$10 wage eventually, McGuinty says
Feb 01, 2007 05:50 PM
Canadian Press/BURLINGTON – Ontario’s minimum wage will eventually reach $10 an hour, but the government won’t bow to pressure from critics and make it happen overnight, Premier Dalton McGuinty said today.
Speaking to the media for the first time since returning from a trade mission to India, McGuinty said today’s 25-cent bump in the minimum wage to $8 an hour fulfils an election promise, and the government will now begin planning for future increases.
“We made a commitment to take it from $6.75 to $8 an hour over the first three years or so of our mandate – we’ve done that,” McGuinty said.
“The issue on a go-forward basis is not whether we get to $10 an hour, the issue is what’s the best way to get there, and can we do so in a way that strikes a balance between our low-income workers and the economy so we’re not compromising jobs.”
McGuinty said the new increase brings Ontario in line with the highest-paying provinces in Canada – although Nunavut’s minimum wage is $8.50 an hour and it’s $8.25 in the Northwest Territories and Yukon – and the government will ensure it stays at a fair level.
The opposition parties and advocacy groups have called for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, but McGuinty said the next hike will not be $2 an hour since the government has never believed in implementing such large one-time increases.
“If you want to take a look at where we’re going in the future … take a look at the past: steady, gradual increases that act to the benefit of employers and employees,” he said.
“Some people say we should accelerate the minimum wage and get it to $10 overnight. Other people are saying, `You should absolutely not do that – you should maintain it at $8 an hour for a couple years at least, because you just raised it by 17 per cent.’ We think that the best path for Ontario probably lies somewhere in between.”
But Ontario’s new minimum wage is still far below what people can reasonably be expected to live on, said Hugh Mackenzie of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“This is a society that places an enormous value on work and … if somebody plays by the rules – you work full-time – you should be able to keep your family out of poverty,” said Mackenzie, who authored a report on minimum wage. “I think most Canadians would agree.”
Mackenzie said he doesn’t believe a higher minimum wage would result in job losses since most low-wage workers are employed in service industries that couldn’t afford to lay off workers and would more likely just raise prices to compete.
All businesses in an industry would be affected by the same increase in payroll, so it wouldn’t create a competitive disadvantage for anyone, he said.
There are an estimated 200,000 Ontario workers earning minimum wage, while 1.2 million make less than $10 an hour.
The lowest minimum wage in Canada is $7 an hour, found in Alberta, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador.