Toronto

Ontario will boost minimum wage to $15 in 2022, Ford says

The Ontario government will raise the province's minimum wage to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2022, Premier Doug Ford announced Tuesday morning.

The current minimum wage in Ontario is $14.35

Ontario premier Doug Ford announces an increase to the minimum wage to $15 an hour at a press conference in Milton, Ont., on Tuesday, November 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The Ontario government will raise the province's minimum wage to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2022, Premier Doug Ford announced Tuesday morning.

Ford made the announcement at a Unifor meeting hall in Milton, Ont., and said it will benefit an estimated 760,000 people across the province.

"Workers deserve to have more money in their pockets," Ford said. 

Asked by a reporter if he could live on $15 per hour, Ford admitted it's not enough. "It's a start," he said.

Currently, the minimum wage in Ontario is $14.35.

Ford confirmed what sources told Radio-Canada late Monday: that the government will also hike the $12.55 minimum wage for workers who serve alcohol and receive tips to $15.

Following these increases, the minimum wage will increase every October according to the inflation rate.

The minimum wage was last increased by 10 cents on Oct. 1.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias said he'd like to see Ontario move toward a living wage, but hailed today's announcement as a positive step. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Jerry Dias, Unifor's national president, said his union has had frustrating conversations with the government but described today's announcement as a victory. "Today is a good start," he said, noting a desire remains to move toward a living wage, which varies city to city but is about $22 per hour in Toronto.

Warren "Smokey" Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, also said there have been "bumps" in his union's relationship with the government but said things have improved during the pandemic. 

"Do working people have everything we want? No," he said.

"But we have a government that is listening" and doing positive things for working people, he said.

Ford, his labour minister and the treasury board secretary all took turns saying the Progressive Conservative government is "working for workers" — part of its ongoing efforts to win the support of labourers ahead of next June's election.

However, the opposition continues to criticize the government's record.

Ontario's NDP issued a news release shortly before Ford's news conference saying the government should do more.

"By cancelling the planned $15 minimum wage three years ago, Doug Ford has taken more than $5,300 out of the pockets of Ontario workers to date. The cost of everything has skyrocketed since then — like housing, auto insurance, food and gas — and $15 an hour isn't nearly enough anymore," it said via email.

Business groups upset they weren't consulted

Two business groups also criticized the announcement — but from a different perspective than the NDP.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the government's move, which it wasn't consulted on, comes "at the worst possible time" for small businesses.

Ontario is also set to hike the $12.55 minimum wage for workers who serve alcohol and receive tips. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

"We urge the Ontario government to reconsider the timing of its proposal, conduct an economic impact analysis and consult with the small business community on the best path forward," it said in a statement.

Rocco Rossi, chair of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, also issued a news release expressing disappointment businesses weren't asked about the change.

"Many businesses are still grappling with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, including cashflow constraints and the increased cost of doing business; this is no time to add to their costs. The way the proposed changes are being implemented, leaving employers with less than two months to plan, will have considerable administrative and financial impact amidst a pandemic and after 20 months of duress."

Ford government previously scrapped planned increase

Shortly after winning the election in 2018, the Ford government froze the hourly minimum wage at $14, scrapping legislation that would have pushed it to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019. The freeze stayed in place until October 2020, when an increase of 25 cents per hour took effect. 

The sharpest increase in the minimum wage in Ontario's history came in late 2017 and early 2018, as the then-Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne boosted the rate by $2.40 an hour over a period of a few months .  

According to the latest Statistics Canada estimate available, from the month of August, around 500,000 employees in Ontario are earning the minimum wage or less.

A 2017 report by the Ontario legislature's Financial Accountability Office estimated there would have been 1.6 million workers in the province earning minimum wage if the rate had been pushed to $15 an hour in 2019.  

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