Yesterday’s Ontario budget lauded the announced minimum wage increase to $10.25 per hour on March 31, 2010.
Today, media reports indicate that, “following a meeting with business leaders in Ottawa,” Ontario’s Premier is reconsidering this increase.
The argument seems to be that, given hard economic times, we may not be able to afford a higher minimum wage. However, if the economic crisis was partly caused by a shortfall in consumer credit and spending, then higher wages to enable workers to fund consumer spending are surely part of the solution.
Governments should be striving to put more purchasing power in the hands of working people. Given hard economic times, we cannot afford to delay a higher minimum wage.
The worst-case scenario would be a weak economy depressing wages, further reducing consumer spending and weakening the economy. Such a downward spiral occurred during the 1930s. To guard against this possibility, Ontario’s government must keep a solid floor under wages by at least maintaining the minimum-wage schedule that it affirmed as recently as yesterday’s budget.