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Ontario minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour in January


The Ontario government has announced that it will increase the provincial minimum wage to $15 per hour next year.

Premier Doug Ford made the official announcement Tuesday morning in Milton alongside Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton and Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy.

Right now, the minimum wage in Ontario is $14.35 per hour. The increase to $15 per hour will come into effect on Jan. 1, the government said. As previously reported by CTV News Toronto, the minimum wage will then continue to rise by the rate of inflation following that date.

"For many Ontarians wages haven't kept up with the increasing cost of living, making it harder than ever to make ends meet,” Ford said at a news conference in Milton.

“I've always said, workers deserve to have more money in their pockets because they have worked hard and put in long hours. The least the government can do is ensure we're making life more affordable for them."

Ford said the pay bump would result in more than 760,000 workers across Ontario receiving a raise in the new year.

The bump will also apply to liquor servers in the province, who currently make $12.55 per hour.

Back in 2018, the previous Liberal government had increased minimum wages from $11.60 an hour to $14 an hour. A promise by that government to push the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2019 was scrapped by Ford after he took office. He said at the time that the increase would be too expensive for businesses to cover.

Asked why the premier chose to freeze the minimum wage back in 2018 only to deliver the increase three years later, Ford rebuffed that such a question is like “comparing apples and oranges.”

“We didn't have the pandemic. A worldwide pandemic. Everyone's been facing a challenge over the last 20 months. Things were a lot different back in 2018,” Ford explained.

The premier was also asked if the pay increase would have been introduced today without a pandemic, to which Ford pointed to a 2018 tax credit he passed that he said would benefit 1.1-million people across the province, while giving low-income and minimum wage employees up to $850 a year in tax relief.

However, Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer Peter Weltman would later criticize the measure, saying it would provide “fewer benefits” for minimum wage employees than an actual increase in their hourly wages.

Jerry Dias, president of Unifor National, was in attendance at Tuesday’s announcement alongside a number of other union leaders. He said that while the wage increase will be welcome news to the more than 760,000 minimum-wage workers in Ontario, the hike still leaves more to be desired.

“I think we have to have a living wage. In order to get to a $22 living wage in Toronto, you are going to have to go through $15," Dias said, speaking to reporters.

"A living wage in London, Ont. is about $16.20. So do I think $15 is wonderful? The answer is ‘no.’ But do I think it is a good start? The answer is ‘yes’ as we continue to push and fight for a living wage."

According to a new report published by the Ontario Living Wage Network, people who live in Toronto need to make a minimum of $22.08 per hour to afford the basic cost of living.

That living wage does not include paying off debt, homeownership, saving for your children's future or any type of emergency fund. 

Increase 'just isn't going to cut it': Horwath

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath slammed the announcement saying that the increase should be closer to $17 to $17.50 an hour to make up for the “$5,300 that Doug Ford stole” from minimum wage workers when he cancelled the hike that was scheduled for 2019. 

“At this point, the $15 minimum wage increase—that they should have had back in 2019—just isn’t going to cut it,” Horwath said following Question Period.

Horwath went on to say that she is “sick and tired” of watching the Liberals and Conservatives using minimum wage workers as “political pawns” in the months leading up to an election.

“It is disgusting, it is cruel, and it continues to happen. It is a shameful tactic and I’m sick of it and I’m sure working people are sick of it too,” she said.

Despite the criticism, it’s worth noting that a petition to support a $15 an hour minimum wage in the province is currently being hosted on the Ontario NDP website

Business groups bash timing of pay increase announcement

Both the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and Ontario Chamber of Commerce took issue with the government’s announcement, saying that many businesses across Ontario are still struggling to operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic and that the pay bump would add to their overhead costs.

“Many businesses are still grappling with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, including cashflow constraints and the increased cost of doing business; this is no time to add to their costs,” Ontario Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rocco Rossi said in a statement.

The CFIB went a step further, saying that the wage increase comes at “the worst possible time for small businesses.”

“Today, only 37 per cent of Ontario’s small businesses are at normal revenues. Many are operating at a loss every single day they are open. The average COVID-19-related debt is a whopping $190,000, and small business owners report it will take two-plus years to get out of that hole,” a statement read.

Both groups asked the government to reconsider the timing of the decision while also asking to be included in conversations related to wage increases going forward for the benefit of small business owners and their employees. 

With files from CTV News Toronto's Colin D'Mello and Sean Davidson. Top Stories

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