Ontario’s Minimum Wage Hike Is Better Than Nothing – But Far From Livable

By Doug Draper, Publisher, Niagara At Large

Well, at least it is a wee bit more something for workers at the lowest end of the wage scale across Ontario.

Following a four-year freeze, the provincial government is finally moving to raise it from $10.25 to $11.00 an hour effective this coming June 1st.minwage-mcd-feature-cropped

Anti-poverty critics are already quite rightfully saying that this 75-cents-per-hour increase hardly comes close to lift people, including growing numbers of our fellow citizens who find themselves stuck raising a family on minimum-wage jobs, out of poverty. You’d have to raise the minimum hourly rate to about $14 just to raise a person’s nose above a poverty line in Ontario of about $19,000 a year.

Then again, Ontario’s Liberal premier, Kathleen Wynne, is in a very tough position at this moment. Leading a minority government that could be defeated at any time, she finds herself setting what will most likely be the highest minimum wage of any province in Canada (unless Manitoba or Nova Scotia, or some other higher minimum-wage provinces moves ahead of $11.00 per hour by this June), inviting businesses and Ontario’s opposition Tory party of accusing her of giving a sucker punch to the province’s job and economy.

Sure enough, the Ontario PC opposition party of Tim Hudak, who was a leading MPP and cabinet operative in the former Tory government of Mike Harris, which froze the minimum wage in Ontario for eight straight years in a row through the late 1990s and early 2000s, said raising wages for the lowest paid workers on the food chain would be bad for business.

“How unproductive is it that we’re putting more people on unemployment,” charged Hudak’s economic development critic  Jane McKenna.

Hey Tim and Jane, what if we are putting a few more bucks into peoples’ pockets so that they can go out and buy and few things and stimulate the economy? After all, studies seem to show that lower income people spend most of any expendable income they may have left after trying to keep a roof over their head on local commodities – which means food and other stores in their local community.

Then there is Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who could at least say something like ‘okay’ to an increase in the minimum wage.  But she didn’t even say that following an announcement by Wynne that went on the CBC national news this January 30th and made front page headlines in major Canadian newspapers this January 31st.  What we got instead was something like what was in the Globe article which read; “New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath, meanwhile, would not say whether she supports either the wage hike or indexing,” which, on the indexing matter, refers to something like now pumping up the wage to respond to the rate of inflation.

In my view, if Horwath cannot even at least say she supports a hike in the minimum wage, and go on to say, something like, she would work with other provinces in Canada and the federal government, and governments in the United States (where President Barack Obama has made a higher minimum wage part of his State of the Union campaign) to fight for a livable wage, she should forget about being the next premier of Ontario.

We need leaders in this province who will fight for growing numbers of people – older people who have lost decent paying jobs in the manufacturing sector and young people coming out of college and university with crippling debts – for livable wages in a world where the upper one per cent is gulping up, with greed, most of the wealth.

Horwath appears to be too slow on the draw when it comes fighting for us on that front. She should have had a clear response, complete with her plans for improving wages for minimum and lower income workers in this province, out front and centre this January 31st.MinWage-Button-Sq-blue

Finally, here is the media release from the Joyce Morocco camp in the Niagara Falls riding by-election campaing, then wade in with your comments.

Morocco Supports Minimum Wage Increase – Ontario Liberals are the only party with a Stronger Wages & Jobs Plan

Niagara Falls,  Ontario, January 31st, 2014 – Liberal candidate Joyce Morocco was joined today by MPP Yasir Naqvi at the Blue Line Diner in Niagara Falls to welcome Premier Kathleen Wynne’s announcement that the minimum wage is increasing. 

“I’m delighted with today’s announcement by Premier Kathleen Wynne that the minimum wage will increase to $11 and future increases will be tied to inflation,” said Morocco.   “This is a balanced approach that is fair for workers and business in Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Fort Erie.”

“The fairness agenda is part of our economic well-being, said MPP Yasir Naqvi.   “That’s why our government convened a Minimum Wage Advisory Panel to make recommendations on a fair and balanced approach to minimum wage increases. With representation from the business, labour, anti-poverty and youth sectors, the panel has delivered a consensus report suggesting that increases be tied to inflation.  We’re implementing their thoughtful analysis.”

“Any leader in Ontario today has to care about people living at all income levels.  It is shocking that the Ontario Conservatives don’t care about people making minimum wage. The PCs froze minimum wage for 9 long years, and their so-called right-to-work policies will drive down wages and weaken pensions,” said Morocco. 

