COMMENTARY: Minimum wage and the ‘raise’

I’m Bill Kingston with today’s commentary. The province announced this week the minimum wage will be going up to $11.25 an hour from its current $11. That makes it one of the highest minimum wages in the country. A cause for celebration, right? Not really. Premier Kathleen Wynne touted it as “supporting low- and middle-income families and keeping up with inflation.” But it’s hardly supporting them…they are just getting by which is why they shouldn’t characterize it as a “raise.” Even a spokesman with the Cornwall-area Social Development Council says some people are collecting welfare while having a minimum wage job just to pay the bills. But if you think raising it to a so-called “living wage” is the answer, you’re sadly mistaken. For one, businesses, especially small business, won’t be able to afford those wages – they will just cut staff. Look at what’s happened with labour in SD&G since the wage jumped to $11 an hour from $10.25 last year. Manpower has called for a fair hiring climate the last six months – not a lot of hiring of staff. Despite a Christmas-time bump in employment, Eastern Ontario jobless figures have bobbed around six to seven per cent unemployment so it doesn’t appear to be stimulating jobs. Second, minimum wage is just that – minimum. If people apply themselves they can achieve a higher wage – it takes sacrifices. And finally, it devalues the work of others as skilled workers are in a position where their wages should be going up as well. The inflationary increase is fine but a “living wage” is off the table.

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