After previously slamming Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government's plans to raise the province's minimum wage to $15 an hour and calling it "job killing," Premier Doug Ford has changed his tune.
On Tuesday, Ford announced the Ontario government will now raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour on January 1, 2022 -- a move he says will benefit an estimated 760,000 people.
Over the past three years, Ontario workers haven't seen much in terms of improvement when it comes to their wages. After becoming premier in 2018, the Ford government repealed Wynne's plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and then froze the minimum wage at $14 for two years.
In 2020, Ford raised the minimum wage 1.8% -- up 25 cents to $14.25/hr -- and then by 0.7% in 2021 -- up 10 cents to $14.35/hr.
The Ford government said it's introducing legislation to increase minimum wages now as the cost of living has increased considerably over the past several months, but wages for many have not been able to keep up with the pace.
"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," said Ford.
Following Ford's announcement, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said it didn't see the minimum wage hike coming, calling it "unexpected."
"The Ontario government's surprise decision to increase the minimum wage without consultation comes at the worst possible time for small businesses," said a statement from CFIB president Dan Kelly.
CFIB said it is particularly concerned that Ontario is scrapping the separate, lower minimum wage for restaurant and bar staff who serve liquor. That will give them an increase of $2.40 an hour on January 1.
"It is particularly concerning that the government has chosen to give restaurants -- one of the hardest-hit and longest-shuttered sectors during the pandemic -- 60 days’ notice of a 20% increase ($2.45) to the liquor servers’ wage," said Kelly.
Ontario opposition parties also weren't impressed by Ford's minimum wage increase announcement, with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath calling it an "election ploy"
"Ontario needs a government that stands with working folks before and after an election. $15/hr just won’t cut it. People deserve a wage that returns the $5,300 Doug Ford stole and allows them to build a decent life -- not a cynical, last-minute election ploy," said Horwath.
Unsurprisingly, Ford has since been grilled by reporters on why a minimum wage hike he once considered a job killer is a great idea now. When asked by a reporter if he could live on $15 per hour, Ford admitted it's not enough. "It's a start," he said.
While Ford may consider $15 "a start," it falls short of being considered a living wage. This week, the Ontario Living Wage Network revealed what is considered a living wage in 23 regions in the province -- with all regions sitting far above the current minimum wage of $14.35/hr.
The new data puts the living wage in Sault St Marie at $16.20/hr, Peel Region at $19.80, Hamilton at $17.20, Guelph at $18.10, and Toronto at $22.08.
In no Ontario community does $15 an hour provide a liveable wage.
Keep in mind that a living wage is not the same as the minimum wage, which is the legislated minimum all employers must pay and is set by the provincial government
The Ontario Living Wage Network defines a living wage as "the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community."
The living wage includes basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter, childcare, transportation, medical expenses, recreation, and a "modest" vacation. It does not include retirement savings, debt repayment, homeownership, savings for children’s education, anything other than the smallest cushion for emergencies or hard times.
To determine the living wage rates, the network crunches and averages costs for a single adult, a single parent, and a family of four.
|COMMUNITY||LIVING WAGE RATE|
|Leeds, Grenville, Lanark Counties||$18.25|
|Perth and Huron Counties||$17.95|
|Sault Ste. Marie||$16.20|
Ontario Living Wage Network says since it last made calculations in 2019, new policies providing support for families with children have been introduced by the provincial government. Combined with changing family demographics, expenses for a reference family of four are no longer the most representative for living wage calculations in Ontario.
"New supports for families with children meant that living wage calculations were coming back with reductions over the 2019 rates. Yet, we all know the cost of living has not gone down. Inflation has quadrupled since the beginning of 2019 and is at an 18-year high. Our calculation was no longer reflecting reality."
The network says the 2021 living wage rates reflect changing demographics in the province and increases in inflation to accurately reflect the realities of costs in Ontario.