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Op-Ed: Thibeault touts $15 minimum wage, new worker protections

‘We need to protect your wages and well-being by ensuring workers are treated fairly in every corner of the province,’ says Energy Minister
thibeault, glenn  2016
Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault says business is booming across all sectors and Ontario is reclaiming its place as Canada’s economic engine.

By: Glenn Thibeault

You might have heard some of Ontario’s good news lately, but if not here’s a quick recap — business is booming across all sectors and we’re reclaiming our place as Canada’s economic engine.

Ontario’s innovative businesses and talented, hard-working people like you are the reason our economy is pulling ahead.

But at the end of the day, when you’ve paid the bills and put some savings away, you probably don't feel like celebrating. You probably don’t feel like you’re getting ahead at all.

That’s because while our economy is growing, it’s also changing. People here in Sudbury are working longer hours, part-time and contract work is on the rise and benefits are harder and harder to come by. Your paycheque isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living. And what about the future — will the jobs of today exist tomorrow? Will our kids be able to find work and support themselves? Will you ever retire?

With all this uncertainty, government has to step up and protect our workers as best we can. We started by fighting hard for better pensions — leading the way nationally and ensuring our workers can retire with security. Then we announced OHIP+, a plan that provides free medication to everyone under the age of 25 — that’s 20,000 children and young adults in Greater Sudbury. This is the biggest expansion of OHIP in a generation.

But the workplace is changing in many other ways too. So this week, we launched a new plan for fair workplaces and better jobs. In this time of volatility and change, we need to protect your wages and well-being by ensuring workers are treated fairly in every corner of the province. Our plan has three main elements.

First, we’ll raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — the largest increase in our province’s history. Right now, 30 per cent of us earn less than that. That’s millions of people who are raising children, saving for school or wondering if they’ll ever be able to get ahead on a monthly budget, let alone own a home.

Second, we’ll make sure that part-time and temporary workers receive equal pay for equal work. More companies today hire part-time workers, and in too many cases pay them less to do the same job as full-time workers. That isn’t fair and we’re going to fix it.

Finally, we’ll increase minimum vacation entitlements and make sure more workers — not just those at large companies — have the right to take up to 10 days of personal emergency leave each year, two of them paid. We all need time to respond to the realities of life without worrying about losing our job.

In all of this, we’re striking a careful balance. Businesses create the jobs that Sudbury needs, so we’re making sure these changes don’t hurt a business’ ability to thrive. The good news is that many companies are already meeting these standards. They recognize that treating workers decently is good for business.

Predictably, some politicians are reacting to our Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs plan with the same tired old lines. They don’t think it’s our job to protect your rights by putting fairness first. They don’t even think the rise of part-time, minimum wage work is a problem worth addressing.

I see things differently. I see an opportunity to build a fairer, more prosperous province.  It’s why we’re also making tuition free for more than 200,000 students and getting 100,000 more kids into quality child care. It’s why we’re bringing down your hydro bill and making renting or buying a home more affordable. And it’s why we are launching a Basic Income pilot to see if there’s a better way of helping people get back on their feet.

This is the time for us to be focused and fair and bold — not simply to describe and reassert our values, but to defend them and act on them. We can do better, and together we will. 

Glenn Thibeault is the MPP for Sudbury and the Ontario Minister of Energy.