Quebec to increase minimum wage to fourth highest in Canada

MONTREAL — Quebec is set to have the fourth-highest provincial minimum wage in the country after announcing Tuesday the regular hourly rate will increase by 15 cents per hour to $9.65 on May 1.

MONTREAL — Quebec is set to have the fourth-highest provincial minimum wage in the country after announcing Tuesday the regular hourly rate will increase by 15 cents per hour to $9.65 on May 1.

Labour Minister Lise Theriault also said employees earning tips will get an extra 10 cents or $8.35 per hour.

Ontario has the highest minimum wage in the country at $10.25 per hour, followed at $10 by Newfoundland and Labrador along with Nunavut.

Quebec’s new rate matches the one set by Nova Scotia last spring when its rate increased from $8.60 per hour.

Since 2003, Quebec’s minimum wage has increased 30 per cent, while the consumer price index has grown by 13 per cent. The regular minimum wage increase in 2011 will be limited to 1.55 per cent.

Theriault said many factors were considered in setting the new level, including the precarious economic situation and the fact that these workers have very modest revenues.

“We had to deal with the fact that to improve the financial situation of those most vulnerable and to support the economy and the jobs associated with them, despite the current economic climate, that we had to be cautious,” she said in an interview.

Theriault noted that about 292,000 workers, especially women, will benefit from the increase.

Quebec normally announces increases to the minimum wage months several months in advance to give businesses time to plan and adjust.

Quebec’s restaurant and retail associations described the increase as “reasonable” even though it marks the fourth in as many years.

“After three consecutive years of increase, it goes without saying that retailers would have liked a break,” said Gaston Lafleur, president of the Quebec Retail Association.

“But after catching up over the last few years, the government is now making adjustments that we feel are more responsible in the circumstances.”

The Quebec Restaurant Association had called for a wage freeze in 2011, but president Francois Meunier said the government made the right choice by announcing an increase around the inflation rate.

However, the group At the bottom of the ladder, which defends non-union workers in Quebec, said it was disappointed by the announced increase, which it considers timid.

It says a full-time employee who earns minimum wage and works 40 hours a week will only have a gross income of $19,760 with the increase.

“It is unacceptable that in 2010 a person who works 40 hours per week at minimum wage can not get out of poverty,” said spokeswoman Carole Henry.

Greg Dennis, a spokesman for Ontario’s new Labour Minister Charles Sousa said any decision about changing the province’s rate would likely be announced in the spring budget.

New Brunswick’s rate will increase in stages to $10 by September.

Manitoba’s minimum wage increased in October to $9.50. Saskatchewan kept its minimum wage at $9.25, but is considering whether to index it to inflation.

P.E.I. and the Northwest Territories’ minimum wage is $9, Yukon is $8.93 and Alberta’s is $8.80.

Several Liberal leadership candidates in British Columbia have called for a hike in the country’s lowest minimum wage of $8 an hour. B.C.’s minimum wage has remained unchanged since 2001 when it had Canada’s highest rate.