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Church & Wellesley - Yorkville - Annex : Innovation + Job News

99 Church & Wellesley - Yorkville - Annex Articles | Page: | Show All

Giving electric vehicle owners a charge

Electric vehicles have been on the market for three years in Canada. Enter Plug’n Drive, a not-for-profit whose mission is to accelerate the penetration of those vehicles into the consumer market.

One of the biggest challenges in encouraging potential car buyers to go electric is the so-far limited availability of charging stations: if you’re not sure you’ll be able to power up when and where you need to, an electric car can be a tough sell. Which leads to Plug’n Drive’s latest cause: increasing the number of charging stations in condo buildings.

“Essentially for the past 20 years Toronto has been going through a condo boom,” points out Josh Tzventarny, director of operations for Plug’n Drive, which is incubated at Ryerson’s Centre for Urban Energy. “Now about 30 per cent of Torontonians live in condos—none of which were designed for electric vehicles.”

For the past year or so Plug’n Drive has been working with Canadian Condominium iInstitute and the WWF to make recommendations for updates to the provincial Condominium Act, which is currently up for review and is likely to come before the legislature in the fall. The Condominium Act only enforces what happens after a condo has been built, however; the best Plug’n Drive is hoping for from new legislation is that it will include rules and guidelines for charging stations should a condo board decide it wants to install one.

“Where the real work needs to be done,” Tzventarny goes on, “is probably the building code—and the City of Toronto is starting to do some work around that with its green standards.”

In the meantime, Plug’n Drive is trying to reach out directly to condo owners and condo boards, making the case that retrofitting a building to include charging stations isn’t actually that a daunting prospect. (They issued a guide to installing them this past spring.)

“It’s really just an electrical job,” Tzventarny says. “It’s no different than installing an air conditioner or something like that.”

Plug’n Drive is also starting to field queries from property managers and real estate agents with clients who have electric vehicles, and prioritize charging stations when they go condo shopping—an indication, he believes, that this is "starting to become more and more of an issue."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Josh Tzventarny, Director of Operations, Plug'n Driv

Vegetation and solar panels, all on the same roof

Developers interested in making their buildings more sustainable typically face a choice: solar panels or a green roof? There isn't, presumably, room for both.

Some University of Toronto researchers are challenging that assumption. This summer, with the help of many government and private sector partners, they're launching a study looking at whether the two can be combined—at the possibility of installing one roof that uses both vegetation and solar panels. The bonus: if the researchers' hypothesis is correct, they won't just be making dual use of the same space; the cumulative effect of combining the technologies will provide greater environmental benefits than using them separately.

"Solar photo voltaics operate best when they are not overheated," explains Liat Margolis, director of UofT's Green Roof Innovation Testing (GRIT) Lab. "Ideally [the panels] would be in a relatively cool climate, but sunny; conversely when they are overheated their energy production drops. The hypothesis is that ...if the vegetation actually cools the air, that could improve the performance of the solar panels."

Basically: because green roofs create a cooling effect through the evaporation they facilitate, they will keep the solar panels above cooler, and thereby—so the theory goes—keep those panels working more efficiently.

The GRIT Lab is running the experiment on the roof of 230 College Street; it includes 40 solar panels installed two and four feet above a layer of vegetation. The study is still in the early stages: Margolis says they anticipate about a year of calibration and testing, and hope to begin collecting data next spring. They'll gather results for three growing seasons, to have a data sample that accounts for variations in the weather. (This summer's cool temperatures would likely yield different results than a much hotter summer might, for instance.)

The basic benefit of solar panels—energy generation—can be appealing over the long term, but since even the best solar panels are only about 18 per cent efficient, it can take eight to 10 years to reap the financial rewards of installing them.

Green roofs, meanwhile, provide other environmental benefits, such as stormwater management, and the reduction of flooding and erosion. This too is a tough sell, though: while these are genuine environmental concerns, they are generally managed by municipal governments rather than building owners. However, Margolis says, "I think water performance will become more and more of a factor as the public becomes more aware of the issue."

As we experience more major storm events, in other words, the incentive to use green roofs to mitigate storm effects will grow. The ultimate hope is that the combination of the two technologies will create a better business case for installing them both, and make it easier for developers to pursue environmentally friendlier projects by allowing them to see the financial impact of doing so more quickly.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Liat Margolis, director, Green Roof Innovation Testing Lab
Photo: Courtesy of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.

