Ontario, Canada's most populous province and industrial heartland, plans to raise its minimum wage to C$15 ($11.14) an hour by 2019, its premier said on Tuesday, putting it far above the current range for the rest of the country.
Announcing the promised legislation, Premier Kathleen Wynne noted 10 per cent of Ontario workers make minimum wage and 30 per cent make less than $15 an hour.
The minimum wage is now $11.40 an hour but Wynne would not confirm if her government is planning on raising the amount to the $15 unions have been calling for.
Wynne said her government will work with the business communities on measuring the impact of the changes.
Wynne is also hiking employer costs by giving workers more mandatory vacation time and two new paid sick days.
The minimum wage is now set at $11.40 per hour.
-Employers would be required to pay a worker three hours of wages if the employer cancels a shift with less than 48 hours notice.
Although the province will not immediately adopt all of the proposals from the 419-page review prepared by special advisers C. Michael Mitchell and John C. Murray, it will serve as the template for changes.
The impact of the minimum wage increase can't be overstated (pro or con, both workers and businesses are going to have a lot to say), but the suite of other reforms are, collectively, more substantial than anything the Liberals have done in their almost 14 years in power, and will improve things significantly for many Ontario workers.
It's good news for workers, but a group of restaurant owners are calling it the "biggest small business killer in the history of Ontario". While exports and business investments are increasing and the unemployment rate is at a 16-year low, the nature of work has changed.
"We're going to have to look at efficiencies, there are no two ways about", says Ray Skaff, who handles public relations for Gabriel Pizza, "We may have no choice but to pass that along to consumers".
The wage will rise to $14 an hour on January 1, 2018 - six months before what is expected to be a hotly contested Ontario election - and then to the $15 mark that labour groups have long demanded on January 1, 2019.
"We should be making policy, reviewing and changing policy, based on a thorough economic impact analysis, which the province didn't do", said Mishka Balsom, CEO and president of the chamber.
Interestingly one thing the report did not mention was an increase in minimum wage rates.
The local MPP welcomed the proposed expansion of personal emergency leave included in Wynne's announcement.
"We heard that enforcement is key to making this work - so we're stepping that up", said Wynne.
Among other issues, applying a flat increase to the minimum wage rather than gradual increases tied to the consumer Price Index (CPI) would remove the transparency, predictability and fairness that businesses require; this would threaten their ability to expand and maintain their workforce while increasing costs for consumers. "We have to make sure businesses have what they need to keep growing, and we also have to make sure that everyone in the province can benefit from that growth".