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Ontario raising minimum wage to $11/hr

The Ontario Liberal government is raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour as of June 1.

Premier Kathleen Wynne made the announcement at a news conference in Toronto on Thursday morning.

The 75-cent-rate increase is the first rate change since 2010, when the Liberal government froze it at $10.25 an hour.

The government will introduce legislation to tie future increases to the Consumer Price Index, which was a key recommendation of Ontario’s Minimum Wage Advisory Panel.

The new rate would be announced on April 1 of each year and take effect on Oct. 1.

Moreover, the rate will not go down even if the cost of living decreases.

“We want to ensure that minimum wage keep up with the cost of living, so that we can improve the standard of living for hard-working people, many of whom will be working a couple of jobs,” the premier said.

Wynne was asked if she thought the move will be supported by everyone.

“I think that the vast majority of people in Ontario understand that it’s very difficult to make ends meet living on minimum wage and that there needs to be a fair way of allowing minimum wage to keep up with the cost of living,” she said.

Although anti-poverty activists and labour groups were hoping for $14/hr, Wynne said she was worried about the impact such a large hike would have on businesses.

“So that’s why I believe that this is a fair adjustment to the minimum wage and it gives businesses predictability. The thing I hear from the business community most consistently is that they want to know what the rules are, they want to know what the next step is going to be, and this will give them that predictability.”

Wynne also said the Conservative Party “doesn’t seem to care” about people of all income levels and that the NDP doesn’t seem to have a position on the issue.

In July 2013, the province launched an advisory panel to review its minimum wage rates. It received over 400 submissions from organizations, businesses and individuals across the province, and held 10 public consultations on the issue.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) warned that hiking the minimum wage hurts low-skilled, low-income workers — the very group it’s supposed to help — because it forces small firms to absorb the cost through reduced hours or job cuts.

The $10.25-an-hour rate in Ontario and British Columbia is about middle of the pack for provinces and territories, which range from $9.95 in Alberta to $11 in Nunavut. Click here for a list of hourly wages in provinces and territories.

Ontario also has a $9.60/hr minimum wage for students under 18 working less than 28 hours a week, and a $8.90/hr minimum for liquor servers.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CFRA) warns the hike in minimum wage will mean fewer jobs for young people.

The association said it’s onside with a one-time increase, but it doesn’t support tying future increases to the rate of inflation.

The CFRA said it will increase costs to the industry by $287 million, at a time when restaurant and bar owners are being hit with a slew of other cost increases.

It also said Ontario restaurants employ 200,000 people under the age of 25, and that making restaurants and bars pay more will translate into fewer available jobs.

With files from The Canadian Press, Kevin Misener, 680News and Erin Criger, CityNews.ca

Minimum wage date for adults across Canada from 1997-2013, courtesy StatsCan

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