Minimum wages are rising, and the sky is not falling

Toronto and Edmonton – January 19, 2018 – Ever since minimum wages were first introduced in Canada in the 1920s, the business community and right-wing politicians have protested each time the minimum wage has increased. The reaction usually has the same message: that a small increase in wages for workers will result in the end of the world as we know it.

If increasing the minimum wage was the dooms day scenario that those on the right would like us to believe, then our economy would have collapsed long ago, and Canada would now be a third world country. Minimum wages have seen numerous increases since they were first introduced, and low and behold, the economy continues to grow. What’s more, the rich are doing better than ever before.

Ontario is the latest battleground in the fight for an increased minimum wage. Following the example set by the NDP government in Alberta, the Ontario government increased the minimum wage to $14 an hour at the beginning of 2018, and the minimum wage is scheduled to rise to $15 an hour by January 2019.

In Alberta, which previously had the lowest minimum wage in the country, Rachel Notley’s NDP government has made steady increases to the minimum wage and by October of this year it will reach $15 an hour. This will make Alberta’s minimum wage the highest in Canada. Not surprisingly, the province’s usual suspects – such as the United Conservative Party and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business – made dire predictions of businesses going bankrupt and jobs disappearing with the dramatic increase to Alberta’s minimum wage. But those dire predictions have failed to materialize, and Alberta is now leading the country in economic growth. In addition, restaurant and bar sales have reached an all-time high.

With Ontario’s minimum wage now at $14 an hour, the same culprits we saw in Alberta are protesting the wage increase in Ontario, including the CFIB, wealthy CEOs, and the province’s Conservative Party. Indeed, Conservative Leader Patrick Brown voted against the minimum wage increases and is promising that a Conservative government would not raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour until 2022. Meanwhile, Tim Horton franchises have responded to the current increase by cutting their employees’ breaks and benefits, even though their parent company – Restaurant Brands International – made over $13 billion in profit last year.

The reality is that minimum wage increases help the economy by creating shared prosperity and enabling workers and their families to spend more money in their local communities. And that is why every time the minimum wage increases, the sky does not fall.