It’s time to put an end to wage inequality between women and men, Ontario’s premier said Tuesday as she announced legislation that aimed to increase pay transparency in the province.

Kathleen Wynne, whose Liberals have been championing themes of fairness ahead of a spring election, said action was needed on the issue.

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“We’ve got to pay attention to the reality of women’s lives,” she said, while detailing legislation that was to be introduced Tuesday afternoon. “They still are not paid the same as men are paid. They still, at a very young age, have their horizons limited. We have got to stop doing that to them.”

The wage gap between women and men in Ontario, Wynne said, ranges anywhere between 12% to 29%, depending on the workplace.

If passed, the government’s bill would require all publicly advertised job postings to include a salary rate or range, bar employers from asking about past compensation and prohibit reprisal against employees who do discuss or disclose compensation.

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It would also create a framework that would require large employers to track and report compensation gaps based on gender and other diversity characteristics, and disclose the information to the province. If a company does not comply with the measures, it could face fines, Wynne says.

“Right now in workplaces there is resentment and hostility because information is not shared,” she says. “There’s suspicion about who is paid what. This policy is targeted exactly at that. I believe that people can deal with real information.”

The pay transparency measures will begin with the Ontario public service before applying to employers with more than 500 employees. It will later extend to those with more than 250 workers.

The proposed legislation is part of the government’s strategy for women’s economic empowerment, which includes up to $50 million in funding over three years.

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It is in line with other measures from Wynne’s Liberals that have been centred on fairness and opportunity, such as the province’s increase to minimum wage and expansion of drug coverage for people under age 25.

“The phrase I always use is that government exists to do the things that people can’t do by themselves,” Wynne says. “It is quite clear that individual women are not able to make these changes themselves.”

Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn says the government has looked to other jurisdictions for the basis of its pay transparency legislation, including existing laws in Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom.

“We’re trying to learn as much as we can from the process that’s been employed in other jurisdictions,” he says. “They obviously targeted the larger companies first and went to the medium-sized after that.”

Flynn adds other jurisdictions have been able to cut their wage gap in half in a short time using such an approach.

“We figure we can move that quickly and that far within a period of three or four years,” he says. “We’ll be making progress that simply hasn’t been made to date.”

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