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Quebec Labour Minister Dominique Vien responds to reporters’ questions on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at the legislature in Quebec City.Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec will raise the province's minimum wage to $12 an hour as of May 1, Labour Minister Dominique Vien announced Wednesday.

More than 352,000 workers stand to benefit from the 75-cent increase, the largest hike in Quebec history.

Vien said in a statement the rise is in line with a four-year plan to have the minimum wage equivalent to 50 per cent of the average provincial hourly wage by 2020, without exceeding that level.

Quebec's thriving economy has also helped the average hourly salary rise more quickly than anticipated, she added.

"The good economic performance of Quebec allows us to substantially raise the minimum wage," Vien said.

"This increase will improve the quality of life for low-income workers as well as promote the incentive to work, raise the amount of disposable income and contribute to lowering the rate of poverty, without harming the job market and competitiveness of our businesses."

The raise represents between $462 and $979 in the pocketbooks of minimum wage earners, depending on hours worked and family situation.

At $12, Quebec's minimum wage would be the third highest in the country behind Alberta's and Ontario's.

Ontario raised its minimum hourly wage to $14 per hour on Jan. 1 and plans another increase to $15 next January.

Alberta's minimum wage is expected to rise to $15 later this year.

Daniel Boyer, president of the Quebec Federation of Labour, which represents about 600,000 workers, said the province could have done better.

The labour organization was behind a fight that began in May 2016 for a $15 minimum wage in the province — something Quebec wouldn't commit to.

Employer groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business expressed concern with the sudden hike, adding it hoped Quebec would stick with its initial plan.

"It's a bit unexpected," said Martine Hebert, the group's senior vice-president. "We would have preferred the government follow its original game plan."

In January 2017, Vien had mapped out increases of 50, 35 and 35 cents between 2018 and 2020, bringing the minimum salary to $12.45 by 2020.

But she cautioned at the time the increases could change depending on the economic situation.

Workers who make minimum wage with tips will see their hourly pay climb by 35 cents to $9.80 an hour, also on May 1.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says governments are in place to create 'fairness,' which is what she claims the Liberals are aiming for with policies like a $14-an-hour minimum wage that comes into effect Jan. 1.

The Canadian Press

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