National Context: Winning Rights and Wages

The Fight for 15 is a global movement in over 300 cities on six continents. Within Canada, Fight for 15 campaigns have successfully pushed for a commitment to raising the minimum wage to $15 in Alberta, Ontario, and B.C., while also gaining substantial workers protections and benefits. In May 2021, Fight for $15 & Fairness in Ontario became Justice for Workers, in recognition of the movement’s need to push beyond a $15 minimum wage.

Alberta: In 2014, minimum wages in Alberta were at $9.95/hour. At the same time, Nova Scotia boasted the 4th highest minimum wage in the country – behind Nunavut, Yukon, and Manitoba – at $10.30/hour. But in 2015, NDP candidate Rachel Notley ran a successful campaign for the Premiership of Alberta with a commitment to boost the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2018 as a key part of her platform. Now, Alberta is set to have a $15/hour minimum wage as of October 1, 2018, which will be the highest in the country.

Ontario: In 2013, after four years of the minimum wage being frozen at $10.25, workers came together to launch the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage. This organizing pressured the Ontario government to increase the minimum wage from $10.25 to $11.00 an hour in 2014, and to index it to annual cost of living increases. Soon after, the Fight for $15 & Fairness was launched, and as a result of lots of organizing and creative actions won legislation from the Wynne’s Liberal government that not only won a $15 minimum wage (to be incrementally raised by 2019), but also gained significant workers’ protections and benefits. Among the gains were:

  • Forming Unions made easier: Workers in Ontario can now form a union if enough employees sign a card saying they want to be represented by the union, rather than a vote having to be held
  • Employer Accountability: Maximum fines under the province’s Labour Relations Act, were doubled and quadrupled.
  • Wage/Hour Guarantees: Employees who usually work more than three hours a day, but who show up to work and are given less than that, would have to be paid for three hours. And if a boss cancels a shift on an employee less than 48 hours before that shift was set to begin, the worker would be paid for three hours of work.
  • More Vacation: minimum of three weeks of paid vacation if the employees have been working for them for five years or more.
  • More Personal Days: all workers now entitled to 10 personal emergency leave days a year, with two of them paid

B.C.: The NDP campaigned in the 2017 provincial elections with a $15/hour minimum wage as one of their promises. After taking office, the Horgan government commissioned the Fair Wages Commission to study how to raise the minimum wage. They proposed a now-adopted plan to raise the wage incrementally to $15.20 by 2021, with a $1.30 increase implemented on June 1, 2018.