Lights at the end of the tun­nel

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Mahoney (richard@glen­gar­

Novem­ber. The Month Of The Dead. Short days. Long nights. Snow. Wind chill. Toque head. But cheer up, folks! All is not doom and gloom. For one thing, al­though the out­look was grim for awhile, Alexan­dria’s Fes­ti­val of Lights has been saved.

The Glen­garry Stor­mont branch of Clan Don­ald Canada has come to the res­cue af­ter not enough lo­cals re­sponded to an ap­peal for vol­un­teers is­sued by the com­mit­tee mem­bers who got burned out af­ter or­ga­niz­ing the at­trac­tion for 11 years.

Clan Don­ald, the largest of the Scot­tish Clans, has mo­bi­lized its vol­un­teers to work with the fes­ti­val’s long-time com­mit­tee mem­ber, Ron Au­bin, to see that the fes­ti­val con­tin­ues.

An­other rea­son to be cheery is the phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess of the Per­fect Match cam­paign or­ga­nized by the Hôpi­tal Glen­garry Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion.

A to­tal of $230,459.62 was raised in the drive af­ter a very gen­er­ous cou­ple of­fered to match, up to $100,000, all do­na­tions made be­tween the last two weeks of June and the end of Septem­ber. The $130,459 con­trib­uted by the gen­eral pub­lic came in the form of do­na­tions of all var­i­ous amounts from groups, in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses.

With the Per­fect Match money, the foun­da­tion has col­lected about $330,000 of the $500,000 re­quired to pur­chase a new dig­i­tal X-ray unit for the Alexan­dria hos­pi­tal. No­body can ques­tion the im­por­tance of the in­sti­tu­tion. How­ever, there will be no con­sen­sus on an is­sue that has stirred a heated de­bate across On­tario.

An in­crease in the min­i­mum wage would be a god­send for the 1.5 mil­lion On­tario work­ers who earn less than $15 an hour.

But ruin awaits us if the gov­ern­ment is crazy enough to forge ahead with its plan to in­crease the min­i­mum wage from $11.60 to $14 an hour Jan­uary 1, 2018 and to $15 Jan­uary 1, 2019, ac­cord­ing to the crit­ics.

Bill 148 also in­cludes man­dat­ing equal pay for part-time, tem­po­rary, ca­sual and sea­sonal em­ploy­ees do­ing the same job as full-time em­ploy- ees, ex­pand­ing per­sonal emer­gency leave to 10 days per year and en­sur­ing at least three weeks of va­ca­tion af­ter five years of ser­vice.

But those clauses have been ob­scured by the panic over the wage hike, which op­po­nents warn will bank­rupt mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, kill jobs, shut­ter busi­nesses and de­stroy farms.

The gov­ern­ment will con­sider protests when the pro­posed law is amended, says Glen­garry-Prescott-Rus­sell Lib­eral MPP Grant Crack.

No­body is go­ing to ques­tion the no­ble in­tent of the Fair Wages, Bet­ter Work­places Act.

The MPP ob­serves that there is con­sen­sus on one point. “Every­one who gets out of bed ev­ery morn­ing and goes to work de­serves a fair wage,” he says. “The ques­tion is what is fair?”

Cyn­ics note that, af­ter ig­nor­ing howls of protest about in­sane hy­dro rates for years, the Liberals, fright­ened by the spec­tre of elec­toral de­feat, sud­denly care about the work­ing poor.

Pan­der­ing to the masses just to get votes. Isn’t that what pol­i­tics is all about? Wage hike op­po­nents fret that the com­mon folk will ac­tu­ally lose out be­cause rather than pay their em­ploy­ees more money, em­ploy­ers will sim­ply lay off work­ers. Cap­i­tal­ism can be cruel.

On the other hand, the gov­ern­ment in­sists that the prov­ince's econ­omy is so strong, that higher pay­roll costs will not hurt any­one.

“No one work­ing full time should be strug­gling to put food on the ta­ble or buy cloth­ing for their chil­dren. In­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage will cre­ate more fair­ness, op­por­tu­nity and se­cu­rity for work­ers, while build­ing a more sta­ble and sus­tain­able econ­omy that also in­cludes fair work­places for every­one,” Labour Min­is­ter Kevin Flynn has main­tained.

If the Liberals are go­ing to sell their def­i­ni­tion of “fair,” the strate­gists will wa­ter down the law, in­sert ex­emp­tions, de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion. And those amend­ments will cer­tainly not please every­one. Not sur­pris­ingly, as the dis­cus­sion over de­cent pay rages on, it is hard to hear the voices of the 30 per cent of work­ers who make less than $15 an hour.

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