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politics

Ontario’s Minimum Wage Is Going Up

Premier Wynne announces that the minimum wage will rise to $11 an hour, but some say that's not enough.

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Premier Kathleen Wynne greets business owners ahead of today’s minimum wage announcement. Photo by Barnabe Geisweiller.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced two changes to Ontario’s minimum wage this morning: an increase of $0.75 that will bring the minimum wage to $11.00 an hour, and a pledge to index the wage to the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation in the Canadian economy.

Wynne made the announcement at the CSI Coffee Pub, a thriving small business located within the Centre For Social Innovation at 720 Bathurst Street. Wynne emphasized that her government, and the provincial advisory panel she appointed to study the minimum wage, had consulted with business owners about the economic impact of minimum wage increases.

“My concern for a number of years is that we have not had a consistent way of pegging the minimum wage,” Wynne told the gathering of media, supporters, and anti-poverty advocates. Her comments focused more on the inflation-indexing measures than the small wage increase, which many critics say is not enough given that Ontario’s minimum wage has been frozen for four years.

“We struggled with this,” said Wynne of striking a balance between business needs and those of working people. Wynne also took shots at her opposition in the provincial legislature, saying that Tim Hudak’s opposition Progressive Conservatives “seem not to care” about the issue, while the Ontario New Democratic Party under Andrea Horwath “has no position on this.”

Sonia Singh of the Workers’ Action Centre, which has been leading the campaign for a $14-an-hour minimum wage, expressed disappointment in the wake of the announcement. “Eleven dollars an hour is still 16 per cent below the poverty line,” said Singh as she stood with fellow campaigners. “It’s not enough.”

Nick Cluley, who co-owns the CSI Coffee Pub with his partner Erin, said he was not worried about any impact on his business. “This is the most expensive city in North America to live in. People need to be able to pay for their rent and food and live good lives—it’s part of being a Canadian.” However, some business groups, including the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, reacted to the announcement with warnings that the wage increase will force employers “to reduce hours and positions and to put a break on future hiring.”

The increase to $11 an hour will take effect on June 1; the governing Liberals will need to introduce new legislation to index future minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation. Wynne told reporters that her government will introduce such legislation separately from an anticipated budget bill this spring.

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