Monday, January 20, 2014

More Thoughts On The Minimum Wage

Although I have written several previous posts on the need to substantially increase the minimum wage so that it becomes a living wage, I have been planning an update. However, I doubt that today will be the day for that update since, once again over my morning coffee, I have come across two thoughtful letters in The Star that I feel compelled to share with you.

Although the first letter looks at the poverty pervasive in Toronto thanks in no small measure to the current Ontario hourly minimum of $10.25, the second looks at the broader provincial consequences of such paltry remuneration. I am sure that similar conditions prevail in the rest of Canada.

And, as letter-writer McAdam asks, Where is the report by Ontario’s Minimum Wage Advisory Panel? My suspicion is that Premier Wynne, with a spring election likely, will be sitting on it for a long, long time unless she is that rare, almost extinct breed of politician capable of real leadership.

Re: Time to give poorest a raise, Editorial Jan. 16

There are lots of social and public policy ideas that we can afford to take our time and have a full and long debate about before moving ahead towards a solution, but raising the minimum wage should be a no-brainer. Those who oppose raising the minimum wage to a living wage, like Tim Hudak or the Fraser Institute, obviously have neither the head nor the heart to reach this sane conclusion.

You simply cannot afford to live and eat in Toronto on a minimum wage salary, and those who are trying to do so are getting sick because of it. That’s the information provided by the brave doctors and other medical professionals who are finally speaking the truth about the impact of a society that pays its CEO millions of dollars a year while thousands of our citizens are working hard every day just trying to survive. This is income inequality in its rawest and most brutal form and anyone who condones this situation is complicit in allowing it to continue.

This is one issue that we can begin to fix today by raising the minimum wage. It will not take people completely out of danger, but it will be a sign that we still recognize and reward hard work in our society. And it will be a step in the right direction.

We will need to do much more, like taxation reform to make our system fairer, increased support for seniors, and much more investment in training and development of our young people. We can take some time and talk about those long-term solutions. But raising the minimum wage is urgent.

Katie Arnup, Toronto

The Star points out a few of the huge costs from Ontario’s poverty-level minimum wage, including damage to one’s health, as doctors and other health care providers have noted, besides the hardship and frustration of poverty. But there are many other harmful impacts.

Some 375,000 Ontarians must rely on foodbank handouts to ward off hunger. Recent studies show that about 11 per cent of food bank users in Ontario are employed, but must turn to foodbanks because of their low earnings. Imagine the thousands of volunteer hours devoted to survival programs such as these.
And what about the frustrations for families in which parents must work two minimum-wage jobs in order to make ends meet, and who thus have little time to spend with their children?

My wife teaches many low-income students in Toronto’s Flemingdon Park neighbourhood where this situation is all too common. She sees the emotional price that her students pay when their parents are missing in action, because of overwork and fatigue.
The Star rightly asks: where is the report by Ontario’s Minimum Wage Advisory Panel? When I presented to the panel last fall, a staffperson told me that its report was expected by December. Where is it?

What kind of society tolerates a situation in which hard-working people must still endure poverty? The plight of low-wage workers is a vital issue that should figure prominently in Ontario’s public life, especially as a provincial election approaches.

Anglican Church members across the GTA and surrounding region are currently debating a proposal to raise the minimum wage in two stages to $14.50 per hour by 2015, above the poverty line. If we all raise our voices, we can improve the lives of our society’s poorest paid workers.

Murray MacAdam, Social Justice & Advocacy Consultant, Anglican Diocese of Toronto


  1. The right preaches self reliance, Lord. But they have created a world where only CEOs an be self reliant.

    1. Hypocrisy abounds in the 'theology' of the right, doesn't it, Owen?