Minimum wage hike ‘a start’: de Wit

Social Development Council Executive Director Alex de Wit, seen here on the right during a city budget meeting on March 19, thinks the indexed minimum wage increase is a good first step. De Wit believes the Ontario government should work toward a so-called living wage. (Cornwall Newswatch/File)

SD&G – The head of the Social Development Council of Cornwall and Area believes the inflationary increase to the minimum wage is a “good first step” but more needs to be done.

The Ontario government announced Thursday the basic wage will be $11.25 starting Oct. 1, a 25 cent an hour increase, making it the highest rate in the country.

The hourly student wage increases to $10.55 and for liquor servers it’s $9.80.

“I think it’s a good first step. It’s certainly better than it was in 2013 at $10.25,” SDC Executive Director Alex de Wit tells Cornwall Newswatch.

De Wit says the increase will keep people from falling into the living poor class. “When the price of essentials go up, then the minimum wage needs to go up with it, just to allow people to afford to live on those minimum wages. Otherwise they’re going to become part of the living poor.”

He suggests those “living poor” end up costing the government more money in the long run as they use welfare and other government sources to top up their minimum wage earnings.

“It’s a start – the minimum wage going up with inflation – it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be any better off. The status quo often stays the same,” he said.

De Wit believes the government could go further by working toward a so-called living wage, a salary needed for a worker to meet their needs depending on where they live.

“Increasing the minimum wage doesn’t guarantee a living wage necessarily. It still means that you may be still looking to top up your wage with Ontario Works if you need to. The important thing about minimum wage is the people that are working it need to be able to afford to buy whatever it is they’re selling,” de Wit said.

He suggests Cornwall’s living wage would be above the $11.25 an hour.

In March 2013, the Cornwall and District Labour Council and other social groups demonstrated outside MPP Jim McDonell’s office calling for a living wage of $14 an hour.

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