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour affects the economy in that province, but steered clear of committing to a similar raise here.

"We are always interested in what our neighbours are doing in a variety of public policies. We want to stay in touch. After all, we share the same economic space," Quebec's premier said Tuesday.

"We will see what impact it will have in Ontario — especially in areas like food services."

Employment Minister François Blais was more blunt in his assessment, telling reporters simply, "It's not our plan."

He added that the current wage rate and planned increases here are "very important for the Quebec economy."

Couillard and his minister were responding to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's commitment to increase the provincial minimum wage to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2019. 

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard speaks to reporters Tuesday in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)
The increase would be phased in over the next 18 months, rising to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and then to $15 the following January. After that, it will rise annually with inflation. 

Quebec, by comparison, currently has a minimum wage of $11.25. Earlier this year the province announced plans to make four wage increases over the next four years, bringing the minimum wage up to $12.45 per hour by 2020.

Unions, anti-poverty groups press for hike

Labour unions and anti-poverty activists across the country have long been calling for a higher minimum wage as a way to reduce inequality and help low-income Canadians.

Ontario joins Alberta, which will move its minimum wage to $15 by 2018, as the only two provinces committed to such an increase.

A coalition of unions and anti-poverty groups have been making the case for a similar increase here in Quebec. 

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is promising to increase the minimum wage to $15.
Business and industry groups oppose the idea, saying it would have a negative impact on jobs and hurt the very workers it is designed to protect.

Speaking to reporters at the National Assembly, Couillard contended that, even without a wage hike, Quebec's "redistributive policies" make the province more advantageous than Ontario for families earning less than $130,000.

He added that the province is also looking at policies that improve the "work-life balance" of young families.

"We are interested in all initiatives that can improve the quality of life of Quebecers but keep the economy improving at the same time," he said.

Minimum wage by province

  • Alberta: $12.20 an hour, rising to $13.60 this year and reaching $15 an hour on Oct. 1, 2018.
  • British Columbia: $10.85. It's expected to rise to at least $11.25 this year.
  • Manitoba: $11. The government plans to raise it every year along with the rate of inflation.
  • New Brunswick: $11. Adjusted annually relative to the consumer price index.
  • Newfoundland & Labrador: $10.75 rising to $11 on Oct. 1, 2017.
  • Northwest Territories: $12.50
  • Nova Scotia: $10.85. Adjusted annually April 1 based on the consumer price index.
  • Nunavut: $13. Adjusted annually April 1.
  • Ontario: $11.40.
  • Prince Edward Island: $11.25.
  • Quebec: $11.25.
  • Saskatchewan: $10.72. Adjusted annually Oct. 1 relative to the consumer price index and average hourly wage.
  • Yukon: $11.32. Adjusted annually April 1 based on the consumer price index.

Source: The Canadian Press, Retail Council of Canada

With files from Ryan Hicks