Canada’s Ontario province plans to raise minimum wage to C$15 per hour

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO (Reuters) – Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and industrial heartland, plans to raise its minimum wage to C$15 ($11.14) an hour by 2019, its premier said on Tuesday, putting it far above the current range for the rest of the country.

The provincial Liberal government, which is lagging in polls ahead of an election next year, plans to phase in the increase from the current C$11.40 an hour.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said the minimum wage would rise to C$14.00 on Jan. 1, 2018, and climb to C$15 on Jan. 1, 2019.

“It has always been a challenge to raise a family on a minimum wage job … but in recent years it has become almost impossible,” Wynne said. “Increasing the minimum wage will make a world of difference in millions of lives.”

Canada’s minimum wage currently ranges from C$10.72 to C$13 provincially. Energy heavyweight Alberta is planning to raise its minimum wage to C$15 by 2018.

“Raising the minimum wage is one tool that a government can use to help those who are struggling to get by,” Hank Beekhuis, a director at CLAC Ontario, an independent labor union, said.

The economy of Ontario, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product, grew 2.7 percent in 2016, helped by low oil prices, a weak Canadian dollar and a red-hot housing market.

The province’s unemployment rate has fallen to 5.8 percent in April from 9.6 percent during the global recession. But businesses faced with increased wage costs could respond by hiring fewer workers or raising prices.

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