Minimum wage stalled?

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorial
Published On Wed Mar 31 2010

Ontario’s general minimum wage rises to $10.25 an hour today. That’s a big leap forward from $6.85, the level it was frozen at for nearly a decade before Premier Dalton McGuinty introduced a series of welcome annual increases starting in 2004. Yet even at $10.25, a minimum wage job still won’t lift a full-time worker above the poverty line.

So are more increases planned? Unfortunately, last week’s provincial budget did not answer that question.

Ontario cannot afford to fall behind again on minimum wages. The size and timing of the next increase is something for debate. But at the very least the minimum wage should be tied to the cost of living so that its value is not eroded by inflation.

While anti-poverty groups argue for higher minimum wages, raising the minimum wage is not, on its own, the answer to our poverty problem. Besides a decent wage, the working poor also need full-time jobs, affordable housing, and subsidized child care. Ultimately, they need more opportunities to move beyond minimum wage jobs into employment that can support a better standard of living.

But a minimum wage that is high enough to lift a worker out of poverty is part of the package of necessary measures. The government should not lose sight of that.

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