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Farm Groups Uneasy about Minimum Wage Hike

Ontario to Raise Minimum Wage by 75 Cents

By Amanda Brodhagen,

The Ontario government’s plan to raise minimum wage by 75 cents to $11.00 per hour, starting June 1, 2014, has some farm groups concerned; the most vocal being the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, or OFA.

Ontario’s largest farm group, the OFA, said it has long protested an increase in minimum wage, saying that it would “hurt” farmers, especially fruit and vegetable growers who rely on seasonal labour for much of its workforce.

“Farmers are unable to recoup wage increases by adding the additional cost of production to the price we receive for our farm products,” OFA said on its website.

The farm group believes that increasing the minimum wage is “poor public policy,” instead, OFA would rather see minimum wage increases tied to the Consumer Price Index.

OFA asks the government to consider its recommendations that it put forward Oct. 18, 2013. You can read OFA’s submission to the Minimum Wage Panel here.

While less vocal about their opposition to the changes in minimum wage, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, or CFFO, echoes much of OFA’s concerns.

“We believe that there needs to be a fair and just way to move forward on this policy,” Nathan Stevens, CFFO’s general manager said in an emailed statement. “The CFFO is very concerned about how to go about alleviating poverty, but minimum wage is a course tool to use to combat it. We believe a diverse set of tools is needed, including things like preferential tax treatment for low-income households,” he said.

During minimum wage talks, Premier Kathleen Wynne told the farm groups that there needed to be a compromise on the minimum wage issue. “The voices of Ontario agriculture helped shaped the government's position on what the right balance would be,” Wynne said in an emailed statement. “I made it very clear early on that we would not be considering a hike to $14,” she said. Several anti-poverty groups were pushing for $14 to be the minimum wage, but the Ontario Liberals decided to go with $11 instead.

“In regards to the timing of the increase, we hope that loss of value in the Canadian dollar will cushion many of our export producers as they adjust to the higher minimum wage,” explains Stevens.

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