“Wayne Gates and the NDP have been completely silent on this important issue.  The NDP has absolutely no plan for jobs and no plan to increase wages, “ said Morocco, referring to recent comments by Andrea Horwath and the NDP:

 “Our caucus hasn’t made a final decision on the exact figures….that is something we are looking very closely at.” (Andrea Horwath, Media Availability in Niagara Falls, January 18, 2014)

“I don’t think that we have come forward with a position in the last while about an increase in the minimum wage”

(NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, Media Availability, January 20, 2014)

“Today’s announcement ensures that employees in Niagara are getting paid in a fair and equitable manner, while also ensuring that businesses remain competitive.  Only the Ontario Liberal plan has a fair, balanced approach to creating jobs and investing in our economy.   That’s why I am running to be your MPP in Niagara Falls,” said Morocco.  “Working with Premier Kathleen Wynne, I’ll fight at the table in government for good wages for the middle class and those trying to join it.”

“The PCs are promising to eliminate jobs and drive down wages while the NDP have no plan at all and won’t present one because NDP ideas are bad for the economy.  Niagara families remember what the NDP did in the 1990s when unemployment skyrocketed, and they don’t want to go back,” said Naqvi.

(Niagara At Large invites you to share your views on this post. A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who share their first and last name with them.)

6 responses to “Ontario’s Minimum Wage Hike Is Better Than Nothing – But Far From Livable

  1. I love the math…. $14 per hour X 40 hours per week * 52 = what? $19K! No wonder this province is so screwed up.. My math says $14 per hour pays close to $30K a year and if you don’t believe me use a calculator. I used my head!

    Now I have no issues with $11 per hour min. wage, but $14! Come on!

    Minimum wage is not meant to be a wage to make a career off of. It is meant for students. It is meant to encourage people to do more to make themselves more attractive resources if they don’t like just getting by.

    As for moving people out of poverty here is one innovative way to do that…. MAKE THIS PROVINCE ATTRACTIVE TO BUSINESS so that businesses invest here and hire our people to do skilled labour.

    NO ONE WHO HAS DONE JACK SQUAT TO BETTER THEMSELVES DESERVES TO MAKE $30K PER YEAR FOR A JOB A MONKEY COULD DO!. THIS IS WORK WELFARE THAT SHE IS PROPOSING AND DEFINATELY ONE MORE NAIL IN THE COFFIN WITH RESPECT TO ATTRACTING COMPANIES TO THIS PROVINCE. ADD TO THAT HISTORICALLY ALL COMPANIES HAVE DONE IN SITUATIONS LIKE THIS IS FIRE STAFF AND EXPECT THE REST TO PICK UP THE SLACK!

    It is obvious Joyce and Wynn is buying votes which we all know is the liberal thing to do! Maybe its about time they spent more effort fixing the mess they got this province into instead of coming up with these airy fairy pie in the sky soak the tax payer discourage business crap they call legislation!

    Just sayin….

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  2. I don’t know what you mean by a “liveable” wage, Doug — I assume it’s what’s been termed the “living wage”.

    Unlike the minimum wage, which is based primarily on what businesses might be able to pay, the living wage is calculated on how much a worker needs to live. As such, it is an amount that varies considerably across the country. A living wage in Toronto is necessarily much higher than a living wage in my own city of Welland. As far as your critique of the NDP is concerned, I’d like to suggest that raising the minimum wage may make for a nice photo-op for the Premier, but it should not be confused with sound, comprehensive economic policy. Helping raise workers out of poverty and getting more people to work is going to take a lot more than this.

    Do I think it’s a start? No, not particularly. It’s a band-aid, which is all that governments offer us these days.

    A Response to Fional McMurran’s comment from NAL publisher Doug Draper – I told agree with Fiona McMurran that I should have referred to the need for people across this province and country to receve a “living wage” for their work rather than a “livable” one, as if t suggext one an individual or family is force to cope with or one that is barely tolerable.

    By the same token, I trust that readers did not interpret my commentary on ntario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s recent announcement to finally raise the province’s minimum wage from $10.25 to $11 an hour to mean that I believe this is tolerable. It is a token move in the direction of a $14 an hour minimum wage a growing number of low-income workers have been lobbying for in Ontario.

    At the end of the day, I believe that, given the liquidation of decent paying manufacturing jobs on this continent and, by virtue of that, the hollowing out of a health middle class, growing numbers of employees in the retail sector are going to have to organize and fight, just as previous generations of workers had to a century ago in the industrial sector, to fight for a living wage.

    More on this later, Doug Draper

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  3. The American Empire

    Great Empires have existed over the centuries, grandiose empires structured by the elite in their never ending greed, the need to conquer and the need to control, as all Empires they fell to the wayside steeped in corruption and decay.

