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Doug Ford to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, sources say


Doug Ford to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, sources say

Premier Doug Ford is raising Ontario’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, the Star has learned.

Ford, who cancelled a planned 2019 hike to $15-an-hour after his Progressive Conservatives took power three years ago, will increase it from $14.35 on Jan. 1, sources say.

The premier will also boost to $15 the current $12.55 “liquor servers minimum wage” paid to bartenders and wait staff who earn tips from their customers.

After that, the hourly minimum wage will rise at the rate of inflation each October.

“This is helping wages to catch up to inflation and it’s the right thing to do,” said a senior government official, speaking confidentially in order to discuss internal deliberations.

“Inflation is high now, so the Jan. 1 increase will help workers on the lowest end of the pay scale. They have really taken it on the chin during the pandemic,” the insider said.

“We are doing a lot for businesses, but helping workers is important, too.”

Cabinet approved the changes at 4 p.m. Monday.

Ford, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy will make the official announcement on Tuesday morning.

It comes two days before Bethlenfalvy tables his fall economic statement, which will be a mini-budget, and a month after the $14.25 minimum wage rose by a dime on Oct. 1.

In the legislature on Monday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath scolded for Ford for calling the $15 minimum wage “a job killer” in 2019.

“May I remind this premier that he said no to a $15 minimum wage three years ago? It was one of the first big nos that he said to the workers of this province,” said Horwath.

“And as a result, workers have lost out on $5,300 since he said no to them back then,” she said.

In 2017, former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne increased the $11.40-an-hour minimum wage to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018.

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Under Wynne’s plan it was to rise to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019 and then be tied to inflation.

It would be $15.75 now if that had happened.

But her Liberals were defeated in the June 2018 election and Ford froze the wage at $14 out of concern for businesses. It went up to $14.25 in October 2020.

Three years ago, the premier said scrapping the $1 hike — and eliminating two paid sick days for Ontario workers — was necessary to help business.

“These forces are already organizing and preparing to spend a lot of money to try to stop us,” Ford said at the time, apparently referring to some labour leaders he has since tried to cultivate as allies.

“We’re prepared for the fight ahead and today … my ask of the (Ontario Chamber of Commerce), of big and small businesses, of entrepreneurs, of skilled trades people, of colleges, of pro-job labour unions, of young people trying to get into skilled trades, is to keep it up,” he said three years ago.

“You know that I’m here to fight for the little guy. I’m here to fight for that job that was previously out of reach. Because, unlike the Liberals and the NDP, we believe that when business succeeds, workers succeed, families succeed (and) communities succeed.”

But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation has increased and Ontario has a labour shortage with some 300,000 jobs unfilled.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca suggested on Twitter that “Ontario’s minimum wage earners have lost $6,200 since Doug Ford froze wages in 2018.”

“This money (could have) gone to rent, tuition, bill payments, child care and more, but instead Ontario’s workers fell behind under (Ford),” wrote Del Duca.

The Tories’ move comes with a provincial election looming on June 2.

In recent weeks, the labour minister has been increasing job protections for workers.

“Everything Premier Ford and our government is doing is driving paycheques up in this province,” McNaughton told the legislature Monday.

“We’re bringing in historic workplace protections for workers in this province and we’re spreading opportunity to every worker in this province.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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