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Section 6: Conclusion and Reflections

  • Issued: January 27, 2014
  • Content last reviewed: January 2014

In this final section of the report I return not only to the original mandate of the Panel and the manner in which this report has addressed it, but also to the key messages received in the volume of feedback from key stakeholders and the public at-large.

At the time that this Panel was appointed there was no mechanism in place for an orderly and regular consideration of revisions to the minimum wage. In the nineteen years since 1995 when the minimum wage was revised to $6.85 an hour, Ontario's minimum wage stayed frozen in twelve of those years while it increased in seven. The recommendations of this Panel, if accepted and implemented by the Government of Ontario, would change this pattern in favour of an orderly, transparent, predictable and fair system for all Ontarians.

Setting of the minimum wage at a specific level involves economic policymaking as well as making a political choice. This is the role of an elected government, a role that it must retain in the long-run. The recommendations of this Panel, if implemented, will remove the near-term uncertainty over minimum wage revisions by making the process more transparent and regular. However, the five-year review proposed would allow the Government to introduce course corrections over the long-run. For example, substantial investments in skills and innovations in the long-run would justify pursuing a high minimum wage strategy within a highly productive and competitive Ontario economy.

However, these recommendations are not designed to be the final word on Ontario's minimum wage. Two important considerations require that the dialogue between the Government and its citizens over minimum wage continue in the coming years to keep the reform process alive in the spirit of "continuous improvement". The first consideration is the feedback received from the public which frequently exceeded the limited mandate of this Panel. A second consideration is to build a long-term strategy for the minimum wage that will be fully integrated into Government's overall social and economic strategy for Ontario.

An ongoing dialogue on minimum wage is needed to address the comprehensive set of issues brought to the Panel's attention. These have been summarized in Section 4 and in Appendix 6. The larger advocacy process within the democratic process would continue regardless of Government's action on the recommendations of this Panel. It is this dialogue that could constructively engage the citizens with their Government to shape future directions in minimum wage policy. For this reason, it is important to create a research program focused on data analysis and information gathering that could inform this dialogue.

Aside from poverty considerations, it can be argued that Ontario needs a high wage strategy to maintain and foster its prosperity. This is a broader, longer-term goal which could nonetheless factor into setting of minimum wages in the future. Such a strategy would involve improving the skills of the Ontario workforce so that they can add greater value to goods and services produced in the province. It would mean gradual elimination of simple, unskilled jobs from our economy. In such a scenario, certain types of low-skill jobs would be lost but the ones that remain would provide a decent standard of living to any individual working full-time, full year. This is a goal worth working towards for all kinds of reasons but especially because it may be within our reach.

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