$15 Minimum Wage Increase – What will it mean for working in Ontario?

Last week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that Ontario would become the second Canadian province to raise the minimum wage from $11.40 to $15 per hour by 2019. According to Maclean’s magazine, Ontario is home to Canada’s largest labour market, but, “has more people working at low wages than any other big economic engine of Canada (Quebec, B.C., Alberta).” That means a minimum wage increase will impact more employers and employees here than in any other province – but is it the right move for Ontario workplaces?

Minimum salary increase

The minimum wage increase, one of several amendments to employment regulations proposed by the Ontario Liberals, was greeted with immediate controversy, as Wynne predicted in an interview with the Toronto Star. Many feel the increase is long overdue, as the changes are intended to help the 30% of Ontario workers currently earning less than $15 per hour catch up and keep up with the cost of living. The significant wage hike will increase the minimum income for full-time workers by nearly $10,000/year (Statistics Canada, April 2017), and according to supporters, will reduce the number of Ontarians living in poverty and dramatically improve the financial situation of those affected. It is also anticipated that the increased minimum wage will help ease the gender gap and generally increase household spending in Ontario, driving up profits for businesses and fostering growth.

Others argue the increase will actually hurt the employees it hopes to protect, because of the potential negative impact to employers. Ontario-based businesses, like their staff, also deal with the pressure of operating in a financially demanding province. A mandatory minimum wage increase is predicted to result in price increases, forced relocations, further shifting away from full-time employment, and layoffs. Some suggest vulnerable workers – particularly young employees (age 15-24) – will hurt the most, as businesses will be forced to offer even fewer full-time and long-term opportunities, and alter non-wage benefits, in order to continue doing business in the province. It is also thought that small businesses, particularly those who rely solely on Ontario for both profit and production, will have the hardest time managing the increase.

A significant minimum wage increase is – as expected – hardly a bipartisan issue, and hardly a black and white issue. Over the years, studies have emerged arguing for and against a $15 minimum wage, and much of the discussion around the subject is fueled by politics. This time is no exception, which is why we want to hear from you – employers that are hiring and employees that are looking for work right now. What would a $15 minimum wage mean to you? Is this a wise move that will help businesses and employees thrive, or will it end up doing more harm than good? Here at Alpha North Group, we give you our best by listening to your needs, so we’d love to know what you think. Please share your thoughts in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

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