In defense of a 15 dollar minimum wage

Scrapping increased pay would ignore previous hike’s benefits

A protest in favour of a $15 minimum wage.
Supplied via Wikipedia

This coming January, Ontario is set to join Alberta, New York and California in increasing its minimum wage to $15.

In 2017, Maclean’s reported 8.9 per cent of Ontario’s workforce are minimum wage employees—more than any other province in the country. 

Despite this large proportion of minimum wage workers, Ontario had a minimum wage which left plenty of labourers struggling to make ends meet.

In Toronto, I volunteered with the advocacy group Fight for $15 and Fairness—one of the groups that lobbied the Liberal government to not only increase the minimum wage to $15, but also to introduce other long overdue labour rights. 

When the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (Bill 148) passed in 2017, it showed the needs and demands of unions, marginalized groups and young people were finally being heard. The bill was a win for labour rights activists across the province. 

But a lot has changed since 2017. 

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has called for a halt to the minimum wage hike, along with the repeal of many other new labour rights like extended emergency leave and an end to on-call scheduling. Their platform has brought back the question of whether minimum wages should be increased to $15.

When the minimum wage was raised to $14 at the start of 2018, havoc broke loose. TD Bank and Restaurants Canada conducted studies predicting anywhere from 90,000 to 185,000 jobs would be lost, and companies like Tim Hortons kicked the costs down to workers—cutting paid breaks and benefits. 

Nine months later, the Chamber of Commerce continues to argue the minimum wage hike has halted job growth. However, there are numerous other factors which show the otherwise.

Other than an initial dip in employment in January of 2017—the first month where the increased minimum wage was implemented—the $14 hourly pay isn't destroying jobs after all. 

The accommodation and food services industry, a field dominated by minimum wage workers, created an impressive 14,000 new jobs since the minimum wage hike according to Huffington Post Canada

As well, the unemployment rate has dropped to 5.4 per cent—the lowest it’s been in 18 years.

From January to March of 2018—the months immediately following the minimum wage hike—the use of food banks in Toronto dropped by 16,000 visits, according to reports from The Toronto Star

This is the first time in four years there’s been a drop in food bank usage like this, indicating more Ontarians are able to put food on their tables since the wage increase.

Despite these hopeful signs, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has promised to halt the proposed minimum wage hike to $15 an hour and eliminate provincial income tax for minimum wage workers. 

According to Ford’s plan, full-time workers making $14 an hour will receive up to $859 in income tax credits per year. What he fails to mention, is under the former Liberal government’s $15 minimum wage plan, full-time workers would get up to a $1,553 income tax credit.

The Ontario Living Wage Network places the living wage for Toronto at $18.52 an hour. We still have a ways to go before minimum wage workers can survive off of their salary.

In the face of Ford’s proposal to scrap an increase to minimum wage, we must keep in mind the first minimum wage hike from earlier this year has created tangible benefits for the province—and the fact remains 60 per cent of Ontarians want a $15 minimum wage.

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