By Tyson Leonard
KINGSTON – Ontario’s Minimum Wage Advisory Panel  was in Kingston on Wednesday to look for feedback on how to adjust the minimum wage.
The questions asked by the panel included when should raises happen, what economic indicators should raises be tied to, and who should oversee raises.
There were presentations from groups such as the Belleville Workers Help Centre, the local Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, the Peterborough United Way, and the Kingston Chamber of Commerce.
Andy Hanson of the Belleville Workers Help Centre said he presented because he wants to change the way the government oversees minimum wage.
“Minimum-wage jobs are considered the bottom of the employment ladder. They are almost always non-unionized. Workers in those jobs depend on the standards set by the government to protect them,” said Hanson.
In his presentation, Hanson advocated for an immediate raise to at least $14 an hour from the current $10.25, followed by automatic increases tied to 10 per cent above the Low Income Cut-Off . The LICO is an income threshold generated by Statistics Canada.
“Raising the minimum wage is not simply a solution to reducing poverty – it is an economic stimulant from which we will all benefit,” said Hanson.
He also suggested that students and farm workers not be exempt from a $14 an hour minimum wage. Currently student minimum wage is $9.60 an hour, and farm workers are not subject to a minimum wage.
“It’s a level playing field. That’s what the minimum wage was intended for,” said Hanson.
Most of the other groups also advocated for the minimum wage to be raised to $14 an hour. But they differed on what economic indicators to tie future raises to, and whether the first raise should be immediate or incremental.
Only the Kingston Chamber of Commerce pushed for a smaller raise, of 25 cents an hour every two years. The chamber cited concerns over whether businesses would be forced to cut employees to accommodate for the rise in labour costs.
In listening to the presentations, panel members questioned what they called anecdotal evidence, and provided facts from their own findings.
“You get a variety of viewpoints, and that’s very good from our point of view because we want to hear all the experience, and opinions, and effects that people have experienced with respect to minimum wage,” said Anil Verma, chief of the Minimum Wage Advisory Panel. Verma is a professor at the University of Toronto.
Other groups represented on the panel were university students, business groups, and non-profit organizations.
The panel has one more stop on its consultation tour through Ontario. The last scheduled consultation takes place in Ottawa Thursday (Nov. 7).
The advisory panel will then bring its recommendations to the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Verma said he expects the panel to have delivered its report by the end of the year.
“This is advice given to government, so the government is free to take it or modify it as they wish,” he said.
Anyone wanting to voice an opinion to the panel can submit a presentation through the Ministry of Labour website . The deadline to submit is today.