Local pressure to raise Ontario’s minimum wage

Local supporters of the drive to increase Ontario’s minimum wage are meeting to call for more action.

A forum being held Tuesday, sponsored by the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and Hamilton Organizing for Poverty Elimination (HOPE), is designed to let local supporters voice opinions they were denied the chance to share at a provincial panel.

The panel held “consultations” in eight communities across the province but did not come to Hamilton. Its goal is to bring recommendations on raising the wage to the provincial government by the end of the year.

Joining the discussion will be Deena Ladd from the Workers’ Action Centre; Kaylie Tiessen, an economist from the Ontario office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, who recently co-authored an important report on minimum wage; and Adam Vasey, a member of the minimum wage review panel and director at Windsor’s Pathway to Potential.

The forum also hopes to hear from individuals who work at low-paying jobs and how their lives might be different if minimum wages were increased.

Ontario’s minimum wage of $10.25 an hour hasn’t been increased since 2010. Supporters say raising it to $14 an hour would allow a single person working full-time to live about 10 per cent above Ontario’s poverty line.

“Thirty-thousand workers in Hamilton have jobs, but live in poverty — we believe that work should be a route out of poverty,” HOPE co-ordinator Deirdre Pike said.

Several recent studies and reports have pressed the argument that raising the wage of Canada’s lowest-paid workers is a question of justice as well as economics.

In October, for example, the Wellesley Institute said the number of people earning the lowest wage has more than doubled from 4.3 per cent to 9 per cent since 2003. Also that month, the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton reported working 35 hours a week at minimum wage produces an income of $18,655 a year. That’s $3,000 a year less than the Low Income Measure.

Ontario’s minimum wage was stuck at $6.85 an hour for eight years until the Liberals were elected in 2003. Between 2004 and 2010, they raised it to $10.25 an hour, but it has been frozen since.

What: Raise the Wage forum
When: Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hamilton Public Library Central Branch, Hamilton Room, 55 York Blvd.