(CNN) — Vowing to increase his province’s minimum wage by $11.25 to $14 an hour next year — the same exact hike as Alberta recently made in addition to its existing increases — Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Thursday.
The provincial government also made it easier for large employers to pay employees above the minimum wage by exempting them from paying the Ontario Living Wage.
That’s the latest move by the Ontario Progressive Conservative government that followed a May budget that critics said included deep cuts to health care and education.
Ontario’s minimum wage is set to rise to $14 an hour next year, from $11.60. Alberta, Canada’s second-largest province, raised its minimum wage from $10.20 an hour to $11.75 on June 1. Last month, the federal government tacked on an increase to the federally mandated minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 1, 2021.
According to a report from the Ontario government in December 2017, one in every 10 workers was paid less than $15 an hour. In 2016, 30% of Ontario minimum wage workers were paid less than $15 an hour, according to the report.
Data from Statistics Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that around 12.3 million Canadians were paid less than $15 an hour in 2016. That’s 18.2% of the workforce, compared with 15.5% in the United States.
Ontario is one of several Canadian provinces that currently have minimum wages above $15. British Columbia is the other province that’s made a minimum wage increase since the federal increase in 2016.
But Ontario’s move falls somewhat short of the federal government’s mandate. According to Canada’s job-creation agency, the federal government directed provinces and territories to raise their minimum wages to $15 per hour.
Canadians have historically been less sensitive to minimum wage hikes than American workers have been. In Canada, just 19% of workers expect their pay to fall with a minimum wage increase, according to an analysis by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm. Only 26% of U.S. workers are negatively affected by a minimum wage increase, according to Mercer.
“It’s really affected only a tiny portion of the population in the U.S., and it’s clearly hitting more of the population in Canada,” said Andrew Weaver, the leader of the New Democratic Party in the province of British Columbia.
While Canadian companies often use the term “minimum wage” rather than “minimum wage” to describe their employee pay, many Canadians say they’re struggling to make ends meet after years of wage stagnation.
“It’s a really disturbing trend,” Weaver said. “All the signs and signals that everyone could see pointed to wage stagnation, and even some signs of marginal wage growth, but nothing in the direction of significant wage growth.”
In 2017, Canada’s official rate of inflation hit 1.7%, making it lower than the federal U.S. inflation rate of 2%. From 2010 to 2017, the unemployment rate in Canada rose a full percentage point, from 5.9% to 6.1%.
In response to Ford’s announcement, the Canadian Labour Congress, a labor union organization, said he showed “troubleness” and “responsibility.”