Bill 148: Choosing both people and profit
The Halton Poverty Roundtable wants a livable income for everyone in Halton by 2026
I couldn’t help but notice that since the announcement was made by the Ontario government for a progressive minimum wage raise that would see us at $15 by 2019 (Bill 148), we have seen no shortage of voices forecasting doom and gloom for the economy. The voices of the over 50,000 citizens across the Halton Region that are currently eking out a living on minimum wage were conspicuously absent. The Halton Poverty Roundtable’s vision is to see every resident of Halton with access to a livable income by 2026. As a multi-sector catalyst which brings together resources and partners around innovative and systems-focused solutions around poverty, we embraced income security solutions because of the members at our table with the lived experience of poverty. The voices that have been telling us for the over six years that we have been working together, it’s not just about shorter housing wait-lists and more food banks, it’s about having the dignity of choice, the dignity of being able to live and not just subsist.
There is a real need to change the questions we are asking around Bill 148. Instead of “How will businesses afford to keep their doors open with this coming wage raise?”, the question I believe we need to start with is “Should someone working full-time have to access social services (food banks, Ontario Electricity Support Program, etc.) to support themselves or their family?”
Here are some additional facts to consider:
The minimum wage was frozen for 12 of the 20 years between 1995 and 2015
62 per cent of small- and medium-sized business owners SUPPORT a $15 or higher minimum wage (47 per cent about right plus 15 per cent too little) (See Campaign Research, June 2017)
Nearly 30 per cent of Ontario’s workforce earns less than $15 an hour, which means they are already below the poverty line, even if they work full-time. Poverty wages are bad for workers and bad for the economy because their low wages prevent them from being customers at local shops, beyond the bare necessities.
The evidence shows 58 per cent of employers paying less than $15 an hour are big companies (100 or more employees); and only 23 per cent are small business.
This past June, 53 prominent Canadian economists signed a letter stating raising the Ontario minimum wage to $15 by January 1, 2019 is a good idea and is economically sound. They conclude that taking all the research on minimum wage together shows that raising the minimum wage leads to little or no job loss. In fact, raising the minimum wage makes for better, more productive workplaces.
November 5 to 11 was Living Wage Week. Make a point to do some research on the other side of your views. Whether you are for or against a livable income. It will certainly make for a better conversation when you can understand and appreciate the various sides of this issue.
The report “Thriving in the City: What does it cost to live a health life?”, released this past September by the Wellesley Institute shares that, based on identical research completed in Mississauga and Toronto, for a single, working-aged individual, between the ages of 25 and 40, the cost of thriving is between $46,186 and $55,432 after tax. This isn’t a luxury lifestyle by any means; it means enough to afford things like personal care products, physical activity, transportation, etc.
The response to poverty in our communities must be a collective response. It’s a false dichotomy to pit social justice hearts against business; the real problem is poverty and the solution is working together as a community. It was Mahatma Gandhi who rightly said that “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
People supporting the $15 and Fairness campaign demonstrate in front of Queen’s Park last January.