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.
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.
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.
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