Regional wages? Or a $20 minimum wage for all?

May 23, 2022

Many people we’re talking to are keen to understand what the different political parties are offering when it comes to Ontario's minimum wage.

As it stands, we have a stark choice: a $20 minimum wage for all; regional wage schemes where some of us are paid less for doing the same work depending on where we live; or nothing at all. 

Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario: Nothing at all

Contrary to media spin, Doug Ford’s Conservative Party has promised nothing on the minimum wage. 

Ford claims he’ll raise the minimum wage to $15.50 this October 1. But let’s be clear: the $15.50 is not a new election promise. Rather, Section 23.1(4) of the Employment Standards Act requires any Ontario government to adjust the minimum wage every October 1 to keep up with rising prices. This is the law that we, as Ontario workers, already fought for and won! 

In fact, had Doug Ford not cancelled our $15 minimum wage that should have taken effect on January 1, 2019 our minimum wage would have been $16.30 this October 1.

New Democratic Party of Ontario: $20 minimum wage

The Ontario New Democratic Party is calling for a phased-in $20 minimum wage.

Under this plan, the minimum wage will increase by $2 in the first 11 months, becoming $16 on October 1 and $17 on May 1, 2023. It will then rise by $1 every year after, reaching $20 on May 1, 2026. After which, the minimum wage will be indexed to inflation.

Ontario Liberal Party: $16 and consultations

The Ontario Liberal Party has committed to increasing the minimum wage to $16 and engaging in further consultations on regional minimum wages.

We believe this is problematic for 4 reasons. 

1) If the previous Liberal government's $15 minimum wage had not been cancelled by Ford, the Liberal Party’s own policy would have resulted in a $16.30 minimum wage this October. Promising only $16 in 2022 is less than what the previous Liberal government had committed to.

2) Spending more time consulting is totally unnecessary. The vast majority of Ontarians already know we need legislation to raise the minimum wage as soon as possible. We need wages that will lift us out of poverty. 

3) Under the Liberals’ regional wage scheme, workers in “low-cost” jurisdictions will be paid far less than those in Toronto. For example, Sault Ste. Marie’s living wage is calculated to be just $16.20. In Durham, it’s $17.80. But northern communities and many others also have expenses not reflected in the “typical” household budget that forms the basis of these regional wage calculations. 

Under a regional wage scheme, workers in the vast majority of Ontario regions would be paid far less than the $20/hr we're calling for.

4) These kinds of regional wage schemes reinforce structural racism. Many migrants and workers of colour are already over-represented in low-wage, precarious employment and often live in lower cost regions because of the lack of affordable housing, among other things. Paying such workers less, based on their postal codes, would be a disastrous step backward.

As Deena Ladd from the Workers’ Action Centre explained at the first leaders’ debate, regional wage schemes entrench racism and poverty by postal code and undermine equal pay for equal work.

This is why we strongly oppose the Liberals' regional wage scheme that will see so many of us earn less than others based solely on where we live.

The Ontario Green Party: $20 minimum wage

Under the Green Party plan, the minimum wage will increase to $16 in 2022, then rise by $1 each year until it reaches $20. 

Although initially supporting the same regional wage scheme as the Liberals, the Green Party listened to feedback and now supports a phased-in $20 minimum wage.

You can make a difference

With just days until election day, there’s no time to lose to vote for decent work champions. Here are 3 ways you can make a difference.

  • Order a lawn or window sign  
    Order a sign and let everyone know you support a $20 minimum wage and decent work by putting a sign on your door, window or lawn. 

  • Vote
    In the last Ontario election, many candidates won or lost by a handful of votes. Don’t forget: You don’t have to vote on June 2. You can skip the lines and vote in advance up till June 1. Find out where and how to vote at Elections Ontario. 
  • Join our June 7 Ontario Decent Work Organizing Meeting 
    No matter who wins on June 2, it’s crucial to keep organizing. At the June 7 provincial decent work organizing meeting, we'll assess the new political terrain and keep the momentum going for decent work.

A word about public opinion polls

We hear from some folks that public opinion polls covered in the news have left them feeling as if the election is a done deal. But we know the opposite is true: when we organize, we have always made a difference.

If it weren’t for all the work we’ve done together in the years before this election, so many decent work demands wouldn’t be on the agenda. And we know that a $20 minimum wage, 10 paid sick days and equal-pay for equal work are hugely popular among voters of every Ontario political party.

This election is our big chance to connect voters to their desire for fair wages and decent work. We really can vote for decent work champions. But it's not automatic that our issues will be covered on the news. That’s why we’re counting on you to spread the word, help others cast their vote for decent work and invite them to join the movement.

If we organize effectively now, we'll be in a much stronger position to fight for decent work after the election. No matter who wins on June 2, thanks to you, we'll be ready to continue the fight for decent work in every part of the province.