Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday November 3, 2021

Doug Ford’s minimum wage move signals it’s election time in Ontario

Here’s what’s happened to the minimum wage in Ontario since Premier Doug Ford took office: 

• 2018: 0 per cent increase.
• 2019: 0 per cent increase.
• 2020: 1.8 per cent increase (up 25 cents to $14.25/hr). 
• 2021: 0.7 per cent increase (up 10 cents, to $14.35/hr).

That record is just one reason why many in this province were both surprised by and skeptical of Ford’s campaign-style announcement Tuesday that his government will boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour effective Jan. 1, 2022. 

The date is precisely three years after Ontario’s minimum wage was due to hit $15/hour under legislation brought in by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government. Back in 2018, Ford slammed that bill as “job killing,” his government repealed it and also froze the minimum wage for two years. 

Given all that, it’s only natural that Ford was grilled by reporters at Tuesday’s news conference on why a minimum wage hike that he considered such a job killer then is great now. 

“Things were a lot different back in 2018,” Ford told the news conference. “We didn’t have the pandemic, a worldwide pandemic.” 

How different were things in 2018? Not only did Ford’s government freeze the minimum wage, it also took away a guarantee of two paid sick days annually for all employees, scrapped an equal-pay-for-equal-work law and eliminated rules making it easier for workers in some sectors to join unions.

None of this was reflected in Ford’s tone or words at Tuesday’s news conference. “This government will always remain on the side of the workers,” he said.

I wrote two weeks ago about how Ford and the Progressive Conservatives are attempting a political makeover ahead of the election next June 2 by portraying themselves as pro-worker. Tuesday’s announcement further proves that this is a key piece of the PCs’ strategy for winning re-election.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) didn’t see the minimum wage hike coming, calling it ‘unexpected’ in a news release. 

“The Ontario government’s surprise decision to increase the minimum wage without consultation comes at the worst possible time for small businesses,” said a statement from CFIB president Dan Kelly. (CBC) https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/doug-ford-ontario-minimum-wage-15-1.6234086

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