    The American Empire was born out of man’s will to forge a better life as immigrants flooded in from oppressed lands far and wide bringing with them their initiative and skill.
    The entrepreneurial spirit flourish as small business sprung up, grew and became the driving force behind the American Industrial Revolution. Colleges and Universities, aided by the steady flow of Immigrants combined technology and ingenuity with the American Dream and America became the Industrial Giant of the modern world.

    Factories geared to mass-produce automobiles, trains, planes, ships and appliances sprung up all over the country and prosperity reigned supreme. This ability to mass-produce was the instrument that in reality tilted the scales in favor of the allies during the great world wars of the twentieth century. What has happened since?

    Those same Universities became the breading ground for the economics of this century. Economics that spread the doctrine of “opportunity costs”, “economy of scale” and a host of other catchy phrases that is transforming the Industrial structure of America away from Manufacturing to a Service orientated society. Now when you look at labels invariably it is manufactured in China, Taiwan or any of a group of Southeastern countries where the standard of living is appalling due to cheap labor and political corruption. This is the reality of the Global Economy and mankind’s unrelenting greed, fostered by the bottom line economics of our enlightened society, the right wing “Think Tanks”.

    America became an Empire due to innovation, hard work and it’s Industrial capability but each day we see this chipped away as more and more of that capability is shipped overseas to bolster the bottom line of American companies with no regard for the American Dream. Empty factories and for sale signs is evidence of the corrosion, of the decay that is eating away at the foundation of this proud country. Will it turn around? No I don’t think so for the fastest growing economy in the world is China and “the sleeping giant has been awakened”. I think the “Catch word” here Economists is “America beware you have shot yourself in the foot”.

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  4. The “living wage” initiative is a good one because residents in the community have to do research into what the local costs are for individuals and families. Not only does that mitigate against the automatic polarization of opinion that a raise in minimum wage alone always engenders (see above), but it brings to light local factors that tend to keep people in poverty. A few: lack of employment opportunities within the community; lack of affordable housing; lack of subsidized childcare; lack of affordable and comprehensive public transportation allowing the possibility of living and working in a community without having to own a car. Add in high price of gasoline and escalating cost of electricity…It’s not all about how much we get paid; much of it is about how our tax dollars are spent, and for whom.

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  5. Apparently it’s ok to bail out speculators wearing suits and ties, but it’s not ok to pay fair wages to workers who produce goods and services. It’s ok to have all sorts of corporate dead money collecting dust, but it’s not ok to pay workers fairly so the money can be put back into the economy. Tuition, transportation, everything is skyrocketing in price, except wages.

    http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/unionization-linked-to-prosperity-studies-find-242168121.html?device=mobile

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  6. I agree with much of what Joseph has said. Cheap foreign labor has undermined our economy on the promise of access to those markets. At the same time expensive local labor, cost of doing business and Ontario government instability has also exasperated the situation. Sad thing is that we have already seen that China is not about to buy items manufactured abroad. The only thing they want is our oil and our manufacturing jobs and we are ALL going to pay for it through increased global market prices for the commodity (along with a bunch of others). In addition to the oil sands and all that they represent that is wrong.
    This is what Wynn, Harper et al should be dealing with not these stop gap, beat the last survivor businesses to death solutions.
    If they had half a brain, they would be talking about that, but they are not. They are talking about things that will win them the next election the self-serving bastards!

    By the way Mark, inflation is at record lows not including fuels. Assuming the people we are talking about here don’t drive and live in apartments due to economics, things have never been better for them from an inflation perspective. Ironically this is due to the cheap crap we bring in from China. This will at least be true until we have to throw the garbage out pre-maturely because it is junk.
    PLUS IN THAT TAX BRACKET THEY GET THEIR EDUCATION FOR FREE SO THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THEM TO BETTER THEMSELVES AND BENEFIT FROM HIGHER WAGES DOWN THE ROAD. IT TAKES WILLPOWER AND DESIRE. Unemployment amongst post-secondary educated people is around 3% which is not great, but not bad.
    Increasing minimum wage to $14 per hour will do nothing but encourage people to become complacent and at that salary a liability to our society. We’ve seen that exact thing in with our generous welfare system. People get by on that and they are content to eat their pre-made TV dinners, take cabs to the beer store and sit around all day doing nothing!

    As for organizing more labor Doug, I think we all know my position on that! If you don’t want to work at a job for the prescribed wage, don’t take the job or do something to make yourself more attractive! The times where an EMPLOYEE TELLS THE EMPLOYER HOW MUCH THEY WILL MAKE AND STRONGARM THEM INTO SUBMISSION HAVE TO END!

    Just sayin…..

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