Eleven delegations gathered at the Taggart Family Y Thursday afternoon for a public consultation on Ontario's minimum wage.
Groups like the United Steelworkers are pushing for Ontario's minimum wage to be boosted from the current $10.25 an hour to $14.
"We believe that the Ontario government should increase the minimum wage right away to $14 an hour and that it should be indexed every year after that in accordance with inflation," said spokesperson David Lipton. "The reason for that is that $14 an hour is the level that's required to bring people above the poverty line and there's too many people in Ontario now that are working at the minimum wage or below $12 an hour and there's a great problem in Ontario here with the working poor."
One man, who preferred not to reveal his name has found himself in that category.
"I work as a security guard for the last 10 years and for those 10 years I have had two jobs all the time," he told CFRA. "That is the only reason my family is surviving financially. I never took vacation for the last 10 years and I work seven days a week and it's very, very, very hard for myself and for my family."
Diane Rochon, one of social justice group ACORN Canada chairs for the Carlington area said it's clear people are struggling.
"I have two daughters ... when I was their age I had a better quality of life than they have," she said. "There's something wrong here. We're in 2013."
Concerns have been raised that a hike in minimum wage would lead to job losses, but Lipton wasn't convinced.
"There's actually no evidence that raising the minimum wage would result in job loss," he said. "As a matter of fact, the studies that are out there indicate that in jurisdictions where the minimum wage has been raised, it hasn't resulted in a job loss."
But a $3.75 spike in minimum wage would have devastating effects on small businesses, according to Ron Spirito, who owns the Southern Cross Grill on Queen.
"My staff today that are making X, for example, they're going to demand when the minimum wage comes through, or if it does come through that they now make X plus whatever the minimum wage increase is," he said.
"In my case, I've got 190 hours of kitchen hours a week and 200 hours of server shifts a week, so at $1 an hour that translates into over $20,000 a year that's going to have to come from somewhere. And if it's $3.75 cents, it's over $76,000 a year."
He said he would have to pass the costs down to the customers, or be forced to shut his doors.
Spirito said there are other ways the government could be helping people without raising minimum wage.
"I would rather look at a student and say 'wouldn't it be better for you to have, you know, access to better cost housing or tax credits for housing?' In Ontario, you have to start paying income tax at $10,000, in Alberta it's $17,000 and I'm thinking to myself, well with what's happened with the government, with ORNGE air ambulance with e-Health, with moving the gas plants. I mean, there's billions of dollars there, you know, fraud at OHIP. If the government gets their house in order, we wouldn't even be having this conversation," said Spirito.
Ottawa is the last of the public consultations to take place and the panel is now tasked with preparing their report, which they expect to present to Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi in mid-December.
Naqvi said he looks forward to receiving the report and beginning their analysis. Any concrete changes to Ontario's minimum wage will be made in the new year.
Article by Alison Sandor for CFRA 580