Legislation has passed that raises the minimum wage in Ontario to $14 per hour on New Year’s Day and to $15 per hour in 2019.
The Liberal Party and the New Democrats voted in favour of it while the bill drew criticism from the Progressive Conservatives. Documents from Queen’s Park show that Bill 148 passed with 67 votes for and 26 against.
Kristy Adams, a coordinator for Humber’s Hospitality and Tourism programs, said the bill could have both positive and negative ramifications for the hospitality industry.
“There are two sides to every story,” she said.
Adams said there were many positions within her industry that were paid minimum wage, including jobs like housekeeping or serving.
“There are positions that are less skilled positions so you don’t have to come with an extensive amount of training,” she said.
Adams said she thought it was great people in those positions would be paid better, as the cost of living rises.
“I don’t think anybody’s in a position to want to see people live below the poverty line,” she said. “It helps our economy when everybody’s doing well.”
Adams also said while big chains and large corporations would be able to handle an increase in expenses, higher wages for staff could be hard for smaller businesses to absorb.
“You have these mom and pop shops, independent operators, that will now be squeezed tighter with the minimum wage being increased,” she said. “The knee-jerk reaction is to cut labour.”
Adams’ comments echo remarks made by Progressive Conservative candidates during debates on Bill 148 at Queen’s Park.
John Yakabuski, the PC Labour critic, said students told him they were unlikely to be able to get summer jobs they’d previously held.
“It’s not because the student isn’t still going to be in school and looking for a job — it’s because the business won’t be hiring students at the new rate of pay,” he said.
Adams said labour costs were the biggest variable expense in the hospitality and service industries.
“This one hits them right in the pocketbook,” she said.
Adams said when businesses cut labour costs it means “fewer people to do the same amount of work.”
While Adams had her hesitations about Bill 148 and what it meant for the hospitality industry, she said that ultimately businesses don’t want to lose their customers.
“Maybe out of this, there’s some good things, or creative solutions — maybe flex schedules or new ideas,” she said.