Ontario government announces it will raise minimum wage to $15 by 2019

By: Dominic Licorish on May 30, 2017

The Ontario government is bringing in a slew of changes to the province's labour rules, including lifting the current minimum wage from $11.40 to $15 over the next two years.

In a Tuesday press release, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that the province will increase the minimum wage to $14 an hour on January 1, 2018 and once again to $15 on Jan 1, 2019. Furthermore, the government has promised to ensure equal pay for part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers doing the same job as full-timers, and for the first time ever, paid sick days for all workers.

The full summary of new measures includes:

  • A minimum wage hike of $15 by January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases to keep pace with inflation

  • Mandating equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal workers doing the same work as full-time workers; and equal pay for temporary employees doing the same job as permanent employees

  • Mandating a minimum of at least two days of paid personal emergency leave per year for all workers

  • Mandating at least three weeks' vacation after five years with a company

  • Employees will be entitled to three hours of pay if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time

According to the press release, the province will also propose measures to expand family leave and crack down on workers being classified as independent contractors so people get the benefits they deserve. To enforce these changes, the province will hire as many as 175 employment standards officers and implement an education program for both employees and small and medium-sized employers.

These changes are sure to make a significant impact on cost of living in the province, especially in Toronto, where many young people struggle with the high costs of shelter, schooling, childcare, or any combination of financial challenges. The precarious nature of work in the province has helped foster a culture that encourages higher workloads, overtime, secondary jobs, or self-employment as necessary sources of income.

However, some critics believe that raising minimum wages won’t solve anyone’s problems and will instead simply make life harder for everyone else. The argument is that if grocery stores, restaurants, and other such businesses, who typically pay employees minimum wage, are suddenly forced to pay them more, their business will be forced to raise prices to absorb the cost, raising the cost of living in general and nullifying the advantage of the increased wage.

It also may cause companies to have to let workers go to stay within their profit margins, a concern people had last year as the province of Alberta decided to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2018.

Time has yet to tell what the higher minimum wage might mean for Ontarians, but the increased worker rights should result in overall better quality of life for the workers who need it most.