Ontario's minimum wage rose $1.05 on Sunday to $16.55 an hour. Some Windsorites say the raise is a good start but more is needed — and others think it'll only make business more challenging.
"I think it'll be good especially for people living in more rural areas and places that are kind of less expensive to live in," said Nick Bhumgara. "But especially in … major cities I think it's a little harder for people to even function with $16.55 an hour with prices of living going up
"I think it is a good step in the right direction. But I think that we could do a little bit better."
Abbigale Gooding says she makes minimum wage working with students. She said she's happy the wage is going up — and will put the extra money into saving for her own schooling.
"I think it's a good thing with the inflation happening in Ontario," she said, adding that she'd like to see the wage raised just a little more, to around $17 an hour.
"Inflation has gone up quite a lot since the pandemic."
Justin Falconer is the CEO of Workforce WindsorEssex. He says that because many minimum wage earners can't save saving with a high cost of living, it means much of the wage increase will be circular and felt positively in the economy.
"Employers have been struggling to find workers and having to raise wages anyway," he said.
"There is no doubt some employers are very wage-sensitive…but generally speaking there are a good number of people who earn minimum wage and will spend it in our local economy."
Workforce Windsor-Essex CEO Justin Falconer is pictured in an April 2023 file photo. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)
Right now there are about 10,000 unemployed people in the region, what Falconer said was a pretty low number. Windsor's unemployment rate is 5.8 per cent — a number Falconer said was "uncharacteristically low" and a good sign for Windsor.
"There are still lots of employers looking for minimum wage workers …. I think it's a job-seeker's market at this point."
Richard Lee is the executive director of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, which is headquartered in Leamington.
He says the minimum wage increase will be felt by employers, especially coming out of the pandemic in an industry he says is already struggling.
"Labour is probably the large majority of our costs associated with running a farming operation, along with energy pricing," Lee said. "So an impact or an increase of a dollar to the minimum wage adds a significant increase on our labour costs and that's felt across the board.
"As food costs continue to rise and input costs continue to rise, we really are looking for a better return from our retailers back to our growers so that we can sustain some of these increased costs."
Raising the minimum wage to $16.55 from $15.50 represents a 6.8 per cent increase, and puts Ontario's minimum wage third in the country, behind Yukon and British Columbia with minimums of $16.77 and $16. 75 respectively. According to the province, more than 900,000 people across the province will receive the higher wage.
While the minimum wage came into effect on Sunday, Oct. 1, Falconer said people — employers and employees alike — will feel the increase over the next couple of weeks making up a payroll cycle.
"There are cost pressures everywhere and labour is part of that as well."