Minimum Wage

Minimum wage is the lowest wage rate that an employer is legally permitted to pay to an employee. In Canada, provinces and territories regulate minimum wage (see Provincial Government in Canada; Territorial Government in Canada). The federal government also sets a minimum wage for employees covered by Part III of the Canada Labour Code. Minimum wage policy was originally established to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation, and it continues to be used by governments to safeguard non-unionized workers (see Labour Force; Unions).

Canadian Currency


Canada’s earliest minimum wage policies were legislated to protect women and children from exploitation in the workplace (see Women in the Labour Force; Child Labour). British Columbia and Manitoba were the first provinces to introduce minimum wage in 1918. Throughout the 20th century, provinces and territories established their own minimum wage policies for men and women in the labour force.

Did you know?
According to a 2019 Labour Statistics research paper, the majority of minimum wage workers are women. From between 1998 to 2018, 6 out of 10 minimum wage workers were women. (See also Statistics Canada.)

The federal government sets minimum wage rates for federally regulated employees covered in Part III of the Canada Labour Code. As of 1996, federal jurisdiction employees received the minimum wage of the province or territory they were working in. On 29 December 2021, the federal minimum wage was changed to $15 per hour for workers employed in the federally regulated private sector. Under this regulation, employees working in provinces or territories with a minimum wage higher than $15 will receive the higher provincial or territorial rate. As of 1 April 2023, the federal minimum wage was increased to $16.65. The federal minimum wage will be reviewed on 1 April of year based on the Consumer Price Index.

Minimum Wage Rates and Regulations

Minimum wage is calculated and adjusted differently between the provinces and territories (see Provincial Government in CanadaTerritorial Government in Canada). Rates can be determined and adjusted according to regulations, rates of inflation and social and economic conditions. Yukon was the first jurisdiction among the territories and provinces to annually review minimum wage in comparison to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Provinces and territories can also implement regulations that allow for certain workers to receive lower minimum wage rates. As of 1 May 2023, the minimum wage in Quebec for employees that receive gratuities was $12.20 as opposed to $15.25. Similarly, as of 1 October 2022, the minimum wage for students in Ontario was $14.60 as opposed to $15.50.

Hourly Minimum Wage for Adult Workers in each Province and Territory

Province or Territory

Minimum Wage

Effective Date



1 October 2018

British Columbia


1 June 2022



1 April 2023

New Brunswick


1 April 2023

Newfoundland and Labrador


1 April 2023

Northwest Territories


1 September 2021

Nova Scotia


1 April 2023



1 April 2020



1 October 2022

Prince Edward Island


1 January 2023



1 May 2023



1 October 2022



1 April 2023

Minimum Wage Debate

While minimum wage was initially legislated in Canada to protect workers, economists have for many years debated the effectiveness of minimum wage legislation. Some economists have argued that minimum wage causes unemployment as employers have to reduce the number of work hours to compensate for increased labour costs. This can negatively impact workers with less experience or education, such as teenagers. between the ages of 15 and 19, who make up nearly half of minimum wage workers.

Did you know?
In 2013, 61 per cent of employees earning minimum wage were between the ages of 15 and 24.

Other economists have argued that minimum wage helps reduce income inequalities and rates of poverty. Some economists and labour activists, however, have criticized minimum wage rates for not adequately responding to rising inflation rates and meeting the current standard of living.

Further Reading

  • Diane Galarneau and Eric Fecteau, “The Ups and Downs of Minimum Wage,” Statistics Canada, Cat. No. 75-006-X (2014).

  • Dominique Dionne-Simard and Jacob Miller, “Maximum insights on minimum wage workers: 20 years of data,” Statistics Canada, Cat. No. 75-004-X (2019).

  • Deborah Sussman and Martin Tabi, “Minimum Wage Workers,” Perspectives on Labour and Income Vol.5, No. 3 (2004).

  • Theo Anne Opie and Paul Shemilt, HR Answers Now: Employment and Labour Law (2009).

External Links