A Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted July 13th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
“It seems in the silly season of an election year this government’s coming up with new promises every single week,” said Ontario Conservative Party leader Patrick Brown during an interview earlier this July on a southern Ontario radio program. You know – policies like the overnight increase in the minimum wage.”
Brown’s “silly season” missive was aimed at promise made by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals this spring to raise the minimum wage in the province from the current $11.40 to $15 an hour by2019.
It’s “too much, too soon,” Brown insisted.
You know, Mr. Brown, a lot of things have gone up ‘too much, too soon’ over the past two or three decades, like the price of groceries, tuition fees for college and university, home and car insurance, just to name a fuel. All while, wages for many have hardly gone up at all, and while for the better part of 10 years while your Tory buddy Mike Harris was premier of Ontario, the minimum wage did not go up one penny.
It all helps explain why the wage gap between the upper two or three per cent and most of the rest of us has widened to a point where we are getting dangerously close to the days where there were serfs and barons, and an ever dwindling number of people (what’s left of the post Second World War middle class) in between.
For more than a month now, since Wynne’s announcement, we’ve been hearing all Chicken Little, sky is falling rhetoric from right-wing politicians and some (not all) representatives of the business community, and after many decades of being subjected to these cries of doom each and every odd time that the minimum wage finally takes a bit of a jump, one gets tired of it.
Why is it that we can have countless thousands of people laid off from companies while the executives and shareholders award themselves with obscene bonuses, or we can have hundreds of millions of dollars flying out of the country, through loop holes in the tax laws to the Cayman Islands, or we can have large numbers of young people graduating from college and university burdened with debt and facing a world of precarious employment, and yet any time one talks about guaranteeing a wage that comes close to being liveable, all the legs are suddenly going to fall out from under the economy?
Some of the loudest opponents to a $15 an hour minimum wage are people in the retail and restaurant sectors, claiming that such a hike will hurt business owners and force them to lay people off.
There is far more reason to believe, based on times over the past 60 or 70 post Second World War years when people saw a little more money going into their pockets, that businesses benefited too because the same people will turn around and spend their money in their stores and restaurants, and so on.
The first Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, proved a hundred years ago that if you pay workers more money, they will have more money to buy your products.
Those who will be helped the most by an increase in the minimum wage – those at the lowest end of the income spectrum – are not people who will fly the money off to some tax haven or even use it for a vacation or making an investment in some other part of the world.
They are most likely going to spend that money in their own community, which should ultimately mean an overall boost to the community.
So I say a good healthy hike in the minimum wage in Ontario is long overdue. New York State, right across the border is also moving to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, as have California, Washington and a growing number of other U.S. states.
So for the sake of those workers among us who are barely making enough to get by, bring it on. It couldn’t come soon enough!
What do you think?
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