WYNNE TOUR HITS WIND­SOR

Min­i­mum-wage in­creases at­tract at­ten­tion

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - JULIE KOTSIS jkot­sis@post­media.com twit­ter.com/JulieKot­sis

On­tario Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne heard first-hand from lo­cal labour and busi­ness lead­ers Fri­day their com­mit­ment and con­cerns over pro­posed changes to the prov­ince’s min­i­mum wage and other em­ploy­ment rules.

The roundtable dis­cus­sion on labour, held at St. Clair Col­lege’s Ford Cen­tre for Ex­cel­lence in Man­u­fac­tur­ing, fo­cused on the changes that would make work less pre­car­i­ous for many of On­tario’s low­est paid work­ers.

“It’s re­ally heart­en­ing that we all agree on that (ob­jec­tive) and now we just have to find a bal­ance,” Wynne said fol­low­ing her meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Wind­sor-Es­sex Cham­ber of Com­merce, Wind­sorEs­sex Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, the col­lege, the Uni­ver­sity of Wind­sor, Uni­for, health care and not­for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“It’s very im­por­tant to do what we can as a so­ci­ety, and the govern­ment is part of that, to make sure peo­ple can look af­ter them­selves and that peo­ple can look af­ter their fam­i­lies,” she said.

Un­der pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, min­i­mum wage would in­crease to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019.

Matt Marc­hand, cham­ber pres­i­dent and CEO, said busi­nesses want a longer roll­out in the hike.

In ad­di­tion to a five-year pha­sein for the min­i­mum wage hike, Marc­hand said On­tario has to start look­ing at “cost off­sets” for busi­ness in­clud­ing changes to elec­tric­ity prices, cap-and-trade and pay­roll taxes.

“We’ve got a great busi­ness com­mu­nity. We’ve got a great labour com­mu­nity. We can com­pete with any­body, but we have to have a sim­i­lar cost struc­ture,” Marc­hand said. “We don’t need to be the cheap­est, but we need to be com­pet­i­tive.”

Uni­for Lo­cal 444 pres­i­dent Dino Chiodo said the meet­ing al­lowed many voices to be heard on is­sues rel­e­vant to ev­ery­body.

“I think this gave us an op­por­tu­nity to come to­gether and re­ally let the pre­mier see that Wind­sor is a dy­namic com­mu­nity try­ing to bring ideas and fig­ure out how we grow to­gether,” Chiodo said.

Giv­ing no specifics, he said there are some “great first steps” with the leg­is­la­tion, but there are things that can be im­proved.

“We don’t want sit­u­a­tions where in­di­vid­u­als can­not af­ford to keep their busi­ness open,” he said. “What I do know is that we’ve got to take care of ev­ery­body to­gether. How do we get peo­ple to­gether so they’re all mak­ing liv­able wages and how do we boost our econ­omy in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate get­ting that done?”

Wynne ad­mit­ted there will be chal­lenges, but she said she’s had pos­i­tive feed­back on the pro­posed changes from some small busi­ness own­ers, specif­i­cally on the is­sue of keep­ing trained work­ers.

“(They) said it will im­prove their abil­ity to re­tain their work­ers. By in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage, we’re ac­tu­ally cre­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion where busi­nesses … will be able to re­tain their work­ers be­cause the play­ing field will be more level.”

Wynne said is­sues raised Thurs­day by green­house grow­ers around sea­sonal agri­cul­tural work­ers’ wages and shift sched­ul­ing, as well as those raised Fri­day, will be ad­dressed in a re­port ex­pected this fall.

“I have com­mit­ted to bring­ing for­ward some pro­pos­als in the fall that would sup­port busi­ness in ways that, as I say, will al­low them to go through this tran­si­tion,” she said.

Wynne also met with Wind­sor Mayor Drew Dilkens and city coun­cil­lors on Fri­day.

Dilkens said the three main is­sues dis­cussed with the pre­mier were the new mega-hospi­tal, fund­ing for the Paul Martin build­ing and the Cana­dian Club brand cen­tre.

Dilkens was seek­ing some as­sur­ance that the hospi­tal will move to Stage 2.

“Even though the money is there they haven’t moved to the next stage yet,” he said.

And the mayor brought up one of his most pas­sion­ate is­sues — con­vinc­ing the govern­ment to change the rules that pro­hibit the sale of Cana­dian Club be­cause of dis­till­ing li­cence is­sues.

“I said to the pre­mier to­day … we’re talking about a busi­ness that’s been in busi­ness con­tin­u­ally since be­fore On­tario was On­tario,” Dilkens said. “It’s frus­trat­ing. This is some­thing that’s very im­por­tant to the com­mu­nity.”

He said she was sym­pa­thetic and agreed to look into it.

“The more times she hears it the more she knows it’s not go­ing away and we’re not giv­ing up.”

DAX MELMER

On­tario Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne met with Head Start vol­un­teers at the Toldo Health Ed­u­ca­tion and Learn­ing Cen­tre Fri­day, just one of the many stops Wynne made dur­ing a whirl­wind visit to Wind­sor.

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