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.



Owen Sound police board to ponder taxi fare hike

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Thursday, October 3, 2013 10:19:01 EDT AM

The chairman of Owen Sound’s police service board says there is still time for people to comment on a proposal to hike the cost of taxi fares in the city.

Gary Levine says the board has heard from taxi operators who are asking that the bylaw that regulates fares be changed so that all companies must charge a flat rate of $9 per trip, taxes included, within city limits.

The bylaw now allows taxi companies to charge a maximum of $8 per ride. Some operators charge $6.

Levine said the board has not yet received comments from the public, something he said he welcomes.

“The more people that provide feedback the better so that we’re not making the decision in isolation,” he said in an interview.

Without public comments, a motion to increase fares to $9 could be made at the next Owen Sound Police Service board meeting on Oct. 23, he said.

Francesca Dobbyn, executive director of the United Way of Bruce Grey, said she is concerned about increases in taxi fares, especially since the “most marginalized” people typically rely on them the most.

“For a lot of people, it’s just more of a burden on people who simply don’t have the money in their budgets to adjust to that burden,” she said.

The proposed increase also comes at a time when the city plans to increase bus fares by 10% in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and reduce routes from four to three, she said.

“Those issues should not be dealt with in isolation,” she said.

Rob Taylor, owner of Redline Taxi in Owen Sound, said he would like to see all cab operators charging the same price.

“We have to have a little bit of an increase to keep up with gas prices, insurance, maintenance, and to make sure that our drivers get a fair share as well,” he said.

Taxi fare prices are set by the Owen Sound Police Service board. The bylaw has set a maximum fare of $8 since at least 2002.

Levine said people wanting to provide feedback on the proposed fare increase should do so by Oct. 23.

They can do so by e-mailing Levine at glevine@docpc.com or the board’s administrative assistant Kelly Jo Calver at kcalver@owensoundpolice.com.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and area MPPs issue feedback on provincial poverty reduction strategy

3 October 2013

Joint Media Release

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force is calling on the Ontario government to put more resources into rural communities in its updated Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The Ontario government is reviewing its Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Poverty Task Force wants to ensure that they receive feedback and ideas from people in Bruce and Grey counties.  The Task Force’s recent submission to the government’s review is a summary of voices from low-income families across both counties.

“We heard similar messages from across the community,” said Francesca Dobbyn, United Way of Grey Bruce, “Issues such as transportation, jobs, health services; and safe, affordable housing along with service gaps as most of the poverty reduction has been focused on children.”

Families responded that they had benefited from the government’s investments in Child Benefit Taxes, Student Nutrition Program, Healthy Smiles dental program, and full-day kindergarten. However, those families with dependents over 18 and middle-aged people, seniors or those almost at retirement age are not eligible for these benefits.

See the full submission report: PTF Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy Review_Submission_2 Oct 2013

The Poverty Task Force asked area MPPs for comments on the submission:

“This report is a testament to the years of neglect by this government. I and my colleagues will continue to push for rural Ontario’s fair share through our policy proposals that include fresh food for local food banks, lower energy bills, and a fair share of the gas tax for rural residents so we can invest in transportation and ensure our communities are sustainable over the long-term.”
– Lisa Thompson, MPP for Huron-Bruce

“The gas tax is the most persistent anti-rural policy of the last decade. We want immediate action from this government to allocate a fair portion of the gas tax to all rural communities so we can meet our transportation and infrastructure needs. Rural Ontario has an enormous opportunity for growth, and so the sooner this government starts supporting our policies, the sooner we will ignite a comeback for rural communities.”
– Bill Walker, MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound

The Poverty Task Force, a group of agencies and grassroots groups across Grey and Bruce Counties have joined together to address issues of poverty.

For more information on the Poverty Task Force please contact Francesca Dobbyn at 519 376 1560

For MPP Lisa Thompson please call 519-396-3007 or 416-325-3467

For MPP Bill Walker please call 519-371-2421 or 416-325-6242





People rally to save transit terminal

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Monday, September 30, 2013 4:38:24 EDT PM


John McLoughlin said he’s been flying an Owen Sound flag outside of his home for 20 years.

He returned it to city hall Monday as a way, he said, of expressing his disappointment with council’s decision to shutter the city’s bus terminal.

The depot on 3rd Ave. E., which the city was to close for good at 6:30 p.m. Monday, is a symbol of the city’s “concern for the less fortunate,” he said, including the poor and people with disabilities who rely on public transit to get around and use the terminal for its washrooms or to seek shelter.

“The appearance, at least, is that no one cares,” he said Monday afternoon during a rally at the terminal. “That’s what annoys me.”

About 100 people attended the “Don’t Kill the Terminal” protest, organized by the United Way of Bruce Grey.

Executive director Francesca Dobbyn said she hopes the event will send a message to council that people are not happy with the decision to close the terminal.

“This place is a resource. It’s a washroom. This building is warm when it’s cold outside and is cool when it’s hot outside,” she told the crowd.

Janice Currie, chairwoman of the city’s accessibility advisory committee, said the terminal houses one of the only two accessible public washrooms in the downtown. The other is at the Owen Sound Farmer’s Market.

It is also a place where people, including those with mental or physical disabilities, can receive assistance with navigating the transit system, she said.

“It’s a safe place and a valued resource,” she said.

City council decided in June to close the terminal as a way to reduce the ballooning cost of the transit system. The move is expected to save the city about $90,000 a year. It was also seen as a way to move from a four-route system to one with three routes, which, according to city staff, will cut the system’s cost by another $130,000 to $150,000 a year.

Even though the building will be locked, the terminal property will continue to be used as a transfer point and bus stop until this spring when the new three-route model is implemented.

City council has been told that it would cost about $9,600 a month to keep the terminal open and staffed by one city employee from Oct. 1 to March 31. It would cost about $4,500 a month to keep it open without a staff person there, but neither city staff nor Owen Sound police are not recommending that option.

Coun. Peter Lemon said he will try to bring back up for discussion Oct. 7 a staff report that includes those cost estimates in hopes council will vote to reverse its decision to close the terminal. Council voted 5-4 Sept. 23 to only “note and file” the report.

Supporters of the terminal are also being encouraged to attend that council meeting.

Dobbyn has said she would like the depot to remain open at least over winter to provide time for a “community conversation” about what to do after it closes.

Kim Bolyea, who carried a sign at the rally that read “Honk to keep bus station open,” said she uses public transit almost everyday and the central terminal is vital.

“You don’t want to be stuck out in the cold waiting for another bus,” she said.

John Christie, a former city councillor who worked as a bus driver from 1985 to 2003, said the terminal is also important to drivers who must adhere to a tight schedule.

“Now it’s like they’re going to take away their chance to, in three or four minutes, use the facilities or have a coffee,” he said.

Don Campbell, a musician from Toronto, said he was shocked to learn the Owen Sound terminal is going to close. He arrived there Monday afternoon on a Greyhound bus so he could play a gig at The River Cafe.

He said he might change his mind about coming here if there is no terminal at the end of his bus route.

“If this isn’t here, what am I supposed to do? Stand outside in the rain with my guitar and luggage in the rain,” he said during the protest.

About 300,000 passengers each year use Owen Sound Transit, according to city hall. The cost of the system was expected to reach $1.2 million this year, about $500,000 more than was budgeted. A main chunk of the increase was attributed to the cost to repair the city’s current fleet of buses.

Changes approved by council, including contracting First Student Canada to both operate the system and use its buses and moving to a three-route system, are expected to reduce the annual cost of the system to $648,000. Council also voted to hike bus fares by 10% in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and end Saturday service 90 minutes earlier.