Living-wage stirs up business views

Image copyright Supplied Image caption Ontario has the lowest minimum wage in Canada

Support for raising the minimum wage in Ontario has surged in recent weeks – as the Canadian province moves to take it to $15 an hour.

With the 13 September deadline now fast approaching, many business owners are turning to a type of wage protection known as the “living wage”.

The system requires firms to pay those earning $15 an hour or more an hourly wage that comfortably keeps up with the cost of living.

A recent IHS Markit index of business confidence in the province found business leaders are keen to back the hike.

If we were to double our hourly wage, it would definitely make a difference – but it wouldn’t be the end of the world

Ronald Hall

Hampton News Centre, owner

Ronald Hall, of the Hampton News Centre, north of Toronto, was one of those bosses.

“It gives a sense of security and more choices in their lives as they’re trying to fund the operations of their business,” he told the BBC.

Mr Hall, who pays around 200 part-time workers, said that since starting the live-work enterprise 13 years ago, it has been “difficult at times”.

“If we were to double our hourly wage, it would definitely make a difference – but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.”

Under the Canadian province’s plan, the minimum wage will be doubled in only one year’s time, with the hike starting from July 2019.

The minimum wage in Ontario – and the rest of Canada – is currently $11.60 an hour.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has backed the move, has previously said the hike will make working people “more competitive”.

Image copyright AFP Image caption President Donald Trump’s support for his economic adviser Larry Kudlow shows how much he understands the politics of the issue

The fact that Mr Trudeau’s Liberal government is now supporting the hike underlines how deeply the issue is political, according to Jessica Henderson, a political consultant based in Toronto.

“It doesn’t seem that there’s an anti-business tone or anything else with the situation,” she said.

According to an Ipsos poll commissioned by Canada’s CTV television network, 88% of respondents support the move.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption US President Donald Trump has been supportive of the hike – he’s pictured here with his senior advisor and former Fox News star Rupert Murdoch

With all eyes on Ontario’s upcoming move, US President Donald Trump has been left to hold the economic reins over a country that has traditionally been seen as more favourably towards business.

The issue has given business representatives in the US a number of opportunities to put pressure on the Republican administration, which supports Mr Trump’s economic agenda.

Mr Trump’s pick for US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, faces a showdown in the Senate next week as he is expected to be approved for the post.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption US President Donald Trump’s secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, has backed efforts to push down the minimum wage

The president’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, is an ardent opponent of the living wage, and is often at odds with the president.

The public controversy hasn’t changed Mr Trump’s support for his immigration executive order, however.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, businesses have no doubt spent the weeks since the proposals were announced lobbying their MPs and policymakers in an attempt to stop the move.

But as one of the most liberal provinces in Canada, it is unlikely that many owners there will fight it.

They may prefer the “drive-up wage” scenario where many will simply hire more people – but doing so will simply mean doing so at greater expense to their bottom line.

Leave a Comment