In Canada, minimum wage rates are governed by the applicable provincial, territorial or federal employment standards legislation. For 2014 nine Canadian provinces and territories have implemented or announced increases to their minimum hourly wage rates, as follows:

  • Nova Scotia – from C$10.30 to C$10.40 on April 1 2014;
  • Yukon – from C$10.54 to C$10.72 on April 1 2014;
  • Quebec – from C$10.15 to C$10.35 on May 1 2014;
  • Ontario – from C$10.25 to C$11 on June 1 2014;
  • Alberta – from C$9.95 to C$10.20 on September 1 2014;
  • Manitoba – from C$10.45 to C$10.70 on October 1 2014;
  • Newfoundland and Labrador – from C$10 to C$10.25 on October 1 2014;
  • Prince Edward Island – from C$10 to C$10.20 on June 1 2014, and to C$10.35 on October 1 2014; and
  • Saskatchewan – from $10.00 to $10.20 on October 1 2014.

As of the end of 2014, Ontario (Canada's most populous province) will be tied with Nunavut (the province with the smallest population) for the highest minimum wage in Canada at C$11 an hour. New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories have the lowest minimum wage at C$10 an hour. The chart below sets out the minimum wage in the various provinces and territories in Canada, including announced increases until the end of 2014.(1)

 

* Increases have been announced which will take effect later in 2014.

Labour and community groups have worked hard to keep the minimum wage in the news, with many groups pushing the minimum wage increase as an anti-poverty strategy. In 2013 a coalition of Ontario labour and community organisations launched the Raise the Minimum Wage campaign to raise the minimum wage to C$14 an hour. The campaign involved petitions to Premier Kathleen Wynne, rallies and a coordinated media and social media strategy. More recently, in British Columbia labour leaders met with Premier Christy Clark to demand an immediate increase from C$10.25 to C$13 an hour.

A recently released Statistics Canada study found that the real minimum wage in Canada was nearly identical in 1975 and 2013. Further, it found that a greater proportion of the Canadian workforce is earning minimum wage in 2013 than 15 years ago. In particular, "young employees, less educated employees, part-time employees and those working in service industries were most likely to be paid at minimum wage".

Historically, minimum wage increases in Canada are decided by the provincial or territorial government on an ad hoc basis. This means that the amount and timing of increases are unpredictable and can appear to lack objective justification. This may be changing. In July 2014 the government of Ontario introduced a bill that would tie future minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation beginning on October 1 2015. This follows similar schemes established in Nova Scotia and the Yukon Territories. It remains to be seen whether other jurisdictions will follow suit.

For further information on this topic please contact Bonny Mak Waterfall at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP by telephone (+1 416 366 8381), fax (+1 416 364 7813) or email (bmakwaterfall@fasken.com). The Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP website can be accessed at www.fasken.com.

Endnotes

(1) Increases announced as of July 28 2014.