Ryerson launches partnership with London tech accelerator

Recently Ryerson University announced that its Digital Media Zone (DMZ) had signed a "friendship agreement" with one of Europe's largest technology accelerators, Level39. Based in London, England's Canary Wharf, Level39 has a particular focus on the financial, retail, and future cities sectors. The agreement will allow members of each institution access the other's facilities, spaces, and networks.

Ryerson has been in talks with Level39 for "five or six months," says Hossein Rahnama, director of research and innovation for the DMZ, "and it was a natural decision to form a partnership with them." Level39 has been around for two years now, says Rahnama by way of introduction, and is owned by the Canary Wharf Group. They "are hoping to transform part of the city into a global technology hub," he goes on. "Our goal is to enhance our collaboration with the UK, enhance mobility."

London has done a "great job" in developing the sectors in question, and the partnership is key for expanding the opportunities the DMZ can offer its members. It's one of several partnerships Ryerson hopes to develop in Europe over the coming years.

"International expansion has been part of our agenda since the beginning," Rahnama says—crucial for helping DMZ members find new opportunities for growth by giving them access to new markets, as well as exposure to best practices.

"A lot of our startups in Toronto are looking at addressing the financial vertical," Rahnama explains, so this allows Ryerson to offer that community to allow for scaling in Europe, without a lot of startup costs.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Hossein Rahnama, director of research and innovation, Ryerson University DMZ

New research institute to explore end-of-life issues

The University of Toronto and the University Health Network have announced that they are launching a new institute dedicated to one of the most fraught areas of medicine: how we handle death and dying.

The Global Institute for Psychosocial, Palliative and End-of-Life Care (GIPPEC) will focus on interdisciplinary research, bringing together medical experts along with academics in subjects ranging from religion to law, to work collaboratively on what is not just a medical issue, but a growing subject of public interest and policy.

"What happened in the history of medicine is that as medicine became more specialized and technical, many of the aspects that had to do with control of physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, end of life care, fell off the radar," explains Dr. Gary Rodin, who will serve as the new institute's director. At one point those matters, he says, "would have been part of expertise of generalists, but as doctors became more focused on organ systems and diseases…palliative care emerged to fill that void."

That growing field isn't sufficient, however, to tackle the numerous and complex questions faced by those grappling with end-of-life issues.

"Many of the questions are broader questions than can be answered by medicine alone," Rodin continues, "including withdrawal of care, assisted suicide, and resource distribution—not just medical issues. A whole variety of disciplines…are needed to address these issues."

There are investigators in a variety of disciplines working on various aspects of these questions, and one of the institute's main goals is to bring them together so they can share their insights and work collaboratively.

Given than many of the laws, regulations, and procedures which shape end-of-life decisions are made by politicians and courts, rather than decided by physicians, another of the institute's major goals will be to "provide at least scholarly opinion to inform the public debate we think that's been lacking. There's a lot of emotion around [these issues] but not a lot of research."

This is also why Rodin is planning a significant programming element: there will be a series of talks, as well as a large annual conference that includes both professional and public components.

The institute will have its formal inauguration in October, and will be up and running within the next year. It will include a core staff of about half a dozen, and will have numerous Canadian and international researchers contributing part-time.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Dr. Gary Rodin, Director, Global Institute for Psychosocial, Palliative and End-of-Life Care
Photo: The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the University Health Network

U of T president lays out vision of "The University and The City"

When Meric Gertler was announced as the new president of the University of Toronto a few months ago, it generated a fair bit of buzz: not just because UofT is a major local institution, but because of Gertler's profile in particular.

He came out of the humanities—the first UofT president to do so in decades—and his area of academic expertise is the geography and economy of cities. The buzz was generated in large part out of curiosity about whether Gertler would take a more active role in involving UofT in the broader life of the city.

A few days ago, Gertler began to address some of those issues in a major speech delivered to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

"My starting point," he said, "is that the relationship between universities and their host regions is fundamentally symbiotic. It is mutually enriching, along multiple dimensions. Simply put, a strong university helps build a strong city, and a strong city helps build a strong university. We need to leverage this relationship to mutual advantage if we are going to advance our shared prosperity."

Gertler then moved on to lay out three central points: universities help keep their home cities dynamic and contribute vitally to economic development and flexibility; universities in general are large institutions and thus by nature "stabilizing forces on urban economies, and on the local neighbourhoods they inhabit"; and universities serve as conduits, connecting their home cities, via relationships with other universities, to cities around the world.

