$15 minimum wage up for debate



SIMCOE – Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett heads on the road for hearings on Bill 148 as part of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, while the government is perhaps starting to waiver on a $15 minimum wage.

Last week, Liberal Labour Minister Kevin Flynn announced on the London radio station AM980’s Andrew Lawton Show that Ontario’s $15 minimum wage is “still up for debate.”

On top of that, Liberal MPP Vic Dhillon revealed in a Facebook video that he “had no idea about the ramifications” the proposed legislation would have on the restoration businesses. He also admitted there are things he didn’t think about, and that frustrated forestry industry representatives “had a valid point.”

Hearings will be held in: London – July 17, Kitchener-Waterloo -July 18 , Niagara Falls- July 19, Hamilton – July 20 and Toronto on July 21.

“I look forward to hearing from organizations, individuals and businesses across Ontario with respect to minimum wage,” Barrett said. “It does concern me, however, that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business will not be allowed to testify.”


Encl.      Background

For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446 or toby.barrett@pc.ola.org


$15 minimum wage threat to students, local food

By MPP Toby Barrett

It was just four months ago Premier Wynne rejected a $15 minimum wage hike, while re-affirming her support for the policy all three political parties agreed upon whereby increases would be based on the consumer price index. “We’ve got a really good process that actually de-politicizes the increases to the minimum wage,” she said.

However, on May 30, to the disbelief of many, the Wynne government announced a 32 per cent increase, over 18 months, to Ontario’s minimum wage.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business reports their members were blindsided by this turn of events. CFIB was led to believe the Changing Workplaces Review, and any proposed legislation, would not include minimum wage. Members of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association called the announcement a betrayal.

As a local restaurant owner emailed to me: “Minimum wage jobs are not meant to fully support a family. It is supposed to bolster a household income, start youth on the right track to gainful full-time employment, supplement retirement income, etc.” Citing increased costs of over $200,000 a year, he will look at “discontinuing his support of supporting and training young people to provide a bright future for them.”

My concern with the dramatic increase to $15 is the negative impact on Ontario’s productivity and competitiveness compared to neighboring jurisdictions.  A hike to $15 is a job killer. We should be doing everything we can to bring back Ontario’s economy and the jobs and prosperity that go with it.

Under a Toronto Star headline, “$15-an-hour is too much too soon”, Opposition Leader Patrick Brown slammed the lack of a cost-benefit analysis. “If you look at all the adjacent jurisdictions – Quebec, Manitoba, Michigan, Ohio, New York – those within the regional zone we compete with, they’re all eight, nine, 10, 11 dollars,” he argued.

Mathew Lau in the Financial Post reports that according to the 2014 Minimum Wage Advisory Panel established by the Ontario Labour Minister, raising the minimum wage reduces employment and is a bad way of reducing poverty. Indeed, the panel noted some studies “find that a higher minimum wage leads to an increase in poverty.”

We are also told the wage hike will smother the Wynne-supported local food initiative. In a recent news release, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association said,  “This increase in cost will be unsustainable for many of the province’s fruit and vegetable growers, which will result in the reduction of the availability of locally produced fruit and vegetables as farms shut down.”

Barrie Hill Farms explained to the Barrie Advance that local asparagus could increase to $3.69 per pound to sit on a grocery store shelf beside imported asparagus at $2.49 per pound. Other parts of the world have friendly climates so production is higher and their cost of labour is much lower.

As Opposition Critic, I call on the Honourable Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and also Minister Responsible for Small Business, to heed the advice coming in from Ontario’s agri-food, tourism and small business sectors. To my mind, a $15 minimum wage is based on cynical vote-getting politics – not evidence-based economics.

Even without an economic analysis we can conclude that a dramatic minimum wage hike is pointless if you don’t have a job to wake up to in the morning.