Kathleen Wynne objects to $14 minimum wage

 27 January 2014

Premier Kathleen Wynne has welcomed recommendations that would increase Ontario’s minimum wage annually by the rate of inflation but is downplaying the notion the $10.25 rate should be boosted dramatically.

The provincial advisory panel’s report released Monday doesn’t address the thorny issue of what today’s rate should be.

The report also recommends businesses get four months notice before any increase takes effect and that the government review the scheme in five years.

“The reason we asked the panel for advice is that we really want to move away from an ad hoc system — or lack of system — of dealing with the minimum wage,” Wynne said Monday in Thornhill before the report came out.

“The panel is going to advise us . . . that we should index the minimum wage to an indicator and we’re going to look at that advice,” the premier said, putting cold water on the bid to dramatically hike the $10.25 hourly rate.

“I know that there’s a call for $14, but we have to move carefully because this is about making sure that we retain and create jobs,” she said.

“At the same time we have to have a system in place that has a fairness to it that . . . has not been the case for many years.”

The minimum wage has increased 50 per cent in Ontario since 2003, from $6.85 to $10.25 per hour, taking it from one of the lowest in Canada to one of the highest. This report will guide our efforts to ensure a fair minimum wage for Ontario’s workers, improve living standards for the most vulnerable and keep businesses competitive.

Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi pointed out in a statement Monday that the “minimum wage has increased 50 per cent in Ontario since 2003, from $6.85 to $10.25 per hour, taking it from one of the lowest in Canada to one of the highest.”

Wait time is three years minimum in Grey County

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Monday, November 18, 2013 6:44:12 EST PM

The hundreds of people who are on waiting lists for an affordable housing unit in Grey-Bruce are, in most cases, living in crisis mode, say local advocates for low-income residents.

Unaffordable rent costs force people to take drastic measures to scrape by, say Jill Umbach, planning co-ordinator for the Bruce-Grey Poverty Task Force, and Francesca Dobbyn, executive director of the United Way of Bruce Grey.

“It’s crisis management for the family,” Umbach said in an interview.

“You’re juggling and juggling and you hope you don’t drop the balls because it will seriously impact your family.”

Some people on the waiting list can pay market rent prices, but do so by cutting from other basic needs, like food, utilities and medication, they say. Some may have their heat or hydro disconnected after bills fall into arrears or must move every few months as they fall further behind on rent and are evicted.

Others may be living in unsafe, substandard units or in remote areas — where rent is cheaper but where transportation is a problem — until a unit opens up, they say.

“People are making awful choices,” said Colleen Purdon, an Owen Sound councillor and longtime social advocate.

She said some people on the waiting list may move out of Grey-Bruce and to an area where affordable housing is available.

“I think we’re losing people because we don’t have affordable housing,” she said.

Nearly 110 seniors, 77 adults and 23 families are on the waiting list for an affordable housing unit in Bruce County.

Grey County has 139 seniors, 300 individuals/couples and 127 families in their queue.

The waiting time in Grey County is at least three years.

The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, in its annual report on wait times, said there are more applications for affordable units now than ever before.

The average market rent in Owen Sound is $554 for a bachelor apartment, $686 for a one-bedroom unit and $827 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Rent is higher in Saugeen Shores and Kincardine.

The CMHC says a family should be spending 30% or less of their gross monthly income on shelter and utilities to ensure there is enough money for food, transportation, clothing and other essentials.

There are two kinds of affordable housing units: geared-to-income, where rent is calculated at 30% of a tenant’s gross monthly income; and apartments where the shelter costs are 20% below market rent.

A single parent, making $10.25 an hour, earns about $1,776 a month before taxes, which puts the cost of rent, even for a bachelor apartment, over the 30% threshold. Ontario Works recipients receive a maximum shelter allowance each month of $376 for a single person and $648 for a family of three, which is 78% of the average cost for a two-bedroom unit.

Umbach said some people are spending 65% to 95% of their income on shelter and utility costs.

Dobbyn said she is not surprised by the demand for affordable housing units in the region.

“It’s an additional symptom of the precarious work in our economy,” she said.

The local United Way made a submission in October to the Ministry of Labour’s review of the province’s minimum wage, which has been frozen at $10.25 an hour since 2010.

The agency prepared budgets, based on a single parent with an eight-year-old and 15-year-old child, and determined the “living” minimum wage should be $13.21 in Owen Sound or $15.11 in rural Grey-Bruce where transportation costs are higher. A “living wage” would allow the family to cover basic needs, including shelter/utility costs at $993 a month, as well as items that allow for “fuller participation in society,” such as school-related costs, telephone and Internet, swimming lessons and a vacation.

Purdon said to boost the number of affordable housing units, municipalities and others should be putting more heat on the federal government to create a national affordable housing strategy.

She said municipalities, like Owen Sound, should have conversations about policies or incentives to encourage developers to include affordable units in their housing projects.

Dobbyn said it is important to address the stereotypes surrounding affordable housing, so mixed neighbourhoods, with some social units, are welcomed.

Provincially, 158,500 households were on a waiting list for geared-to-income units in December 2012. The average wait time was 3.2 years.

The waiting lists in both Grey and Bruce counties shrunk from 2012 to 2013, although wait times have remained virtually the same.

UWBG provides feedback to the Ministry of Labour Minimum Wage consultation process

17 October 2013

United Way of Bruce Grey has provided feedback to the Ministry of Labour Minimum Wage consultation process.http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/regional.php

A “living wage” is needed for people to avoid poverty in today’s economy. 

A recent survey carried out by the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force for the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy Review submission heard from low-income wage earners of Bruce and Grey Counties.

The majority of people surveyed (total 82) were aged 45-65, with lived experience or living in poverty; they prioritized the provision of a “living wage” as the most important thing to reduce poverty for families and individuals. 

“We’ve heard over and over again how “precarious” employment is undermining a person’s ability to maintain their household budgets” explains United Way Executive Director Francesca Dobbyn.  “A single person working full-time at the current minimum wage of $10.25 would earn below the poverty line, add dependants, part-time work and the family is in constant financial crisis”

The United Way calculated that a living wage for the City of Owen Sound would be $13.21 and for Bruce Grey in general $15.11. (May 2012)  “The most significant difference between living in the rural counties verses in Owen Sound is access to transit, our calculations for the city only assessed for transit use, not a car” Dobbyn detailed.

The United Way of Bruce Grey supports the following recommendations: (see report for clarifying statements)

  • A minimum wage should bring workers and their families out of poverty.
  • The minimum wage should be calculated based on a 35-hour work week.
  • The minimum wage should be adjusted every year with the cost of living.
  • Wages for farm or migrant workers, who are currently exempted from Ontario’s minimum wage laws, be regulated.
  • Further engagement on the positive impact of an increase of minimum wage rate on Bruce Grey Counties’ business community be undertaken as part of the preparation for any increases.

An increase in the minimum wage will raise the standards for all Ontario employees. This increase will have a positive impact on those working at minimum wage and other low wage workers. The combined impact would mitigate income inequality and go a long way to reduce poverty in our community.