Lights at the end of the tunnel
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.