Canada: No Minimal Impact: Atlantic Canada's 2018 Minimum Wage Increases

Annual minimum wage increases in Atlantic Canada (and in Canada generally) don't typically receive a significant amount of media coverage. But that – along with the minimum wages of a number of provinces – changed significantly in 2018. Driven by Ontario's January 1, 2018 increase form $11.40/hour to $14/hour, on the way to $15/hour by 2019, minimum wage increases for 2018 attracted far more attention than usual. For example, in late 2017, The Bank of Canada issued a Staff Analytical Note titled "The Impacts of Minimum Wage Increases on the Canadian Economy" revealing its view on how scheduled minimum wage increases could affect impact the Canadian economy in both the short and the longer-term. And while Atlantic Canadian rates are still among the lowest in Canada (according the Retail Council of Canada's 2018 rate roundup), the gap is getting smaller. Increases drew the focus of organizations like the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC) and support for standardization of minimum wage rates and review dates across Atlantic Canada (see, for example, CBC's January 5, 2018 report, "Think tank calls for uniform minimum wage across Atlantic provinces"). Here's where Atlantic Canadian minimum wages stand for 2018:

Nova Scotia. N.S. maintains its position as the Atlantic Canadian province with the lowest minimum wage rates in 2018. Effective April 1, 2018, the N.S. minimum wage rate increased from $10.85/hour to $11.00/hour for experienced workers and from $10.35/hour to $10.50/hour for inexperienced workers. N.S. is the only Atlantic province with a two-tiered minimum wage system, distinguishing between "experienced" and "inexperienced" workers based on experience in a particular area of work and/or the length of employment by the same employer. In 2011, N.S. legislated an annual review date of April 1, with increases tied to projected annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) changes.

Newfoundland & Labrador. Continuing the objective of bringing the N.L. rate more in line with that elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, but still at a rate lower than most of the rest of Atlantic Canada, effective April 1, 2018 the N.L. minimum wage rate increased from $11.00/hour to $11.15/hour. This relatively minimal increase follows two hikes in 2017 that saw a total increase of $.50/hour in 2017. In addition, N.L. became only the second Atlantic Canadian province to legislate an annual review date and to tie increases to CPI: pursuant to a February 20, 2018 regulation, going forward the N.L. rate will also be adjusted annually on April 1 and based on any increase in the CPI the prior calendar year.

New Brunswick. With the second greatest increase taking it to the second highest rate in Atlantic Canada, effective April 1, 2018, the N.B. minimum wage rate increased from $11.00/hour to $11.25/hour. However, N.B.'s regulation mandates a review only every two years, with no specific date and based on a review of a range of factors.

Prince Edward Island. Holding its position as the highest minimum wage rate (and with the highest forecast economic growth) in Atlantic Canada, effective April 1, 2018, P.E.I.'s minimum wage rate increased from $11.25/hour to $11.55/hour. P.E.I.'s regulation mandates an annual review of minimum wages, but as in N.B., has not mandated a specific date and its review is also based on a range of factors.

Alternate Rates by Sector. N.S. and N.B. have alternate minimum wage rates for specific sectors: N.B. for specific employees in the construction field performing work under a contract awarded by the Province, camp leaders and employees whose hours are unverifiable; and N.S. for logging and forestry workers and construction workers.

Weekly Hour Ceilings. Most provinces cap the number of weekly hours for which employers can pay employees the minimum wage rate; after that "overtime" may apply. This cap depends on the province. Employers that don't comply with the applicable minimum wage rate legislation could face an employee complaint to the governing employment standards body.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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