Ontario raises minimum wage to $11/hour, the highest in the country

The 500,000 or so minimum wage earners in Ontario are about to get a raise.

On Thursday, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that as of June 1, the lowest paid workers in that province will get paid $11/hour, a $0.75 increase from the current rate.

"Increasing the minimum wage will help improve the standard of living for hardworking people across the province, while ensuring that businesses have the predictability necessary to plan for the future," the premier said in a press release.

The increase, according to the governing Liberals, is equivalent to the Ontario’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) since the last increase on March 31, 2010.

It follows 6 months of consultation with business, non-profit, and anti-poverty organizations.

[ Related: Do workers have the right to a living wage? ]

Despite the extensive consultation, the decision seems to be an unpopular one.

Anti-poverty activists argue that a 75 cent raise is not nearly enough.

"An $11 minimum wage still keeps a full-time full-year minimum wage earner below the poverty line in Ontario," Trish Hennessy of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives told Yahoo Canada News.

"Can this government really expect Ontarians to believe that this is part of its poverty reduction strategy?

"One panel. Six months of community consultations. Result: the promise of a 75 cent raise for the lowest paid workers in Ontario. The business lobby remains alive and well in Ontario today."

[ Related: Should Canada raise the minimum wage? ]

The move isn't likely to please the 'business lobby' either.

In an email exchange with Yahoo on Thursday morning, the Fraser Institute's Charles Lammam said that raising minimum wages is bad for businesses, bad for the economy and bad for low-wage workers.

"By raising the minimum wage, the Ontario government is making it harder for young Ontarians to find jobs. When governments impose a wage floor higher than what would prevail in a competitive market, employers find ways to operate with fewer workers," Lammam wrote.

"We must move away from the emotional arguments and good intentions and look to the evidence on minimum wages. The evidence is clear: minimum wage hikes reduce employment opportunities for workers with less qualifications and experience."

Lammam argues that the increase in salary simply doesn't help 'the poor.'

"The overwhelming majority find negative effects on youth employment and no effect on poverty reduction," he said.

"The bulk of those working for the minimum wage do not actually belong to low-income households. In Ontario the vast majority (81.5%) live in households with incomes above measures of relative poverty."

Current minimum wages in Canada:

Alberta: $9.95
British Columbia: $10.25
Manitoba: $10.45
New Brunswick: $10.00
Newfoundland and Labrador: $10.00
Northwest Territories: $10.00
Nova Scotia: $10.30
Nunavut: $11.00
Ontario: $10.25
Prince Edward Island: $10.00
Quebec: $10.15
Saskatchewan: $10.00
Yukon: $10.54

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