The minimum wage in Ontario currently sits at $14.35 per hour. The wage increase will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, giving a raise to over 760,000 workers across the province, Ford said at a press conference in Milton, Ont, alongside Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development, and Peter Bethlenfalvy, minister of finance.
“As the cost of living continues to go up, our government is proud to be working for workers, putting more money into their pockets by increasing the minimum wage,” Ford said.
The Ontario government said in a news release that it will introduce legislation to bring about the wage increase as part of the 2021 Fall Economic Statement. Once passed, a full-time minimum wage worker could get a raise of $1,350 a year, Ford said.
Students under the age of 18 who work 28 hours a week or less will see a wage increase from $13.50 to $14.10 per hour. Hunting and fishing guides and workers who do paid work for employers from their own homes would also receive a raise in their minimum wage.
Bartenders and workers in the hospitality sector would have their minimum wage increased from $12.55 to $15 an hour. Liquor servers previously received rates under the basic minimum wage due to beliefs that tips from customers would make up the difference, the news release said.
Labour leaders including Unifor national president Jerry Dias and OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas welcomed the news.
“Do we still continue to debate over some policy initiatives they’ve implemented that I totally disagree with? The answer is yes,” Dias said.
“But the bottom line is I’m here today, understanding that we’re having a discussion on minimum wage, recognizing that it’s a good start.”
However, several business groups voiced concern that the wage increase comes at the wrong time.
“Many businesses are still grappling with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, including cashflow constraints and the increased cost of doing business,” Rocco Rossi, the president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.
“This is no time to add to their costs.”
Facing similar questions at the press conference, Ford said the wage hike may help attract workers to those sectors short of manpower, and that the government has been supporting small businesses with various subsidies.
“We’re taking care of the businesses, but now, today, we need to take care of the workers,” he said.
In 2018, the former Liberal government pushed the minimum wage up from $11.60 to $14 an hour, and promised a further increase to $15 by 2019, which drew complaints from businesses about the speed of the change. Ford halted the wage hike after he was elected premier that year.
A recent report released by the Ontario Living Wage Network said that the living wage rate—the hourly wage a worker has to earn to cover basic living expenses in a community—is above $15 per hour in all regions across the province.