Montreal

Quebec to hike hourly minimum wage by 60 cents, reaching $13.10 on May 1

The Coalition Avenir Québec government is honouring its campaign promise to gradually raise the minimum wage, year over year, working toward a minimum hourly wage of $15. 

CAQ government honours campaign promise to increase minimum wage over time, working toward $15 per hour

Labour Minister Jean Boulet made the announcement in Quebec City Wednesday, pointing out that more than half of the province's minimum-wage workers are women. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec's minimum wage will climb to $13.10 an hour on May 1 — an increase of 60 cents, provincial Labour Minister Jean Boulet announced Wednesday. 

"This year, there is a particularly favourable economic context: the GDP is on the rise, the unemployment rate is particularly low, and the number of social assistance recipients is decreasing," said Boulet, speaking to reporters in Quebec City.

Service industry workers who work for tips, such as bartenders and restaurant servers, will see their salaries rise by 40 cents per hour, to $10.45.

Raspberry and strawberry pickers will also see their wages rise.

Those who pick raspberries will be paid 18 cents more per kilogram, raising the rate to $3.89. As for strawberry pickers, they will get five cents more a kilogram, attaining $1.04 per kilogram.

Boulet said the wage increase will benefit the more than 409,000 workers who earn minimum wage, including some 235,700 women.

Those workers, he said, will have more purchasing power and the increase gives people a stronger incentive to work.

"This will contribute also to the fight against poverty — something our government finds extremely important," Boulet said.

"It is also an increase that will respect the capacity of businesses to pay and preserve their ability to remain competitive."

Part of a long-term plan

Making the announcement now — more than four months before it takes effect — will give businesses a chance to prepare for the increase, he said.

The Coalition Avenir Québec campaigned on a promise to increase the minimum wage year over year, working toward $15 per hour by 2023. The first increase came last May, when the hourly minimum wage went up 50 cents, from $12.00 to $12.50.

Quebec's minimum wage has been $12.50 an hour since May 1, 2019. (Radio-Canada)

The government's goal is to attain a minimum wage that is half of the average hourly wage of Quebecers, by the 2020–2021 fiscal year. In 2018, that average hourly wage was just under $25. 

Linking the increase in minimum wage to that of the average hourly wage across the province allows less affluent workers to benefit from the general growth in wages and the economy, the CAQ said.

Hike to $15 per hour now: Québec Solidaire

Opposition Québec Solidaire said there is no time to waste in hiking the minimum wage to $15 per hour. 

Soon after the announcement, QA co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois tweeted: "Seattle raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2015. Meanwhile, in Quebec, we are making ridiculous increases that keep everybody in poverty."

Québec Solidaire wants Quebec to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour immediately. Co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, left, says half a million Quebecers had to turn to food banks in 2019. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Sheetal Pathak, a community organizer with the Montreal-based homeless advocacy group, Project Genesis, agrees with Nadeau-Dubois's assessment.

Any increase in the minimum wage is a good thing, she said, but people will continue to struggle to make ends meet at the current rates.

"We really think the plan should be, as quickly as possible, to increase to $15 an hour. We really think that's the minimum it should be at."

Small business owners will suffer, CFIB says

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says small business owners will be among the hardest hit by the wage increase.

"The proposed 4.8 per cent increase in the minimum wage is almost as large as their profit margin and is in addition to other payroll taxes paid by the employer," said CFIB vice-president François Vincent in a statement.

"To alleviate this financial pressure, it is often the entrepreneur himself who will work more or lower his own salary."

The CFIB said the hike will create a domino effect as employers scramble to ensure more experienced workers are fairly compensated by being paid more than the unskilled labourers earning minimum wage.

The organization, which has some 110,000 members countrywide, said it would like Quebec to instead favour tax measures that will increase the disposable income of low-income workers. 

with files from Claire Lowen and Radio-Canada

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