Thursday, August 17, 2017
Lost amidst the general outrage about Donald Trump's ridiculous comments about the deadly white supremacist rally in Virginia last weekend was the release of a report on the growing gap between rich and poor in this province of Ontario. The study called Losing Ground was researched by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It found that the top half of earners grew their share of income from 78 to 81 per cent from 2000 to 2015, while the share for the bottom half of earners fell from 22 to 19 per cent. The bottom half of income earners didn’t even keep up with inflation. https://www.policyalternatives.ca/losing-ground.
In this same week Premier Kathleen Wynne took major heat from a gathering of municipal leaders who told her that upping the minimum wage will require tax hikes in order to pay for the increases. The food chain Metro announced that it will move toward automation to reduce the number of workers in its stores. And rural business owners argue that raising the minimum wage will eliminate entry level jobs in communities where the owners are lucky to be making $15 an hour themselves. There is an element of truth to all of this, although Metro and other food chains are not in the red by any means.
The Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente wrote a column about this rural challenge, although it has a "let them eat cake" quality to it. She spoke to shop owners in the pretty rural town near her summer place. Hmm. It's nice to be able to afford a summer home and then bemoan the plight of those who provide services for you. And then there was these observations:
Ms. Wynne argues – correctly – that nobody can live on $11.40 an hour. Yet few people have to. Ms Wynne likes to depict minimum-wage earners as hard-pressed single mothers. In fact, statistics from 2014 referenced in the AIMS study showed that 58 per cent of them were between 15 and 24 years old, and 57 per cent lived with family. Only 2.2 per cent were unmarried heads of household with at least one minor child.
Ya, well those young people would probably prefer to have a decent-paying job so that they didn't have to live at home. Many younger people are resigned to not being able to buy any home because of low wages and astronomical housing costs. Wente's argument seems tone deaf to the realities of those entering the workforce.
Sitting with folk at the Bridge St. church meal ministries reminded me that a number of guests were "working poor," struggling along in low-wage jobs and trying to make ends meet at the end of the month. None of them ever described their cottages or vacations.
We may end up seeing a revision to the $15 an hour minimum wage, with graduated or regional increases. Still, this has to be a step in the right and just direction. In order to gain ground decent wages are essential.