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Ontario to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour

Christian Fernsby |
As part of the 2021 Fall Economic Statement, the Ontario government will introduce legislation that, if passed, would raise the general minimum wage from $14.35 to $15.00 per hour effective January 1, 2022.

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Under the proposed changes, the special minimum wage rate for liquor servers would be eliminated and they would be entitled to the general minimum wage. Students under 18, homeworkers and hunting, fishing and wilderness guides would also see an increase in their special minimum wage rates.

Liquor servers have previously received below the general minimum wage, based on the belief customer tipping can make up the difference.

However, many of these workers have increasingly seen their tips pooled and redistributed among many staff, making it harder for them to make ends meet. If the legislation is passed, liquor servers would be treated more fairly and see an unprecedented 19.5 per cent increase in their minimum hourly wage, as it changes from $12.55 per hour to the harmonized $15 per hour minimum wage.

The Ontario government is introducing legislation to increase minimum wages as the cost of living has increased considerably over the past several months, but wages for many have not kept pace.

Special minimum wage rates are also proposed to increase:

• Students under the age of 18 who work 28 hours a week or less when school is in session, or work during a school break or summer holidays would see an increase from $13.50 to $14.10 an hour.

• Homeworkers (those who do paid work out of their own homes for employers) would see an increase from $15.80 an hour to $16.50 an hour.

• Hunting and fishing guides currently have a minimum rate of $71.75 for working less than five consecutive hours in a day, and $143.55 for working five or more hours in a day. Their new proposed rate would be $75.00 for working less than five consecutive hours in a day, and $150.05 for working five or more hours in a day.

Feed Ontario welcomes the Government of Ontario’s announcement of a planned wage increase.

While appreciative of these initial changes, Feed Ontario acknowledges that a $15 minimum wage still does not provide full time Ontario workers with sufficient income to afford today’s cost of living.

This is particularly worrying as Ontario has the highest rate of minimum wage workers of any province in Canada at 15 percent.

Further, the rise in precarious work has driven more workers to food banks with the proportion of food bank visitors with employment income rising by 44 percent in the four years leading up to the pandemic.

Feed Ontario is also disappointed to see other key areas of affordability not addressed in the Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review and the Working for Workers Act, including no additional investments in social assistance or new investments in social housing and childcare.

Rates for Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) have both remained frozen (at $733 and $1,169 respectively) since 2018. With the cost of living increasing annually and more significantly throughout this pandemic, this makes it even more difficult for program recipients to afford daily necessities each month.

This is reflected in Ontario’s food bank use data, with two thirds of food bank users citing social assistance as their primary source of income.

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