Minimum Wage Hikes Will Add $54.5 Million to Payroll Costs Across Atlantic Canada

Atlantic Canada braces for a significant shift in an economic climate marked by gradual recoveries and fluctuating demand. Effective April 1, minimum wage increases across the region’s four provinces are set to elevate payroll costs by an estimated $54.5 million. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) offers this projection, which underscores a critical challenge for small business owners already grappling with the demands of a complex marketplace.

Amid ongoing concerns over insufficient demand, 40% of small businesses in Atlantic Canada report lowered sales, and these wage adjustments compound existing pressures. Rising expenses, including insurance, fuel, electricity, occupancy, and borrowing costs, now find an additional burden in the form of increased labor costs. Beatrix Abdul Azeez, a policy analyst at CFIB, encapsulates the sentiment among entrepreneurs, noting the heightened anxiety over the escalating cost of doing business.

The Impact of Minimum Wage Increases on Businesses

The CFIB’s insights reveal a stark reality: 58% of business owners admit that absorbing the cost of previous minimum wage hikes has proven untenable, forcing them to elevate the prices of their goods and services. This cycle of rising operational costs and adjusted pricing strategies highlights the delicate balance small businesses must maintain to thrive.

Abdul Azeez elaborates on the dilemma, “With 40% of small businesses in Atlantic Canada still reporting insufficient demand (lowered sales), these increases will add to the cost pressures already present on insurance, fuel, electricity, occupancy, and borrowing. It’s no wonder four out of five business owners continue to be concerned with the cost of doing business.”

Business Owners’ Concerns and the Call for Predictable Increases

The business community’s voice is clear: there is a pervasive concern over the sustainability of operations amid fluctuating costs. In response, the CFIB urges provincial governments in Atlantic Canada to adopt a more predictable and standardized approach to minimum wage adjustments.

Currently, the process is characterized by a lack of uniformity, with each province applying various methods and sometimes arbitrary criteria for wage increases. CFIB’s recommendation is straightforward: link minimum wage increases to a set percentage of the median wage in their respective provinces. This approach aims to provide a more objective and stable framework for employers and employees.

Perspectives and Recommendations from CFIB Officials

Louis-Philippe Gauthier, CFIB’s Atlantic Vice President, criticizes the deviation from previously established schedules for wage increases and the subjective criteria the governments applied. “Over the last few years, small businesses have seen all four governments deviate from the once-a-year schedule while applying various subjective criteria,” Gauthier remarks. He advocates for a return to annual increases tied to tangible metrics, such as the actual growth in median wages, to ensure fairness and predictability.

Methodology Behind CFIB’s Findings

The CFIB’s stance is backed by comprehensive research, encompassing feedback from over 4,100 CFIB member businesses across Canada. This data, collected through various surveys such as the Minimum Wage – Small Business Perspectives survey and the February Business Barometer®, provides a statistically significant insight into the perspectives and experiences of the small business community. These findings highlight the critical need for a balanced approach to wage policy that considers the realities of business operations.

Implications for the Future

The forthcoming minimum wage increases in Atlantic Canada serve as a litmus test for the region’s economic resilience and adaptability. While intended to improve living standards for workers, these adjustments pose significant questions about the long-term viability of small businesses facing an accumulation of financial pressures.

Adopting CFIB’s recommendations could lead to a more sustainable economic environment. By aligning wage increases with median wage growth, policymakers could foster a more stable and predictable business landscape, potentially alleviating some of the concerns voiced by the small business sector.


As Atlantic Canada navigates the complexities of economic recovery and growth, the upcoming minimum wage increases spotlight the intricate balance between supporting workers and ensuring the viability of small businesses. The CFIB’s call for a more standardized and equitable approach to wage adjustments reflects a broader conversation about the best path forward in creating a robust and thriving regional economy.