Minimum wage in Ontario sees increase this past week

Graphic by Alan Li

On Oct.1, the general minimum wage in Ontario rose from $11.40 hourly to $11.60 hourly.

The jump is a step in the provincial government’s plan to raise the general minimum wage up to 15 dollars hourly, first announced by Premier Kathleen Wynne back in May.

The next planned jump is to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018, then finally to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019.

The proposed 15 dollar rate is for what is called general minimum wage, distinct from separate, special minimum wage rates for different types of workers, including liquor servers and hunting and fishing guides.

Special minimum wage rates are slated to increase as well, by the same percentage and at the same time intervals as the general minimum wage.

These increases are all a part of Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which is currently in its second reading at the provincial legislature. In addition to the changes for minimum wage rates, the bill also lays out a series of provisions meant to help workers.

On the other side, Jackson pointed out that if the government is currently in a good position to handle an increase, it likely won’t stay that way for long.

In response to the proposed minimum wage increases, business groups have sounded many objections.

The latest of which, spearheaded by the Keep Ontario Working Coalition, is that the proposed rate of increases – all the way to 15 dollars hourly by Jan. 1, 2019 – is too fast and will thus reap negative consequences in the economy.

However, the members of government pushing the increase seem to have no intention of slowing the rate at which it is introduced.

Ken Jackson, associate professor in the department of economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, pointed out that an argument on the side of the business groups is that introducing the minimum wage increases slower would help preserve jobs.

“There is an element of support for the business position that a slower change would actually be helpful, and that is that if you have an employee who is working for you who is trained, that was making $11.40, and now I have to make their wage $11.60, the odds that I actually eliminate that position are actually pretty low because I have that person trained,” Jackson said.

“The slow increase may help sort of maintain some positions as people sort of train into more work and are used to it. A bigger change all at once – there’s an argument to be made that that bigger jump all at once is going to be much more of a problem,” Jackson said.

On the other side, Jackson pointed out that if the government is currently in a good position to handle an increase, it likely won’t stay that way for long.

“So we have an economy going really well right now. If you say we’re going to do a gradual change over the next five years or six or seven years or something like that, the odds that we’re in a good economy the whole way through are low,” Jackson said.

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