BY ASHLEY KOWITZ
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s recent announcement that the minimum wage in the province will be raised to $11 an hour is good news for students.
It is the first time in four years that it has been hiked, with the increase to take place this June. This will mean Ontario now has the highest minimum wage in Canada along with Nunavut.
According to Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi, one in 10 people are currently earning minimum wage.
Anti-poverty groups wanted an increase to $14 for a full-time worker. This number would be about 10 per cent above the poverty line which stands at $23,000 a year, before taxes.
Wynne said the Liberals will create a plan for minimum wage increases in the future. This will make it easier for businesses to plan for the future hikes and will reduce the chance of a larger hike occurring at one time.
Jamie Monteiro, a second-year international business management student, has been working for minimum wage for the past five years.
“I have found it difficult to spend money on things I want like clothing,” Monteiro said. “I am happy with the money that I have now, but at times it can be stressful especially if something happens to my car and I need to fix it.”
Monteiro is aware that the increase has both positive and negative points.
However, she said it is important for people who are working for minimum wage to have their pay keep up with the cost of living.
Gabriel Silva, a first-year supply chain and operations management student at Conestoga College, said there are two reasons why the rise in minimum wage might not be the simple answer.
“First, small business won’t be able to afford the rise in minimum wage which would lead them to reduce jobs. Second, both small and big business won’t assimilate the rise and will instead pass it on to the consumer with an increased markup in their products,” Silva said.
Liberals said both groups were taken into account when they planned the minimum wage increase.
“In this calculus, we need to be concerned about small businesses … At the same time, we have to balance that with the need for people to have a living wage,” Wynne told The Globe and Mail on Jan. 30.
“We have to take care of people. The fairness agenda, as I have talked about many times, is for me an integral part of our economic well-being.”