Ontario’s Liberal government promised the voters, taxpayers and workers of the province a serious review of the minimum wage in their 2011 budget. Today a six-member panel left the runway with instructions to look at all angles of the issue and report back in six months. The panel was not given front-page treatment exactly but it was not ignored either. “Long awaited” appears all over the coverage of the announcement of the panel. Indeed.
Millions of people are in minimum wage employment in Ontario and they and their families, friends and political allies will be very interested in what does, or does not, come out of this effort. Ontario has been winging it for decades in regard to the minimum wage, dragging its heels about increases and then lunging forward belatedly in the 2000s. Pressure exists to see the minimum wage boosted from $10.25 per hour to $14.00. That means more money for everything from diapers to bus tickets in the hands of working people. Would someone like to argue with that?
No doubt, there will be resistance and reaction to better minimum wages. Anil Verma, a human resources academic from the Rotman School of Business, will lead the panel and he has already made statements in the media that indicate a cautious approach, hint at disappointment in fact, for advocates of a $14.00 minimum wage. Verma seems to be emphasising the macroeconomic effect of minimum wage increases, their effect on job creation and growth. He pointed out to the Toronto Star that the minimum wage is not a comprehensive tool for addressing poverty and other mechanisms are available for that. Fair enough, but hopefully this committee will not just repackage shallow, neoconservative aphorisms and will become educated about the harm done to Ontario when large masses of her people do no more than scrape by on poor wages.
Two major things ought to find their way into legislation that are within the scope of the panel. First off, that raise to $14.00 per hour. Secondly, a rational mechanism attaching further increases to real-world living costs. No more winging it, Ontario.
Of note is that a poverty activist from Windsor, ON will sit on the committee: Adam Vasey from Pathway to Potential. Here is a short item from that agency regarding that appointment and with a link to the Labour Ministry news release announcing the panel. P2P
image: Queen’s Park, Toronto by K.lee via Wikimedia Commons with edit