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Increase minimum wage to $14 an hour: protesters

Right now, a person earning Ontario's minimum wage — $10.25 an hour — could work full time and still be living at 19 per cent below the poverty line.
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Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty member Anna Harbulik was among those who attended an Aug. 14 Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty protest in support of boosting the minimum wage to $14 an hour. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.
Right now, a person earning Ontario's minimum wage — $10.25 an hour — could work full time and still be living at 19 per cent below the poverty line.

That's why the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (S-CAP) is calling for the three-year freeze on the minimum wage to end, and the rate to be boosted to $14 an hour. That would put minimum wage-earners at 10 per cent above the poverty line.

“Then we want them to keep raising it with inflation so that it always stays right there, at 10 per cent above the poverty line,” said S-CAP member Christy Knockleby, one of about 20 people who protested the issue in downtown Sudbury Aug. 14.

S-CAP members and their supporters gathered outside of Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci's office to demand a boost to minimum wage rates as part of a provincewide day of action on the issue.

They also brought information about the minimum wage up to Bartolucci's office and left it with his secretary, as the MPP wasn't there.

The visit went without incident, unlike a sit-in by the same group at Bartolucci's office last November, which ended with 11 people being arrested for trespassing.
Knockleby, who organized the protest, said the province is in the process of setting up a minimum wage review.

“It's now up to the people of Ontario to show the province we're serious,” she said. “We want a raise.”
Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty member Anna Harbulik was among those who attended an Aug. 14 Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty protest in support of boosting the minimum wage to $14 an hour. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.

Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty member Anna Harbulik was among those who attended an Aug. 14 Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty protest in support of boosting the minimum wage to $14 an hour. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.

She said a lot of people think that it's just youth who earn minimum wage, but the number of people over the age of 35 with low pay is continuing to increase because of the types of jobs that are being created.

“I believe it's 14,000 families visit the food bank in Sudbury every month,” Knockleby said.

“I'm willing to bet a large number of those are on minimum wage. It means worrying about how you're going to pay your rent. It means worrying about whether your kids can go to school activities.”

During the 2011 provincial election, the NDP promised that if elected, they'd immediately increase the minimum wage to $11 an hour, and then index it to the inflation rate, said Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas.

She said she did some number crunching, and if the NDP had implemented this measure, the Ontario minimum wage would now be $11.50 an hour.

“What we have now is we have politicized the minimum wage, where people who work and basically live in poverty every election have to fight to get a pay increase,” said Gélinas, who attended the protest.

“I don't want this anymore. If you work full time in Ontario you should make enough money to be above the poverty line.”

In terms of the minimum wage review, the MPP said this was one of the promises the Liberals made during the last election, but they're only getting around to it now.

Gélinas said she doesn't think a review is necessary, as there has already been a lot written about the subject. She said it would be great if the province just boosted the minimum wage and indexed it to inflation.

“Look at Manitoba, just next to us,” Gélinas said. “They have done this, they have settled it, and now people working full time don't live in poverty. Many of the states have done the same thing. It's time for Ontario to move.”

Charles Tossell, who lives on an Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) pension, said he has a difficult time making ends meet sometimes, as he only gets about $1,000 a month.

However, he has government-paid benefits such as drug and dental coverage that people who live on minimum wage don't receive.

“We're protesting for the average people that aren't able to make ends meet,” Tossell said. “They have a hard time as well.”

For more information about the fight to boost the minimum wage, visit raisetheminimumwage.ca.

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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