RATTAN’S RUMBLE: Shameless, greedy businessmen out to sabotage decent minimum wage

Premier Christy Clark
Premier Christy Clark Photo by Chandra Bodalia
ONTARIO’S minimum wage went up by 75 cents to $11 last Sunday.

But even at $11, the minimum wage still leaves full-time workers living 16 per cent below the poverty line, according to the Workers’ Action Centre, a non-profit workers’ collective.

The legislation that would have linked future increase to inflation died when the provincial election was called, but both the provincial Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives have said that they will tie the minimum wage to inflation, while the NDP would increase it to $12 over two years and at the same time cut the corporate tax rate for small businesses from 4.5 per cent to 3 per cent to help them adjust, according to the Toronto Star newspaper. The NDP would also tie further increases to inflation.
Sounds great – though it’s not good enough.

GARY Bloch, a family physician with St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, a founding member of Health Providers Against Poverty and an expert advisor with EvidenceNetwork.ca, in an article for Troy Media not too long ago argued for “a liveable income for everyone in Canada, including a minimum wage that brings workers above the poverty line, and social assistance rates that enable people to pay the rent and eat a basic healthy diet.”

He also advocated “policies that allow people to participate in society and protect their health, such as affordable childcare and universal pharmacare.”

Bloch added: “This approach makes economic sense: a 2008 study by the Ontario Association of Food Banks estimated poverty adds over $7 billion to Canadian healthcare costs every year. The overall cost of poverty in Canada, to the public and private spheres, is estimated at up to $85 billion per year. Analysts have demonstrated that programs to alleviate poverty can pay for themselves through, for example, increased tax revenues, reduced health costs, lower crime, and increased productivity.”

But quite apparently that approach does NOT matter for greedy businessmen who want to make A QUICK BUCK – and to hell with the future as long as they can enjoy life NOW while others suffer!
Indeed, Bloch showed how low income can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and mental illness.

HERE in B.C., thanks to a bold and principled stand by Premier Christy Clark (and I have been consistently praising her for it for the past few years) the minimum wage was increased in phases to $10.25 last year in May after she took over from that hated Gordon Campbell.

The minimum wage in B.C. was the HIGHEST in Canada when Campbell became premier in 2001 and by the time he was forced out in 2010 by angry British Columbians who just could not tolerate his lies and deception anymore, it was the LOWEST in the country!

Indeed, Campbell sold his soul to the greedy businessmen who trampled all over poorer sections of society like a bunch of creeps and scumbags.

But Clark was like a breath of fresh air. In early 2011, as a Liberal Party leadership candidate, she told me she would get rid of both the training wage (that was basically used by rich perverts to exploit kids and new immigrants!) and increase the minimum wage in stages.

She assured me that she would consult with small businesses on the issue and make a decision “very early on” and pointed out: “It is embarrassing for B.C. to be at the bottom of the pack on that.”

After Clark won the Liberal Party leadership and became the premier in March 2011, she stuck to what she had told me and announced that the minimum wage would rise in rise in increments. It was increased on May 1, 2012, to $8.75 and went up further to $9.50 on November 1, 2012. The training wage was scrapped and all hourly-paid employees were entitled to the general minimum wage regardless of how long they had been in the paid labour force. Finally, last year, the minimum wage was increased to $10.25.

However, I firmly believe we need to have some kind of a formula to determine future increases.

Most businessmen, of course, will always howl about losing even a single penny. Money is their GOD – though when they die, they cannot carry even a single penny with them!

I remember exposing the BIG LIE of businesses during the last provincial election campaign when the B.C. Chamber of Commerce indulged in a shameless campaign of disinformation to scare people into believing that we would lose jobs if the minimum wage was increased.

When the United Steelworkers research rep Kim Pollock challenged the B.C. Chamber of Commerce on that claim, reps of the chamber did not have the guts to get back to him because they knew that their lies would be EXPOSED.

INDEED, business persons will come up with any lie to make that extra buck and, when their lies are exposed, then they shamelessly come up with absurd arguments.

Take the case of Laura Jones, Executive Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who wrote last year: “The introduction of new Family Day, substantial minimum wage increases and the PST fiasco caused some business owners to wonder whether they were dealing with a government that really understands business realities.”

Then she added: “Election commitments such as balancing the budget, paying down debt, keeping taxes reasonable and pursuing resource development opportunities while being mindful of protecting the environment have calmed those doubts.”

Wow, first these guys were howling that the sky would fall if the minimum wage was increased and the new Family Day holiday in February was introduced.

When the sky decided to stay where it was, so to speak, these pundits were ready to explain why they turned out to be FALSE prophets instead of apologizing.

Back in 2011, Shachi Kurl, the then-Director of Provincial Affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, in a piece titled “Family Day will cost small biz dearly,” wrote: “We have done the math on behalf of our 10,000 small business members in B.C., and estimate that Family Day will cost small business owners $1,135 each, in labour costs alone.”

And this part of her write-up made me want to puke: “But most small business owners – family people themselves – will face some difficult Family Day choices: close, and risk losing irritated customers. Open, and pay time and a half plus an average day’s pay to their staff, or, try to mind the shop on their own, forced to put earning their daily bread ahead of spending time with their own loved ones.”

All those scare tactics didn’t work. Clark stuck to her guns and proved all these guys a bunch of losers!

But greedy businessmen haven’t given up – and rest assured they WON’T!

That’s why those of us who believe in FAIRNESS must stay prepared to hit back and hit back hard again and again!