Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling for the government to raise the minimum wage by even more than it is currently planning.
Under the Liberal government’s bill, tabled in the legislature on Tuesday, the minimum wage will be tied to inflation after rising to $11 an hour in June of this year. The percentage increase every year will be the same as the increase to Ontario’s consumer price index, rounded to the nearest five-cent interval.
The NDP, however, wants the wage to gradually climb to $12 by 2016 before it is pegged to inflation.
Ms. Horwath is also asking for small business taxes to be slowly cut from 4.5 per cent to 3 per cent by June, 2016, to offset the added cost of higher wages to business.
She said the Liberal plan moves in the right direction but “falls short” in not putting the minimum wage high enough. If inflation continues at the current rate, for instance, the minimum wage would reach $11.35 per hour by 2016 under the Liberal bill, well below the NDP proposal.
“It’s a responsible measure that will make life more affordable and help keep people at work while keeping our small businesses strong,” Ms. Horwath said at Queen’s Park.
Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi said the NDP have missed their chance to get the government bill changed. The government held consultation on the wage starting last June, but the NDP never made a submission and refused to take any position on the minimum wage at all until Tuesday.
“The NDP showed a real lack of leadership. … They chose not to participate or stand up for workers when they had the chance,” he said. “They missed their opportunity to have an impact to determine what the policy would be.”
But the Liberals may not have any choice but to make a deal with Ms. Horwath.
They control only a minority of seats in the legislature, and the Progressive Conservatives have already pronounced themselves against the wage-hiking plan, meaning the Grits will have to secure the NDP’s support to pass the bill.
The Liberals have already filed the order to raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour; the only question now is when to start tying it to inflation.
Also on Tuesday, the government survived a confidence vote with the help of the NDP. The motion, called an interim supply order, allows the province to continue spending money past the end of the fiscal year in March.
The PCs voted against the motion.
The Tories and NDP will have another opportunity to bring the government down and force a spring election when the budget is tabled.
Ms. Horwath said interim supply was not a good time to force an election because it could have shut the government down until after a new legislature was sworn in and a budget passed.
“We certainly are not about to throw this government into chaos,” she said. “We don’t play games with this kind of stuff.”