Most crucially, Gertler concluded by focusing on what can be improved. "We have an obligation to do more, and it is in our own best interest to do more," he said, inviting civic leadership across Toronto "to help us find imaginative ways to deepen our relationships and work with one another."

Gertler said he had recently begun talks with the presidents of OCAD, Ryerson, and York, "to explore potential collaborations aimed at addressing the region’s most pressing challenges."

Separately, the Unversity of Toronto is deep into planning with the universities of Western and Waterloo, "to establish a joint entrepreneurship accelerator in the new MaRS tower."

Gertler also hopes to work more closely with the municipal government—though he steered clear of political issues in his remarks—"to find new ways to inform debates, provide analysis, and bring our evidence and expertise to bear on the most important urban issues of the day."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: "The University and The City," delivered by Dr. Meric Gertler, president, University of Toronto, on May 29, 2014.

Toronto startup wants to make your job hunt easier

The art of the job hunt. It's a tricky one—high stakes, scary, and often hemmed in by regimented processes (as anyone who has had to prepare an application for electronic readers seeking key words well knows).

Hoping to help ease things for both employers and employees: Deskribed, a Toronto startup that wants to help match up job seekers with positions that are not just okay, but the perfect fit.

The current problem: many of our needs often aren't covered in the standard job-hunting process. For an increasing number of workers, quality of life issues are becoming at least as important as considerations like salary or status—and those circumstances, which make a job fit well or poorly into our lives, are often inadequately captured, if at all, in standard job descriptions or hiring processes.

Deskribed co-founder Karim Gillani first came up with the idea a couple of years ago, when he was living in San Francisco and working at RIM.

"I was in this situation where my job was great but…I was looking for a change and i thought to myself that rather than going out to look for jobs…wouldn't it be great if i could just set up exactly what i want for myself, and get opportunities sent to me—real opportunities that were good for me."

And so he decided to build just that.

Deskribed's goal, he says, is to serve as a "time saver for the type of people who have a job but are dissatisfied in some way and are looking for a better way to find their next opportunity."

Those job seekers set up profiles that include "things like your commute time, your role seniority, the work culture—things that don't often come out in a typical job application…we decided to put those things that really affect your quality of life in up front."

And those would-be employees are being matched up with companies that understand the importance of those values. Deskribed's ideal employers are "high growth early startups, typically companies that have recently raised a round of funding and looking to hire"—and who understand that the key to attracting talent isn't as straightforward as it used to be.

Deskribed is currently very focused—both on Toronto, and on the technology sector. Over time they anticipate growing geographically (particularly to other cities with high concentrations of tech jobs) and then expanding into other industries. In the meantime, they are doing some hiring themselves: the startup currently has five staff, and is looking to add some front end developers to their own employee pool.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Karim Gillani, co-founder, Deskribed
Photo: Jason Hoffman

OCAD U and CSI announce new partnership

Toronto has a growing number of accelerators, innovation hubs, and other organizations designed to help support young ventures launch and develop successfully.

Up next: many of those organizations, along with more traditional institutions, are starting to collaborate, forming partnerships that capitalize on their strengths and creating opportunities for people from various sectors to share their respective areas of expertise. A few months ago, for instance, Ryerson and St. Michael's Hospital announced a partnership to help the former's engineers and the latter's clinical scientists work together.

Another new partnership was announced recently between OCAD University and the Centre for Social Innovation. The goal is to develop a social enterprise-specific stream within OCAD's overall entrepreneurship hub, called The Imagination Catalyst. The Imagination Catalyst was created to help young enterprises with commercialization; this new partnership will do the same for social ventures in particular: enterprises that have some human, cultural, or environmental goal.

As part of this new collaboration, OCAD U will offer residencies to three CSI members at its Imagination Catalyst incubator, helping with access to funding, and providing other entrepreneurship support. CSI, meanwhile, will offer membership—including access to space, a vibrant community, and other funding sources—to all those incubated by Imagination Catalyst.

"Apart from start-up funding, introductions to venture /angel investors, etc., we believe any incubator experience is enhanced if you have a diverse set of start ups in the space," explains Petra Kassun-Mutch, executive director of Imagination Catalyst.

