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Association of Ontario Health Centres joins calls for increase to minimum wage

TORONTO (Tuesday, January 14, 2014) - Today the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) joined its voice with a growing number of others calling on the Ontario government to raise the minimum wage so that full-time minimum wage earners are lifted out of poverty. 

The Association represents 108 primary health care agencies throughout the province, many of whom serve low-income populations.

"All too often, health providers are treating illness and disease that could be avoided if people could afford adequate housing, nutritious food, medications and dental care," said AOHC Chief Executive Officer Adrianna Tetley. "Everyone deserves a livable income that supports good health. That's why in the spring budget, we're calling on the Ontario government to raise the minimum wage so that full time minimum wage earners are lifted out of poverty. And there must be annual adjustments that keep pace with inflation."

Tetley delivered her statement following a Queen's Park news conference from Health Providers against Poverty who are making a similar request.

For four years, Ontario's minimum wage has been frozen at $10.25 per hour.  A full time minimum wage worker has earnings of approximately $18,655, which is 19% below Ontario's Low Income Measure (LIM) of poverty.

A growing body of research confirms that people living in poverty have higher rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and bronchitis. Last year, a report from the Canadian Medical Association concluded poverty is the biggest barrier to good health, a conclusion supported by the firsthand experience of health service providers in AOHC member centres.

"Income is the most important determinant of health. Raising the minimum wage to lift people out of poverty is the right thing to do for the people of Ontario. It's also the right thing to do for our health care system," Tetley said.

A 2008 economic study conducted for Ontario's Food Banks found that if the poorest 20% of Ontario workers earned as much as those one step higher on the income ladder the savings to Ontario's healthcare system would amount to $2.9 billion.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014