For the second time in a year, the Ontario government has announced an increase to the minimum wage. Phrased as an eight per cent bump to “help workers keep up with rising costs and inflation”, and as another positive pre-election announcement from the government, the exact amount of the increase is 50 cents, which means that starting on October 1, the minimum wage for Ontarians will now be $15.50 per hour.
“For many Ontarians, wages haven’t kept up with the increasing cost of living, making it harder than ever to make ends meet,” said Premier Doug Ford in a statement Tuesday. “Ontario’s workers are the best anywhere, and they will be at the forefront of building the province. They deserve to have more money in their pockets and the increase we’re announcing today is one more way we are delivering for our workers.”
It was just last November that Ford announced the January 1 increase to a $15 minimum wage in a lavish announcement that included the presence of Ontario labour leaders Jerry Dias and Smokey Thomas. The move was consider quite the turnabout for the Ontario government, which cancelled a planned increase to a $15 minimum wage after they took power in 2018.
Despite the increase in the minimum wage, then and now, the Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination announced last fall that the current living wage for this region is $18.01. The living wage takes into account major expenses such as shelter, healthy food, childcare, and transportation, as well as expenses such as utilities and internet access to come up with a per hour wage calculation that allows people to pay their bills and “participate in civic and cultural life.”
As the Ontario government announced the increase in the minimum wage, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released research that showed that the $14 minimum wage introduced in 2018 was not the “job killer” some business professionals predicted at the time.
According to the CCPA, total employment in Ontario increased by 1.7 per cent in 2018 and 2.8 per cent in 2019. On top of that, the study found that all industries in Ontario with lower-than-average wages, except for agriculture and manufacturing, increased compensation between 2017 and 2018 resulting in a 3.4 per cent increase in hourly wages on average.
On top of that, the wage increase had a more pronounced impact on improving the lives of People of Colour. Wages went up by 4.9 per cent for Black women and 4.7 per cent for other racialized women compared to 3.4 per cent for non-racialized men.
“This study shows how raising the minimum wage betters the lives of all workers, especially those who are racialized and who are women. Addressing racism in Canada includes addressing inequality at work,” said Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) who funded the study.
Also, 70 per cent of the people who benefited from the wage increase were adults, which CCPA notes is a point that disproves the argument that most minimum wage workers are teenagers. In fact, according to their findings, the number of people 25 years old and over earning minimum wage increased between 2017 and 2018 from 41 per cent to 50 per cent.
“This is another example of the important role government policy plays in leveling the playing field and improving work conditions, particularly for low-income workers, racialized workers and immigrant workers,” said CCPA Ontario Senior Economist Sheila Block, who co-authored the report.
Today’s announced minimum wage increase is another move meant to curry favour with Ontario workers before June’s election. Yesterday, the Ontario government introduced legislation to cut the gas tax by 5.7 cents per litre and the fuel tax by 5.3 cents per litre starting on July 1. Also on Tuesday, the Ontario government held an event in Whitby to mark the end of “unfair tolls” on Highways #412 and #418.
“While the previous government imposed these tolls on drivers, our government is getting rid of them. Whether it’s eliminating the cost of renewing your licence plate, cutting the gas tax and now getting rid of these unfair tolls, we’re keeping costs down for people and businesses here in Durham and across the province,” Ford said in a statement.