"Diversity in our case means legal form, scale, sector, and level of experience. We believe the social enterprise sector is an extremely important and growing part of the start up community space."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Petra Kassun-Mutch, executive director, Imagination Catalyst, OCAD University

Youth Social Innovation Fund seeking applicants

Found in 2012, the Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI) has been offering micro-loans, as well as non-financial resources, to help support social entrepreneurs as they develop their ventures. An impact investment fund, YSI focuses on what's called a triple bottom line: ventures that generate social and environmental returns, as well as financial ones.

YSI is currently accepting applications for a new round of potential investment recipients; the deadline to submit applications is nearing. However, you have until February 28 to make your case.

One previous recipient provides a case study for the kinds of projects YSI aims to support: a Toronto organic farm called Fresh City Farms. The farm grows and delivers pesticide-free produce to Torontonians, but was facing several barriers to growth. They received a $10,000 loan from YSI in 2013, which enabled them to both improve their packaging and develop a new online ordering system to reduce costs and improve their customers' experience.

In order to be eligible, YSI applicants must be between 18 and 25, and must already be operating a social enterprise, either not-for-profit or profit. Successful applicants will receive between $1,000 and $10,000 in investment, along with mentorship and other forms of support.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Syeda Zaki, Finance Director, Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund

Want to play with a 3D printer? Head to the public library

"Toronto Public Library provides free and equitable access to services which meet the changing needs of Torontonians. The Library preserves and promotes universal access to a broad range of human knowledge, experience, information and ideas in a welcoming and supportive environment."
That's the mission statement for Toronto's library system, and they want you to take the "changing" part of it seriously.

Though many of us think primarily of books—the old-fashioned paper-and-ink variety—when it comes to the library, TPL has been exploring digital technology for some time, and ramping up those digital forays in recent years. They've already got robust e-book and digital magazine programs, and are exploring a Netflix-like video streaming service as well. For years, and especially for Torontonians who can't afford computers or internet connections, they've provided online access. Their latest venture: two digital innovation hubs—one at the Toronto Reference Library, and one at the soon-to-be-open Fort York branch.

Among the tools available there, and creating a lot of excitement: 3D printers.

The two hubs are a combination of maker space and digital media labs; also available will be HD cameras and green screens, computers with video editing and design software, and classes on subjects like Photoshop and web design.

As with those traditional print books, the goal is to make learning accessible to all Torontonians. "These are critical literacy skills that people are going to need to move forward," says Paul Trumphour, access and information manager for the Reference Library.

By offering these new technologies, and helping people understand how to use them, the library is supporting another kind of literacy—and one that is becoming increasingly vital to employment and creative enterprises. He cites, for instance, how many more men than women still enrol in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs, saying that "one of the ways to encourage young women to do this is to provide opportunities outside of the curricular experience… we think that's a role the library can play and should play."

About those 3D printers: staff will be on hand to help, and the library will be running workshops in how to design 3D objects. There are two at the Reference Library: one will be first come first served, and the other you can book in advance for a block of up to two hours. As for how they'll manage the inevitable waiting list, Trumphour chuckles, "we'll have to figure that out as we go."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Paul Trumphour, Access and Information Manager, Toronto Reference Library

Medical accelerator signs major new strategic deal

Back in 2010 the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and MaRS Innovation came together to form a new cancer-focused accelerator. Called Triphase, in October, 2012 that accelerator quietly closed a collaboration deal with major biotech company Celgene—a deal that has just been publicly announced.

Triphase focuses on developing oncology therapies, taking them through the early phases of that process, including initial funding, industry advice, and clinical proof-of-concept work. Their goal is to help new therapies complete this process in under three years. Products that make it through the accelerator will then be sold or licensed, on their way to full commercialization. Some key terms of the deal—including the amount Celgene paid upfront to gain access to Triphase's products—haven't been disclosed, but we do know that Celgene has acquired the right of first refusal on Triphase's first three products, plus negotiation rights on three more cancer therapies.

"For the last year or so, we've basically been accumulating assets [i.e. potential new therapies], and running drug development processes around those products," explains Triphase CEO Frank Stonebanks, about the 15-month gap between when the deal with Celgene was signed and when it was announced.

Triphase has now acquired one product in particular that they are excited about, and has been working on trials, cleaning up the data from the company that originally developed the therapy, and generally doing some groundwork. Now that the Celgene deal has been announced, Triphase is focusing on expansion, including potentially expanding beyond oncology entirely.

