QUEEN'S PARK -- Ontario's New Democratic Party is promising to boost minimum wage to $20 per hour over the next five years in a major campaign promise ahead of the June provincial election.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath revealed that, if elected, her party would raise minimum wage by a dollar a year between 2022 and 2026 and said the increase is "long past due."

“The price of everything is going up – from gas to housing to hydro bills — and with Doug Ford’s low-wage policy, everyone is feeling the squeeze. Minimum wage earners are working their tails off and still can’t get ahead of the bills," Horwath said.

The NDP pre-election promise comes weeks after Ford announced his government would raise minimum wage to $15 per hour on Jan 1. 2022 three years after schedule. 

Unifor President Jerry Dias -- who supported Ford's minimum wage increase -- said $15 per hour wasn't enough to cover the rising costs of living and said workers in a city like Toronto need $22 an hour to keep up. 

Horwath acknowledged the province wouldn't be able to raise wages in "one felled swoop" but said her party is committing to gradually increase pay for low-income earners. 

The NDP's schedule would see minimum wage rise to $16 on Oct. 1, 2022, $17 on May 1, 2023, $18 on May 1, 2024, $19 on May 1, 2025, and $20 on May 1, 2026, before indexing wages to inflation beyond 2026.

Horwath said to help businesses with the rise in minimum wage an NDP government would offer industry-specific support such as lowering alcohol prices for bars and restaurants. 

The next provincial election is on June 2, 2022.