Minimum wage workers in Quebec received a raise on Monday.
Starting May 1, the general minimum wage goes up $1, from $14.25 to $15.25 per hour — a move announced by the Quebec government in January.
According to the Ministry of Labour, almost 300,000 employees will benefit from this increase.
One of them is Émile Parent Corriveau, a full-time barista in Montreal. He currently makes minimum wage plus tips, but he says that's barely enough to cover his basic essentials. He says the increase will help him out.
"It's really insane how expensive things are," he said. "Just doing my groceries is like $100 for half a week of stuff to eat, so I'm really happy for [everyone] my age who works minimum [for] wage."
Labour Minister Jean Boulet says the ministry had to weigh several factors before coming to this decision, including "the rate of inflation, the [economy] and the capacity of the small and medium-sized businesses."
Some anti-poverty groups say with the rising cost of living, the increase is still not enough to pay for basics such as housing and food.
But Boulet says it is the best compromise to help both workers and businesses.
"We made efforts to answer the needs of low-income people in Quebec and again, we want to improve their purchasing power, their cost of living, but you also have to understand that the social safety net in Quebec for families and employees is significant."
Quebec's largest employers' group, the Conseil du patronat du Québec, says it believes different retailers will start increasing prices to make up for the wage hike.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents small and medium-sized businesses, says the raise is "another increase on top of" electricity rates, raw materials and other increases.
"Our concern is the accumulation of increases, which ends up weighing on the shoulders of [these businesses]," said CFIB's vice-president for Quebec, François Vincent. "And, ultimately, this contributes to higher product prices."
Vincent says he would have liked the Quebec government to have better supported small and medium-sized businesses by reviewing the tax system for them.
'Clearly not enough'
At the Collective for a Poverty-Free Quebec, spokesperson Virginie Larivière says the increase isn't sufficient given rampant inflation.
"It's too little too late. We have been asking for $15 an hour since 2016, so obviously $15.25 in 2023 is clearly not enough," she said.
The social and labour groups that launched the "Minimum 15" campaign at the time are now calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $18 per hour.
"That's the minimum. It's a demand we've been making for two years. Obviously, with the inflation of the last few years, we can assume that $18 an hour is not enough to even think about being lifted out of poverty," said Larivière.
The increase from the current $14.25 wage is the largest percentage increase in the province's minimum salary since 1995.
Minimum wage for those who earn tips will also rise by 80 cents, from $11.40 to $12.20 per hour.
Eve-Lyne Couturier, a researcher who studies living income at the Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society (IRIS), says the wage increase will help low-income families who have been hit particularly hard by inflation.
"The biggest category of expenses for low-income [households] is food, housing and transport, and those are also the categories with the highest inflation," she said.
But, she says, data shows that a livable income for minimum wage workers is "more around $20 an hour than $15.25," especially to get out of poverty.
The concern that small businesses will suffer or even shutter due to the wage increase is not true, Couturier says, citing data from other provinces and countries that have raised wages significantly.
"It's something that we imagine will happen, but in truth, it's not something that happens."
She says, in reality, if low-income families have the money they need to properly meet their basic needs, they will be able to reinvest their discretionary income into the economy
"If we increase their income, they will spend it locally, and it will create more of a virtuous cycle," she said.