What's the living wage plan?
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | Nov. 15, 2018|
I finally had a one-on-one chat with Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott late last week.
The Minister of Labour was in town for a triad of good news events: a funding announcement for Abbey Retreat Centre, the Township of Minden Hills and Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce. There was also a visit to Kinark to celebrate past government spending, by the Liberals, on a program out there. And, she did a walk-though of Walker’s Home Hardware construction site for a photo op.
The timing of the visit was interesting as it came on the heels of some criticism of her government by the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. They’re panning some of the changes her government is making at a time when living wage figures for Haliburton County have been released.
In case you missed it, Ontario’s Living Wage Network says the living wage for the county is $19.42 an hour.
The local health unit calculated the figure based on a four-person family with both adults working 37 hours a week. They factored in things such as rent, transportation, internet and hydro.
At the end of day, the health unit says that is the kind of money that allows people to not just scrape by, but to thrive, and spend money in their communities.
It was a bit of a sobering report, since we ranked second to only Toronto when it comes to the living wage. They are at $21.75 an hour.
That means our living wage is higher than Kawartha Lakes, Ottawa, Simcoe County, Niagara Region, Northumberland County, Perth and Huron, Kingston, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Counties, Guelph, St. Thomas-Elgin, Chatham-Kent, Waterloo Region and Thunder Bay.
The health unit didn’t hold back in saying a PC decision to freeze the minimum wage increase to $14-an-hour in January, instead of the Liberal promised $15-an-hour means minimum wage earners in this county fall $5 an hour short, leaving them to worry about how they are going to make ends meet. They also discussed the cutting of the basic income pilot project in Lindsay.
When asked about the living wage situation by The Highlander, Scott blamed the previous government for unaffordability in the county and across the province. She boasted about decreasing the price of hydro, gas prices and home heating, getting rid of cap and trade and the carbon tax.
She also hinted at a plan to bring in no provincial income tax for people making less than $30,000 a year.
She vehemently defended the minimum wage clawback, saying it has already risen significantly. Besides, she said, businesses all across Haliburton County are chuffed with the PCs.
But, what about the workers? Someone vandalized Scott’s office in Lindsay following the announcement of the minimum wage clawback.
We’re glad businesses in Haliburton County are relieved by the change of government. The Liberals’ Bill 148 may have gone too far. Looking at the PC’s Bill 47, it seems like more of a manageable law.
However, the minimum wage will now be frozen at $14-an-hour until 2020; temps, casual and part-time workers won’t now be entitled to the same wage for doing the same job as permanent or directly-hired colleagues. There’s been clawbacks on sick days and all leave days are now unpaid with doctor’s notes required. Employers will no longer need to pay a minimum of three hours’ wages if an employee is on call but doesn’t get a shift; workers can’t refuse last-minute requests to cover unscheduled shifts; there’ll be no three hours pay if a shift is cancelled within two days. And, penalties for breaking the rules are going down as are fines for infringements of the Labour Relations Act. There’s a crackdown on union rights, too.
Going back to the discrepancy between minimum wage and the living wage, we do wonder what Scott and her party are further planning.
They have said future minimum wage increases will become tied to inflation. However, there is already a large gap in places such as Haliburton County.
We can only hope that the Ford government continues to decrease the cost of living without hitting social services any further, or environmental programs, for example.
As I ended my conversation with Scott, I told her I’d rather have an Ontario Climate Change Plan, for example, than a buck a beer. Somewhat defensively, she retorted that the buck a beer was a regulatory thing and I could choose not to purchase it. I’m not completely sure she knew what I was getting at.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.