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Client Update: Is the $15 per hour minimum wage headed East? A look at Atlantic Canadian wage increases for 2018

Sean Kelly and Michelle Black

Employers across Canada are facing a series of recently-announced plans for substantial minimum wage hikes in several provinces. Notably, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia have all committed to raising their minimum wage to $15.00 per hour in the near future.

For example, Ontario’s minimum wage will reach $15.00 per hour by January 1, 2019, after a significant jump from $11.60 to $14.00 per hour on January 1st of this year. Alberta has signed on to a similar approach, with the jump to $15.00 per hour coming into effect on October 1, 2018 after a $1.40 increase in September 2017 to reach $13.60 an hour. Meanwhile, British Columbia has opted for a slightly longer timeline to hit the $15.00 mark, with incremental increases planned over the next several years that will see the minimum wage reach $15.20 per hour by 2021.

This trend undoubtedly has employers in Atlantic Canada on high alert for signs that similar increases may be on the horizon here. Currently, most provinces in the region link minimum wage rates to national or provincial inflation rates according to the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI). As such, increases can usually be expected to be made on a regular yearly basis in relatively modest increments.

While Atlantic Canada’s upcoming minimum wage increases stick to this formula and do not adopt the considerable increases seen in other provinces, employers are advised to stay tuned to see if Atlantic Canadian governments opt to follow Ontario, Alberta and B.C.’s lead in the coming years.

Here are minimum wage increases employers can expect to see in Atlantic Canada in 2018:

Nova Scotia 

On April 1, 2018, the general minimum wage in Nova Scotia will increase from the current rate of $10.85 per hour to $11.00 per hour, and from $10.35 per hour to $10.50 for inexperienced workers with less than three months of service or relevant experience.

While this 15 cent increase is consistent with the changes to the inflation rate, some legislators pushed for Nova Scotia to join other provinces in committing to a $15.00 minimum wage. In October 2017, an NDP private member’s bill introduced in the provincial legislature proposed a jump to a $15.00 per hour minimum wage by 2020. The Liberal government has rejected calls for such a sizeable increase, but stated that it was looking into a two-tier model for minimum wage rates which would allow small businesses with fewer than 26 employees to pay a different rate.

At $11.00 an hour, Nova Scotia’s minimum wage will remain the lowest of the Atlantic Provinces in 2018.

New Brunswick 

New Brunswickers will see the minimum wage increase by 25 cents to reach $11.25 per hour on April 1, 2018. This follows a 35 cent increase last year, and makes it the second highest rate in the region. 2018 marks the first year New Brunswick’s minimum wage rate will be tied to inflation.

The New Brunswick NDP have also expressed support for a move towards a $15.00 minimum wage, and have pledged to implement this increase if elected in the upcoming provincial election this fall.

Prince Edward Island 

Prince Edward Island’s minimum wage will remain the highest in Atlantic Canada when it increases by 30 cents to reach $11.55 per hour on April 1, 2018.

Newfoundland and Labrador 

Newfoundland and Labrador will see a slight increase in the minimum wage for 2018, with a 15 cent increase to bring it to $11.15 coming into effect on April 1, 2018. This raise follows two increases last year that adjusted the rate to reflect inflation after it had previously been unchanged for a six year period.

This update is intended for general information only. If you have questions about the above information, please contact any member of our labour and employment group.

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