Ontario Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi is pushing to take decisions about what the province’s minimum wage should be out of the hands of politicians.
Yasir Naqvi is Ontario's minister of labour and member of provincial Parliament for Ottawa Centre.
Right now the power to set the base amount that workers in the province can expect to earn rests with whichever political party happens to be in office at the time, he said.
Mr. Naqvi said he’s heard from groups on both sides of the issue – the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Federation of Labour – that a formal mechanism is preferable because it would provide more certainty for businesses and their workers.
“It means businesses and families can plan for the future and stay competitive to create more jobs,” said Mr. Naqvi, speaking Thursday to members of Ottawa’s business community.
The province appointed a panel this past summer that’s supposed to gather advice and make recommendations on how to set the minimum wage in the future.
Mr. Naqvi, who is also the Liberal member of provincial Parliament for Ottawa Centre, said he’s curious to know what they come up with but is already convinced of the need to take responsibility for making those decisions away from the government of the day.
This would bring it closer in line to the systems in place in other provinces, he said.
“What I’m really pushing for is that we depoliticize the whole process, the manner in which minimum wage is determined, and make sure we put in predictable principles so that you as businesses, those Ontarians that live on minimum wage have a sure way of knowing as to what the minimum wage would be,” he said.
Ontario’s general minimum wage has been set at $10.25 since March 31, 2010.
Mr. Naqvi also said he plans in the coming months to address the issue of companies and workers being able to transfer between Quebec and Ontario.
Businesses on the Ottawa side of the border have for a long time complained that Quebec government red tape is making it next to impossible for Ontario companies to do business there.
He did not support a recent proposal from the opposition Progressive Conservatives that would have erected trade barriers to Quebec companies doing business in Ontario.
The private member’s bill, which Ottawa-area MPP Jack MacLaren introduced, was designed to leverage the prospect of Quebec companies losing out on work in Ontario into forcing the provincial government to make changes.
The bill did not receive enough votes at Queen’s Park to become law.
Mr. Naqvi did not divulge any concrete counterproposals in response to a question about how to move forward now that the bill has been defeated.
However, he said he plans to hear from industry and labour groups later this month and then take those concerns to the Quebec government.
Mr. Naqvi was speaking Friday morning as part of the Mayor’s Breakfast series, an event co-organized by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.