A group of health-care professionals is urging the Ontario government to raise the minimum wage to $14 from $10.25 an hour, saying poverty is a real health issue, especially for children.
Doctors, nurses and other members of Health Providers Against Poverty say stress from living in poverty releases chemicals in the body that inhibit brain growth in infants and children.
Nurse Lorraine Telford says there's a noticeable difference for children meeting their developmental milestones and for school readiness in communities where there is more poverty.
She says "one in four children arrive set up to fail in school."
Dr. Gary Block, a family physician at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, says he understands small businesses worry a hike in the minimum wage would drive up costs and force them to cut staff.
But Block says he wants to shine a light on the fact most minimum wage workers in Canada are employed by large, multi-national corporations.
The group says hiking the minimum wage to $14 an hour would mean a pre-tax difference of $650 a month, which they note would be spent locally.
Statistics Canada data show nine per cent of Ontario's workforce was working for minimum wage in 2011, more than double the number from 2003.