Canada’s Prime Minister Announces Agreements to Boost Wages for Essential Workers

A COVID-19 Update from Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada,

With an Afterword from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

Posted May 7th, 2020 on Niagara At Large

From the Prime Minister –

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

While many of us are being asked to stay home, millions of Canadians are being called on to go to work every day. These Canadians are providing us with essential services, so we can continue to keep our families safe and healthy. We are relying on them now more than ever, and that is why the Government of Canada is working with provinces and territories to provide them with a much-needed wage boost.

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced that all provinces and territories have confirmed, or are in the process of confirming, plans to cost share wage top-ups for their essential workers.

The Government of Canada will provide up to $3 billion in support to increase the wages of low-income essential workers. Each province or territory will determine which workers would be eligible for support, and how much support they will receive.

These measures are part of the Government of Canada’s comprehensive economic plan to help Canadians and businesses through this period of uncertainty. We will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely, and take additional actions as needed to protect our health and safety, and stabilize the economy.

Quotes

Drivers waved and honked horns as they passed this man in downtown St. Catharines iearlier this spring,during the first weeks of the DOVID-19 outbreak, holding up a sign thanking frontline workers for their service.  File photo by Doug Draper

“Workers are risking their health to provide us with essential care and services, and we need to make sure that they are paid properly for the work they do every day. We’re stepping up, and working with the provinces and territories, to give a much-needed wage boost to Canadians who are helping keep our country and economy strong during this difficult time.” – The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“Canada’s front line workers are dealing directly with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by taking care of Canadians in our hospitals and nursing homes. They deserve our support. This measure will help workers critical to the current COVID-19 response get the compensation they need.”  – The Hon. Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance

An Afterword from Doug Draper, reporter and publisher, Niagara At Large –

This May 7th announcement from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sounds like a good start. But I have a few questions to ask and a few comments to make.

I understand from the announcement that it will apparently be left up to the provinces and territories to ultimately decide who constitutes as a low-income essential worker who qualifies for this wage boost.

I am assuming that those eligible will include some of the more obvious workers who certainly deserve more for the services they are delivering, like the people providing a lot of the hands-on care and doing the cleaning and maintenance in hospitals, long-term care homes and other health care facilities. But what about all of the other people out there – the grocery store workers, the gas station attendants, the people who collect our household waste at curb side, those working in pharmacy stores, convenience stores, driving cabs, delivering packages, and on and on?

They’ve been out there, while many of the rest of us have been staying safe at home, risking exposure to the virus too? If they are working for minimum wage or at the lower end of the wage spectrum, are they going to receive this boost too?

They have been working in areas that have been considered “essential” through this health emergency or they would have been shut down? So of course they should receive a wage boost.

And why, if the work these people are performing is considered “essential” through times like this, why isn’t it considered essential the rest of the time? Won’t we need to get groceries and have our household waste picked up – just to name a couple of examples – if and when this pandemic is behind us?

So why should the wage boost be “temporary” and why shouldn’t everyone working for a minimum wage or for money that has them at or below the poverty line enjoy a “living wage” for the services they provide through their time and labour?

After the Ford government came to power in Ontario two years ago, it decided to cap a minimum wage that was on its way to $15 at $14 per hour in the wake of lobbying of some segments of the business community. what amounts to a “living wage” that would put them above the poverty line.

Think about it. Here we have corporations in this country and province that fly what amounts to billions of dollars each year to off-shore havens so they don’t pay any taxes here, yet instead of saying very much, if anything at all about that, here we have the Ford government and a segment of the business community charging that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is going to damage the economy.

Last November, the not-for profit Niagara Poverty Reduction Network (NPRN) came out with a report, based on calculating costs of living, that a living hourly wage in Niagara these days is $18.12.

The good news is that the NPRN has presented certificates to dozens of businesses and organizations across this region that, all on their own, have opted for paying their workers a living wage. These businesses and organizations are paying their workers a living wage knowing that it boosts morale and productivity, and that it ultimately means dividends for the local economy because these workers turn around and spend their money here.

So how about making the wage boost permanent and, while you are at it Mr. Prime Minister, how about working with Ontario’s premier, and the leaders of the other provinces and territories to set a living wage for all workers – not as a privilege, but as a right.

Finally, it appears that our tax money is being used to boost the wages of essential workers through this emergency period.

Obviously, public money has to be used to boost the wages of people working in public sector jobs. But shouldn’t any wage increase for people working in the private sector come from the private companies they are working for?

In recent weeks, we have been hearing that those grocery and pharmacy chains and other businesses that have remained open through these perilous times have, in many cases, seen their revenues jump significantly.

Surely they can afford to share some of the extra profits they have made with the employees that have worked for them on the front lines.

  • Doug Draper, Niagara At Large

For more on a living wage for working, click the following piece that Niagara At Large posted on this site in November, 1919 – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2019/11/04/2019-living-wage-calculation-for-niagara-region-works-out-to-an-hourly-wage-of-18-12/

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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