Niagara Falls MPP Calls on Ford Government to “Stand Up for Front-Line Heroes”

Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates

“Will your government commit here today to stand up for these front-line heroes whose raises have been taken away by the billionaire families like those who own Walmart and Loblaws.”   – Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne gets, speaking in the Ontario legislature this June 24th

A Brief Commentary by Doug Draper, followed by the full text of Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates remarks in the provincial legislature

Posted June 25th, 2020 on Niagara At Large

For months, during the pandemic, customers have been lining up, six metres apart to get in to Walmart stores like this, and front-line workers in side have continued to be there, inside these stores, risking their health to keep the lights on so people could get the goods they need.

Even though we in Ontario, like people around the world, are still fighting this killer pandemic, and even though customers and others are still social distancing and wearing masks in stores like Walmart, Loblaws, Zhers and Shoppers Drug Mart, the billionaire owners of those stores look like they want to go back to the old normal.

They have decided to end the $2 per hour bump in wages they were making a big deal out of giving their front line workers – “heroes” they once called them – for risking their health on the job.

It is a decision that super-rich billionaire families like Canada’s grocery store barons, the Westons, and the American-based Waltons, owner of retail giant Walmart has made over the past few weeks, even while figures continued to show that their profits spiked over the past three or four months as COVID-19 shut down so much of the economy around them.

At the same time, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and other members of his government, were identifying those who work  at the front-line in the Weston’s and Walton’s grocer and other retail outlets as “heroes” and as “essential” to making sure the rest of us were able to get food and other products we need to get through this nightmare.

On a busy day, customers still have to line up and wait their turn to get in to one of the Weston family’s grocery stores. Many of them wear masks. So why, suddenly, is it time to cut “pandemic pay” for the employees in side? The Weston’s profits have soared during this pandemic.

This is also the same government, by the way, that decided a year ago to slow down the road to a $15 an hour minimum wage so many of these same workers were counting on to have an income for their hard work that is more liveable.

In the wake of all this, Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates, the NDP/Official Opposition Party’s workplace health and safety critic, rose in the legislature this June 24th to call on the government to take action that might help these workers continue receiving the additional $2 an hour in pay.

As you will see from the hansard featuring his words and those of the Ford Government’s deputy premier, Christine Elliott below, Elliot repeats what Ford has also said about this recently – that the government can’t speak for or to what is happening in the private sector.

But Gates was not asking Elliott or the premier and the government to do that. He was asking them to do something decisive to make sure that they essential, front-line workers are paid fairly for the services their labour contributes to their communities and the economy as a whole

Here is the official hansard of what the Niagara Falls MPP said on this subject this June 24th and of the reply he received –  

Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates, on his feet in the Ontario legislature. File photo

Mr. Wayne Gates: “My question is to the Premier.

“When this pandemic began, billion-dollar companies like Loblaws and Walmart couldn’t wait to tell everyone that they thought their workers were heroes. Yet, just three months later, now that it’s not in the news, the billionaire families who own these companies have clawed back the $2 pandemic pay they gave their workers.

“Listen to this: The Walton family, who owns Walmart, is worth $175.2 billion. The Weston family, who are Canadians and own Loblaws, are worth almost $9 billion. These greedy families are making record profits. Their workers are still working to keep our communities operating during this pandemic and risking their lives.

“In Niagara Falls, actually, a small, independent, locally owned grocery store (Commisso’s Fresh Foods) is still paying the $2 pandemic pay—a locally owned family business—because he knows they’re heroes.

“Will your government commit here today to stand up for these front-line heroes whose raises have been taken away by the billionaire families like those who own Walmart and Loblaws, and will you commit to using the power of this government to get the raises back for our front-line heroes who deserve it?”

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Deputy Premier.

Ontario Government Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott

Hon. Christine Elliott: “I can certainly agree with you that our front-line workers are heroes and they do deserve it.

“I can’t speak to what is happening with some of the private companies. I appreciate that some of the smaller groups are following up on their promises that they have made, as we’re following up on our promise to provide the pandemic pay to the people who are eligible to receive it. We wish we could have supplied it to everyone, but unfortunately that was not part of the agreement we had with the federal government. Over 375,000 people will be receiving it.

“As I indicated in my previous response, the letters have gone to the organizations. They’ve been followed up with the ADM letters. The money will be flowing very shortly. We have asked the hospitals and other organizations that are going to be distributing these funds to please change their payroll arrangements so that as soon as they receive those dollars, they will be going into people’s pay cheques right away. That is going to happen imminently.”

To read another piece Niagara At Large recently posted on this issue, click on –

To read a News Release from the Ontario New Democratic Party on this issue, click on – https://www.ontariondp.ca/news/gates-ford-must-force-big-grocery-stores-reinstate-pandemic-pay-workers

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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