Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a plan to increase the provincial minimum wage to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2019. 

The increase would be phased in over the next 18 months, rising to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and then to $15 the following January. 

After that, it will rise annually with inflation. 

"People are working longer, jobs are less secure, benefits are harder to come by and protections are fewer and fewer," said Wynne. "In a time of change like this, when the very nature of work is being transformed, we need to make certain that our workers are treated fairly." 

Currently, Ontario's minimum wage is $11.40 an hour.

Across Canada, the current minimum ranges from $10.72 in Saskatchewan to $13 in Nunavut. Alberta became the first province to pass a $15 hourly wage in September 2016, but it doesn't go into effect until October 2018.  

Part of larger proposed legislation to provide more worker security

The wage increase is part of a larger piece of proposed legislation: The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which aims to better protect part-time or contract workers. 

Among the proposed changes are the requirement that after five years with the same employer, the minimum vacation entitlement for workers would rise to three weeks per year.

All workers would also be given 10 personal emergency leave days a year, and a minimum of two of those days must be paid. (Currently, only employees of large companies are entitled to this.) 

Employers would not be allowed to request a sick note from an employee taking personal emergency leave. 

Many of the changes address shift work in particular. The proposed legislation says employers would be required to pay three hours of wages to an employee whose shift is cancelled with less than 48 hours notice, and that employees would be able to refuse shifts without repercussion if given less than four days notice.

The proposed legislation also says: 

  • Equal pay would be mandated for part-time workers doing the same job as a full-time workers.
  • Employers would be prohibited from misclassifying employees as "independent contractors."
  • Rules for creating a union would be modernized, including the extension of card-based certification to temporary workers, building services workers and community care workers.  

The act also lays out a plan to hire 175 more employment standards officers, and launch an education program for employees and business owners to help them learn about their rights and responsibilities.

minimum wage graphic

(Natalie Holdway/CBC)

Proposed changes response to report

Wynne made Tuesday's announcement in response to a government-commissioned report released last week that included 173 recommendations addressing precarious work.

The Changing Workplaces review concluded that new technology, a shrinking manufacturing sector and fewer union jobs, among other factors, have left about a third of Ontario's 6.6 million workers vulnerable.

The report didn't examine the minimum wage, but Wynne says raising it will make a difference in millions of people's lives.

Wynne addresses opposition

The move to raise wages in Ontario has faced stiff opposition from small business operators and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, who argue that the move will lead to layoffs and fewer employees being hired.

Wynne touched on that opposition in her announcement, saying the province will work with small businesses "from now until Jan. 1 to make sure they are supported as these changes come into effect."

In an interview with CBC Toronto on Monday, Wynne said the provincial economy is doing well enough to handle a significant wage boost.

On Tuesday, she also said the provincial economy "is in a good place."

Statistics Canada reports that 9.2 per cent of Ontario's workforce — about 540,000 people — earn minimum wage.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of the graphic in this story extrapolated the wrong figures for the monthly and yearly incomes for the three scenarios depicted. The graphic has since been corrected.
    May 30, 2017 4:04 PM ET