QUEEN’S PARK – Politics – This past week the Ontario Liberal government announced that it intends to raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour. The raise, if passed, would see an increase in the minimum wage by 75 cents and would be the first the province has seen since 2010. It would also ensure that future increases would be tied to the rate of inflation.
In my experience, people as well as the business community are mixed on the subject. While there are many people who understand that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to make ends meet when working full-time and being paid the minimum wage, there are others, such as small business owners, who are concerned that a substantial increase may result in unmanageable pressure to their bottom line.
It’s no secret that families are feeling squeezed. Hydro rates, gas prices, and bills, utilities, and other fees are all going up. In many smaller communities across the region, the depression of industry has caused a chain reaction which has resulted in significant MPAC reassessments and potentially large property tax increases.
Across the province, nine per cent of Ontarians earn the minimum wage. For those who do and work eight hours a day every week of the year, this leaves a family $6,000 short of the poverty line. I haven’t met anyone who disagrees that it is grossly unfair for hardworking and responsible people to not be compensated with a fair and reasonable wage so that they can make ends meet.
In the recent pre-budget consultation meeting in Thunder Bay, the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce (NOACC) asked for predictable minimum wage increases, so that its members could have greater cost certainty. This is hardly an unreasonable request and I was impressed that NOACC, and other Chambers of Commerce and business associations across the province who presented to the pre-budget hearings, have not been calling for a wage freeze, a reflection of the fact that businesses acknowledge that it is time to raise wages across the province.
I can’t yet say how I’ll be voting on the legislation for two reasons: the first being that I haven’t yet seen it and it is my policy to carefully review legislation before committing one way or the other, and secondly, I believe more work needs to be done to consult with Ontarians and the business community, to see if there are supports and incentives the provincial government can provide to assist businesses with adjusting to an increase in the minimum wage that would result in a more equitable wage being paid.
I strongly believe we need to work with the job creators in Ontario to maximize the benefit of a wage increase to the economy – by putting money in the hands of people who will spend it, and to ensure that people working full time aren’t living in poverty.
What are your thoughts? As always, I look forward to hearing your views. You can pass them along by contacting any of my community offices, writing me a letter, phoning, or by emailing me at SCMPP@ndp.on.ca.
Sarah Campbell MPP