TORONTO – The benefits of Ontario’s renewed economic growth are not shared evenly across the province, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Monday as she planned to announce a raise to minimum wage as well as much anticipated changes to labour laws.
Wynne and Labour Minister Kevin Flynn are scheduled to make the announcements Tuesday morning.
“Now that we have an economy that really is doing so well, and is leading, we can now distribute that well-being a bit better,” she told The Canadian Press in an interview. “I just came back from (Ontario’s) northeast, and there are parts of the province and there are groups within the population who just are not feeling the benefit of the economy doing well.”
Wynne would not confirm if her government is planning to raise the minimum wage – which is currently $11.40 an hour and adjusted for inflation – to $15, as labour groups have been calling for.
The changes to provincial labour laws come in response to a government-commissioned report – released last week – that made 173 recommendations aimed at creating better workplaces with decent working conditions.
The report concluded that new technology, a shrinking manufacturing sector and fewer union jobs, among other factors, have left approximately one-third of Ontario’s 6.6 million workers vulnerable.
Wynne said the goal is to deal with the precarious nature of modern work, which she defines as more short-term contracts, more part-time jobs, and less predictable scheduling. She said workers will feel a change in their everyday lives once the labour law changes have been made.
“They’ll feel more certain and they’ll feel less anxious because they’ll have a little bit more predictability in their lives, and that has a ripple effect into the lives of their families,” she said.
Business groups in the province, including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, have expressed concerns about the cost to business of the potential labour law changes and a higher minimum wage. They have called on the Liberal government not to proceed without first studying the economic impact of the changes recommended in the report.
Wynne said her government will work with the business communities on measuring the impact of the changes.
“We want our businesses to be competitive,” she said. “But we also know that if people are better able to look after their families, or if people are able to have a decent job, that’s good for communities and that’s good for business.”