By Lincoln DePradine
It’s a move, which takes effect Saturday, that would put slightly more money in the pockets of low-wage earners in Ontario, but also could aid the ruling Progress Conservatives as they seek another term as the provincial government.
Premier Doug Ford’s PC Party, as well as his main rivals – the Ontario New Democratic Party headed by Andrea Horwath and the Steven Del Duca-led Ontario Liberal Party – all have been engaged in election preparedness and making campaign pitches throughout 2021.
Campaigning will be taken several notches up as the new year begins and Ontario heads into a general election that will be held on, or before, June 2, 2022.
As of this Saturday, January 1, the general minimum wage in Ontario is moving from $14.35 to $15.00 per hour.
“This will positively impact three-quarters of a million workers,’’ Ontario’s labour minister, Monte McNaughton, said at a recent news conference. “There will be another minimum wage increase in October of next year.’’
Under the changes taking effect from Saturday, students below the age of 18, homeworkers and hunting, fishing and wilderness guides would also see an increase in their special minimum wage rates.
In addition, liquor servers that previously received $12.55 per hour, now would have their pay harmonized at the $15-rate with minimum wage earners in other sectors.
Plans for the minimum wage hike were announced last month by Premier Ford, who said his administration was happy “to be working for workers’’.
“Ontario’s workers have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic, as they’ve stocked shelves, kept our supply chain moving and helped so many of us enjoy a meal among family and friends at a local restaurant,” Ford said. “When we asked labour leaders what their priorities were, increasing the minimum wage was at the top of the list. As the cost of living continues to go up, our government is proud to be working for workers, putting more money into their pockets by increasing the minimum wage.”
McNaughton, who also is the minister responsible for training, skills development and immigration policies, said the intention of the Conservatives is to “build back a better province coming out of the pandemic’’, which has severely disrupted economic and social activities across provinces, states and countries since the worldwide outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020.
McNaughton, as examples, pointed to Ontario’s initiative at more quickly and easily recognizing the foreign credentials of new immigrants in some fields of work such as in engineering, plumbing and teaching; and to the government’s encouraging and inviting thousands more people to seek jobs in construction and the skills’ trades.
“In 2025, one in five jobs in the Province of Ontario will be in the skills’ trades; and, we have this skills’ trades shortage. We have an aging population – one in three journeypersons today is over the age of 55,’’ McNaughton said.
“Everything we’re doing is to build back a better Ontario, a stronger Ontario for everyone; an Ontario, where hard work truly does pay off for people; where the Canadian dream is alive and well.’’