With facilities in both Toronto and San Diego, and experience working on both sides of the border, Stonebanks has developed an appreciation for the differences between the two business cultures. A Canadian, he originally left here in 1995 "for basically all of the [usual] reasons: I could not find the intellectual, economic challenges that I wanted… Then the OICR recruited me and I came back in 2010. That's a good sign, the tide is starting to turn."

Now back in the States, Stonebanks says that we do "a great job on early science and technology, but translating that into actionable value—that's where Canada has frankly fallen short over the years." That may be something to work with rather than worry about, however: "I think we need to be a little honest with ourselves with what we don't do well… We live in a global economy, don't have to have all manufacturing here, all aspects of development here. It's not a flag-waving exercise; you need to do what's right for your business."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Frank Stonebanks, Founder and CEO, Triphase Accelerator Corporation

Finalists announced for 2013 Canadian Startup Awards

For the third year, technology publication Techvibes is giving out awards to acknowledge the country's top new ventures and enterprises. The finalists for the 2013 Canadian Startup Awards were recently announced, and now it's up to you: the winners will be selected by the public, via an online vote. You can cast your ballot until midnight on January 19; the winners will be announced on January 20.

As usual, Toronto is well-represented among the finalists. Among the local ventures vying for awards are:

  • InteraXon: a technology company that creates products based on tools that read a person's brainwaves.
  • Music-messaging platform Rithm
  • Business-to-business marketing company Influitive, which closed a major round of funding this time last year
All of those were nominated for the most prominent award: overall startup of the year. Toronto's well-represented in other categories. Two local startups are also nominated for accelerator graduate of the year. Bionym, which came through Creative Destruction Lab and The Next 36, provides unique user identification tools based on a person's signature heartbeat. And ShopLocket, which graduated from Extreme Startups, provides easy-to-use tools to help retailers set up online stores.

Techvibes received over 2,500 nominations; editors whittled down to the list of finalists with public input as well. Launched in conjunction with KPMG, the Canadian Startup Awards are given out in six categories. Last year nearly 18,000 votes were cast. Wattpad won for best overall startup in 2011, and Indochino in 2012.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan

Eight entrepreneurs who want to make a difference

This summer, MaRS Discovery District announced a new program: an accelerator for socially-oriented businesses, called Impact 8. It's a bootcamp of sorts: eight participants were chosen for an eight-week crash course in everything from marketing to investor relations. That first cohort, chosen from more than 150 applicants, recently completed the program.

They celebrated in style, opening the TSX on December 5, and spending the day explaining their enterprises and pitching venture capitalists.

"One of the biggest roadblocks to getting my venture off the ground," says Gavin Armstrong, president of The Lucky Iron Fish Project, "was trying to really narrow down the business plan—hone in on the value proposition, who your customers are, and how you're going to deliver." As an Impact 8 participant, Armstrong got one-on-one time with experts who were able to walk him through the practical elements of pulling his project together more adeptly.

"The most critical thing is mentorship," Armstrong says about why he wanted to join Impact 8. He'd been working on Lucky Iron Fish on his own for a year prior to participating, but as a newbie entrepreneur the program "helped lay some of the first-time learning tools: financial fitness, marketing communications, intellectual property, trademarking…"

The Lucky Iron Fish, if you're wondering, is actually an iron fish—one that people can toss into a pot of whatever they are cooking, which will then absorb some of the iron, and help alleviate anemia. Armstrong is right now focused on Cambodia, a nation with significant rates of iron deficiency.

The entrepreneurs who joined Impact 8 all knew going in that they wanted to make a difference through their work—their projects must have social or environmental benefits in order to be eligible. It's the business side of thing that wasn't always as clear. "I didn't know how to make a sustainable business plan," Armstrong says frankly. "I was hemorrhaging money."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Gavin Armstrong, CEO of The Lucky Iron Fish Project and Impact 8 participant

Ontario announces new Health Innovation Council

Ontario is a growing force in medical technology research, and now the provincial government wants to bolster the sector further. Last month Queen's Park launched the new Ontario Health Innovation Council to help support the commercialization of medical innovations and new technologies. The council's task: identify growth opportunities and strategies for market-oriented development.

The council is specifically focused on small- and medium-sized businesses, and has a mandate to create the conditions for job growth in this sector.

The provincial government estimates that Ontario's health technology sector generates $9.1 billion a year. In job terms, the medical devices sector employs more than 17,000—49 per cent of the total nationwide.

