Plan to increase Ontario's minimum wage draws criticism
Ontario's premier has drawn sharp criticism over her recent announcement to significantly increase the minimum wage in the province. Some business leaders and political opponents say the move is nothing more than electioneering.
Premier Kathleen Wynne plans to increase Ontario's minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next 18 months, up from the current $11.60.
Wynne's recent announcement is part of a package of major changes to the province's labor laws.
"We are in competition with New York. We are in competition with San Francisco. Those are jurisdictions that are moving to a $15 minimum wage. We need to be world-class and we need to be competitive with those jurisdictions," Wynne said.
New York will gradually phase in a $15 an hour minimum wage for parts of the state by 2021.
The reaction from Wynne's political opponents has been harsh. There will be a provincial election in Ontario before the minimum wage reaches $15 and Andrea Horvath, the leader of the New Democratic Party, says the announcement is about shoring up votes.
"It's always about them and their political fortunes and what works for them politically. For 14 years they've done nothing to address the erosion of people's standard of living, of the minimum wage, of the quality of work," Horvath said.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce says a 32 percent increase in the minimum wage in only a year-and-a-half will especially hurt small businesses.
"That's an incredible burden for many businesses to contend with, but at no point in this process has the government said what will be the specific economic impact of these changes on the Ontario economy. Our message is that this will be extremely dangerous," said the chamber's Karl Baldauf.
Labor groups however are welcoming the changes, saying they will bring relief to the more than 1.7 million people in Ontario who make less than $15 an hour.
Other labor changes in the announcement include better compensation for part time work and increased vacation benefits. There will also be fairer rules for scheduling and personal emergency leave.