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Questions linger with workplace legislation

MPP Lane Coe worried future impacts have yet to be analyzed

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

While the provincial government has put forward their plans to increase Ontario’s minimum wage, Oshawa’s MPPs are still looking for some answers.

The Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act was introduced at Queen’s Park on June 1, following on the heels of the release of The Changing Workplaces Review, an independent report commissioned by the province that made hundreds of recommendations for improving Ontario’s workplaces.

Along with increases to paid vacation time, and protections for part time and precarious workers, the province has proposed increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019. Under the new legislation, about a quarter of Ontario workers would see a pay hike, the province states.

“Ontario’s economy is strong and growing, but not everyone is feeling it,” states Kevin Flynn, the Minster of Labour in a news release. “Today, we took the next step toward making sure that every hard-working Ontarian can share in Ontario’s prosperity. These initiatives will help build a province where security and opportunity are available for everyone.”

For Whitby-Oshawa MPP Lorne Coe, the increase is a welcome change, and one that has been supported in the past by the Progressive Conservative Party. However, Coe fears the full ramifications of a such a jump in wages on local economies and job growth has not been studied.

“We recognize the need for higher wages, particularly when the Liberal government continues to make life unaffordable,” he says. “We do have concerns, this is a 32 percent hike in minimum wage in an extremely short period of time, what’s missing is a cost-benefit analysis…you can’t change the labour laws in the province without knowing the impact on jobs and job creators.”

And regardless of the new protections, it means little if the increase backfires.

“This could result in job losses and at the end of the day, the best protections for workers are pointless if they don’t have a job to wake up to in the morning,” Coe says.

Under the proposed legislation, Ontario’s minimum wage would increase to $14 an hour starting at the beginning of 2018 before increasing to $15 an hour starting in 2019. The new rules would also mandate equal pay for temporary, causal, seasonal and part-time employees doing the same job as full-time workers as well as expanding personal emergency leave to include at least two paid days each year for all workers.

For Oshawa MPP Jennifer French, while there are still gaps in the new legislation related to pay and vacation time, she says the new rules have been a long time coming and the activists who have fought for the increase in wages should be commended for their efforts.

“The shiny gold star doesn’t go to the Liberals,” she says. “The shiny gold star goes to the workers and the minimum wage employees and workers across the province.”