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London & Peterborough-Kawarthas chapters celebrate $15 minimum wage in Ontario

The Council of Canadians Peterborough-Kawarthas and London chapters are welcoming the provincial government’s announcement today that the minimum wage in Ontario will be raised to $15 an hour.

CBC reports, “Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a plan to increase the provincial minimum wage to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2019. The increase would be phased in over the next 18 months, rising to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and then to $15 the following January. After that, it will rise annually with inflation.”

The current minimum wage in Ontario is $11.40 an hour.

Both the London and Peterborough-Kawarthas chapters have campaigned in support of an increase to the minimum wage.

Chapter activist Roy Brady says, “It’s about time that all employees will receive close to a living wage, rather than having to balance two or more jobs to make ends meet. Our province’s children will immediately benefit.”

In November 2013, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) noted that the minimum wage in Ontario – it was $10.25 per hour then – was below the poverty line for full-time workers and short of living-wage calculations across the province (ranging from $18.69 in Halton to $14.95 in Hamilton). At that time, they recommended a minimum wage of $14.50 be implemented by 2016.

In an October 2014 study by the CCPA, Jim Stanford and Jordan Brennan countered the assertion that a higher minimum wage would result in higher unemployment levels. They wrote, “Claims that higher minimum wages will inevitably cause measurable negative consequences (especially for young workers and those in low-wage industries) are not consistent with empirical evidence from the Canadian provinces. Minimum wage regulations do not have important consequences on employment outcomes in either direction. Not surprisingly, employment outcomes depend first and foremost on the overall level of spending and macroeconomic activity.”

The Ottawa-based think-tank also found a higher minimum wage would benefit companies with increased employee retention and the broader economy with more individuals with greater purchasing power.

Today’s announcement in Ontario comes after years of struggle by allied anti-poverty and social justice groups – and on the eve of a provincial election that must be held on or before June 7, 2018.

A Forum Research poll conducted earlier this year shows that the governing Liberals are trailing badly in public opinion (and undoubtedly today’s announcement plus their promise to implement pharmacare is intended to boost their popularity).

The poll suggested that the Progressive Conservatives would win a huge majority of 86 seats in the 122 seat legislature (with 43 per cent of the popular vote), the NDP would be the Official Opposition (with 29 seats and 28 per cent of the vote), and that the governing Liberals would be reduced to 7 seats with 19 per cent of the vote (meaning they would also lose official party status in the legislature).

The minimum wage in other provinces vary from $10.72 in Saskatchewan to $13 in Nunavut. Alberta will increase its minimum wage to $15 in October 2018.