Minimum wage raised to $9.50

Premier: pay raises will continue

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Yesterday, the minimum wage rose to $9.50 an hour in Ontario, marking the sixth consecutive annual increase under the Dalton McGuinty’s government " but not without a bit of controversy.

On Monday, Premier McGuinty backpedaled in the legislature, retracting statements he had made just days before about potentially not continuing the annual minimum wage increases.

“It does call for some clarification on my part and I take responsibility for muddying the waters,” McGuinty said during question period.

The premier confirmed another promised increase to $10.25 an hour on March 31, 2010 will go ahead as scheduled.

Ray Park, outgoing recruitment and outreach director for the Western Liberals, attributed McGuinty’s change of heart to the many economic changes that have occurred since the promise was initially made.

“A lot of external factors influenced his decision making process ... I think that’s why the flip-flop happened,” Park added.

Outgoing UWO Tories’ President Amber Ruddy expressed a different sentiment.

“Mr. McGuinty’s back and forth musing certainly questions his competence,” Ruddy said.

“It also raises questions if other commitments outlined in the budget are even worth the paper they are written on.”

However, Ruddy shared her hopes that McGuinty will fall back on this promise as well.

“Minimum wage hikes are not feasible in our economic situation ... the minimum wage will force some businesses to lay off staff and this in turn will have a greater negative impact on our economy.”

Western economics professor Kul Bhatia agreed employment numbers in recent months have been bad " and could get even worse.

“From that point of view, if you raise minimum wage, you end up hurting the very people you’re trying to help,” Bhatia said.

However, Bhatia added those who are employed should have a living wage.

“The idea of a minimum wage is to provide a helping hand to the workers at the bottom end and I would say this is long overdue,” he explained.

Park agreed minimum wage is beneficial, if it goes along with the inflation rate so as not to disturb the balance of the economy.

“As long as we stay within the range, [minimum wage] is helpful for people who need to survive.”

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