Ontario's minimum wage hike is roiling local employers, who are set to hike low-income workers' wages from US$8.45, or $11.40 Canadian dollars, to US$11.12, or $15 Canadian, by 2019 in a series of staggered wage raises.
The pay boost was a part of a package of reforms announced Tuesday by Premier Kathleen Wynne, and was described by her as “the largest increase” the province's history.
“Right now, 10 per cent of workers in our province earn the minimum wage of $11.40. Thirty percent earn less than $15 an hour. That’s millions of people, many of them supporting a family on a wage that just doesn’t go far enough,” she said to cheers from the assembled crowd at the campaign-style event.
However, business owners were not so happy about the proposed change, setting off a public row between one small proprietor and those in favor of the pay increase.
On Saturday, labor union social media page Rankandfile.ca posted photos of London tavern Ale House depicting vocal opposition to the minimum wage victory by owner Alex Petro, who posted messages against the raises on his establishment's marquee sign.
In one of the photos, the owner threatens patrons with $20 burgers and $10 beers, Canadian, or US$14.83 burgers and US$7.41 beers, respectively.
In another photo, the sign's display reads “I am a capitalist pig, I work 14hrs a day, drive a beater, no vacation live modestly what have you done.”
The page refers to the Ale House display as “a public meltdown,” suggesting that Petro is a candidate for the “Scumbag of the Year.”
Social media users reacted with displeasure to the display, calling Petro a “corporate pirate,” and commenting that they would boycott the restaurant.
Others, however, commented that the owner has a “right to an opinion.”
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has said “small businesses, who don’t share the larger profit margins of big business, will be forced to make difficult choices, including cutting hours and jobs,” according to The Toronto Star.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has also warned of the danger stemming from “unproven sweeping reforms,” saying that job losses and hardship would result from the wage hike.
Labor activists contend that the wage jumps are long overdue.
“The government has demonstrated that it has heard the concerns of Ontario’s most vulnerable workers and is now committed to taking action,” Jerry Dias, president of private sector union Unifor, told The Star.