The 15 council members represent academic institutions, hospitals, private companies, and non-profits. (Toronto-based members include the heads of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, MaRS Innovation, UofT's Institute for Health Policy, and the University Health Network.)

Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, said via a written statement that, "Ontario’s capacity to provide the best care and get value for our precious health dollars depends on harnessing our strengths in health research and innovation. The Ontario Health Innovation Council will help us improve the quality of care while creating valuable new jobs."

Catherine Zahn, president of CAMH, echoed those sentiments in her own comments, writing that "OHIC is an opportunity to ‘think big’ and broadly about health innovation in Ontario and make it real for patients, people and communities.”

The council's members will be looking at a range of issues beyond commercialization, too. They'll be examining ways to lower health care costs in the province, and try to focus on new ways to improve patient care.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
Photo: Courtesy of the University Health Network.

Province's new Youth Employment Fund now accepting applicants

When the provincial government released its budget this past spring, one key focus was on employment—and specifically youth employment. At that time Premier Kathleen Wynne announced her intention to roll out several new programs to help Ontario youth find work. Last month, the complete details about the largest of those news programs were released.

The Ontario Youth Employment Fund is a system of incentives to encourage employers to hire young people. The province plans to spend $195 million on the fund over the next two years, and up to $7,800 on each eligible participant. That money is split: up to $6,800 could go to a participant's employer to cover training and defray wages, and up to another $1,000 to the participant directly, to help cover employment costs such as equipment purchases or transportation.

To be eligible, a worker must be between the ages of 15 and 29, unemployed, and not registered as a full-time student. The province has said it will "make special effort to help youth facing barriers to work, including youth on social assistance, aboriginal youth, and youth in communities with high unemployment." Employers, for their part, must provide four to six month job placements which don't take the place of current or recently laid-off employees. Employers can apply to use the fund for multiple employees, and companies in all sectors are eligible.

It's also important to note that the fund supports "non-occupation specific" training: that is, the goal is to help participants develop general workplace competencies—basic computer literacy, communications skills, and so on—rather than provide training for particular industries. The province's employment services department will assist prospective participants in trying to find employment, but workers who find their own jobs can then apply to the fund as well.

Launched at the end of September, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities reports that in its first month more than 1,200 young people received assistance from the fund; applications are accepted on an ongoing basis.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities

A portrait of minimum wage workers in Ontario

In order to help combat the increasing wage gap in Ontario, the Wellesley Institute is joining in calls for a $4 increase in the minimum wage.

We've heard it for years, both anecdotally and through a growing body of research: the middle class is shrinking and the gap between rich and poor widening.

A new study
just released by the Wellesley Institute explores one particular element of this development: the status of minimum wage workers in Ontario.

The study is animated by two key ideas, says its author, Sheila Block. "One is that the minimum wage is just for kids…however, 40 per cent [of minimum wage workers are over the age of 25."

The second, she says, is that "minimum wage work isn't distributed equally." There are some demographic groups with a much higher proportion of minimum wage work than others—specifically women, young workers, racialized workers, and recent immigrants (defined as those here less than 10 years). Crucially, this state of affairs is worsening: the proportion of Ontario employees earning the minimum wage has more than doubled in the eight year span between 2003 and 2011, and the proportion of minimum wage workers is increasing more rapidly among racialized employees than in the population at large. In short, more of us are working for less money, and the distribution of minimum wage work is increasingly unequal.

Some of Block's findings:

  • In 2003, 4.3 per cent of Ontario's workforce earned the minimum wage; in 2011 it was 9 per cent.
  • Among racialized workers the rate went from 4.5 per cent (2003-2005) to 12.5 per cent (2009-2011).
  • A greater proportion of women are minimum wage workers: in 2003 5.1 per cent (vs 3.5 per cent for men), and in 2011 10.5 per cent (vs 7.6 per cent for men). The rate of increase in minimum wage work has been roughly equal between genders.
  • The demographic group with the highest proportion of minimum wage workers are recent immigrants who are women: 26.5 per cent of this group are working for minimum wage.
Increasing minimum wage would, Block says, "have a disproportionately positive impact on those groups [that currently have the greatest proportion of minimum wage workers]" in addition to raising the floor for all workers in the province.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Sheila Block, director of economic analysis, Wellesley Institute
99 Church & Wellesley - Yorkville - Annex Articles | Page: | Show All
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