TORONTO -- Ontario's Liberal government will hold hearings across the province to get feedback on ways to close the wage gap between men and women.

Nearly 30 years after Ontario passed legislation requiring "equal pay for work of equal value," women still earn between 12 and 31 per cent less then men.

The wage gap is even more pronounced for aboriginal women, visible minorities and those with disabilities.

"The sad fact is women on average in Ontario do not earn as much as men, and that needs to change," Labour Minister Kevin Flynn told the legislature.

"We're committed to developing a strategy that's going to close the wage gap between men and women."

A government committee will conduct consultations in 12 communities to examine the roles of women at work to better understand how the wage gap affects them in different sectors.

"The consultations are going to examine ways that government, business, labour, other organizations and even individuals can work together to identify opportunities, remove the barriers and close that gender wage gap," said Flynn. "It's going to examine the role of women at work, in their families, in their communities, and how this impacts on the gap."

The committee will look for ways to address systemic barriers that contribute to the gap in pay levels, added Flynn.

"We need to close the gender wage gap and eliminate the inequity for women in the workforce," he said. "It's the right thing to do."

Women participate in all parts of the workforce now, but there still are barriers that prevent them from achieving their full economic potential, said Tracy MacCharles, the minister responsible for women's issues.

"Our government recognizes that when we are all treated equitably, we all benefit," said MacCharles.

The New Democrats said the government should enforce the existing pay equity law rather than doing more public consultations.

"This is old, old news that the Liberals have done nothing about in a dozen years in office, and I don't know that we need another consultation," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. "Hopefully, at some point, we'll get to some action."

Pay equity legislation passed in 1987 "has not kept up with the times," added Horwath.

"It's about time we got back to being committed about the equality in wages of women and men."

The Progressive Conservatives said they want to see what ideas the committee comes up with to address the wage gap, and insisted they would "certainly be open" to any good suggestions.

"I'm not going to prejudge the efforts here," said PC Leader Patrick Brown. "Everyone wants to see fairness, parity and equality regardless of gender."

The recommendations from the wage gap committee will help make Ontario a fairer province, said Flynn.

"This is an issue whose time has come," he said. "We aim to deal with it."