Premier Doug Ford announced Tuesday that his government plans to reinstate a minimum wage increase that he cancelled three years ago.

At a news conference in Milton on Tuesday morning, Ford said the province is planning to boost the minimum wage in Ontario from $14.35 to $15 by next year.

"This change would mean a full-time minimum wage worker could see a raise of $1,350 a year. This change would also see liquor servers and the hospitality sector treated more fairly by increasing their minimum wage from $12.55 to $15 an hour," Ford told reporters. 

"As a result of these changes, more than 760,000 Ontario workers will be getting a raise. I can’t think of a better way for our government to be working for workers."

A $15 minimum wage was to take effect by 2019 in a plan developed by the previous Liberal government but Ford suspended that when he took office and instead tied wage hikes beyond $14 to the rate of annual inflation.

He also passed a low-income tax credit that he said could effectively exempt full-time minimum wage earners from paying provincial income tax.

But an independent analysis showed the tax credit left all minimum wage earners worse off than they would have been with a $15 minimum wage.

When asked about why the province halted the planned wage hike when his government took office, Ford touted his government's introduction of the Low-income Families and Individuals Tax Credit (LIFT).

"When we did take office, we gave a LIFT tax credit. Anyone under $28,000 is paying zero tax. We have one of the lowest personal income taxes in the entire country that other provinces don't have," he said.

"We got the economy going again, I want to remind people, this province was in a financial disaster."

The independent Financial Accountability Office also found in 2019 that the LIFT tax credit did not benefit 68 per cent of people earning minimum wage.

Canada’s annual inflation rate has been hitting generational highs of between four and five per cent in recent months, making wages and purchasing power a top concern for many Canadians.

Deena Ladd, Executive Director of the Workers’ Action Centre, told CP24 Tuesday that it is clear to her Ford realizes he has made mistakes in how his government treats workers.

“This should have been in place three years ago in 2019, he also took away paid sick days and many other protections that would have made workers safer in a pandemic.”

“This is a complete election ploy, we’re eight months away. I think the premier knows he was wrong and needs to make amends.”

Unifor National President Jerry Dias, who joined Ford for the announcement on Tuesday, said while the hike does not represent a living wage in Ontario, "it is a good start."

"First of all I think we have to have a living wage. In order to get to a $22 living wage in Toronto, you are going to have to go through $15,"  he said.

"A living wage in London, Ont. is about $16.20. So do I think $15 is wonderful? The answer is no. But do I think it is a good start? The answer is yes as we continue to push and fight for a living wage." 

Workers being used as 'political pawns,' NDP says

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said a $15 minimum wage is "not going to come anwhere close" to providing people with the financial stability they need to build a good life.

"I firmly believe, and I think the pandemic has taught us this, that working people in this province deserve to be able to make a minimum wage that pays the bills, that allows them to pay the rent, put food on the table. They deserve a minimum wage that they can build a good life on," she told reporters on Tuesday.

"That's never been the case here in this province and we need to change that. This $15 announcement is not going to come anywhere close to doing that." 

She said minimum wage workers are being used as "political pawns on the eve of an election."

"It is a shameful tactic and I'm sick of it," she said.

Dan Kelly, the president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, slammed the Ford government's decision on Tuesday, suggesting that the province "has completely lost its way with respect to small business policy."

"This is the government that locked down small retailers while allowing Costco and Walmart to stay open during the pandemic... Now to increase the minimum wage while small businesses are basically hanging on by their fingernails is just so deeply insulting," he said.

"I don't get where the Ford government is at other than obviously fighting for an election win."

--With files from CP24's Joshua Freeman and CTV News Toronto's Colin D'Mello