Alternative Facts Cannot Create an Alternative Reality

Alternative facts from Chamber of Commerce cannot create an Alternative Reality.

Apparently spooked by the rumours that the Ontario government might legislate a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to Premier Wynne.

Don’t do it, the Chamber urges. It would (to quote the letter) “have the perverse effect of discouraging investment and eliminating jobs.” Trouble is there is ample evidence that raising the minimum wage will do neither, not the least of which is Alberta.

That province is in the midst of a series of hikes to its minimum wage that will peg it at $15 an hour by 2018. Even though Alberta’s oil industry is leaking jobs, the raise for workers has not resulted in lay offs. US studies that look at minimum wage increases have found the same thing.

Consumer spending has more impact on unemployment than the minimum wage. Guess what happens when you put more money in more people’s pockets? (Psst! … you get better employees who spend more in local stores.)

The Chamber’s letter then claims that almost all jobs created since the Recession are full time. Now I pay pretty close attention to Stats Can’s labour reports and by far the majority of those reports tell us full-time jobs are giving way to part-time jobs. Last April for example, we lost 31,000 full time jobs and gained 34,000 part time jobs.

But, the Chamber says, workers like the flexibility part time jobs give them. And older workers even prefer part time work.

McMaster and the United Way of Toronto have teamed up to look at precarious work in the GTA and found that over half of Toronto and Hamilton workers are now working in part-time or contract, poor-paying jobs. And guess what. They’re not lovin’ it.

It’s bad enough the letter presents alternative facts to construct an alternative reality of workers happy in their “flexible” (read, ‘exploited’) employment. But the Chamber does something truly dishonest.

It uses a statistic buried in the Ontario Government’s 2014 Long-Term Report on the Economy to imply that labour costs are already way too high and out of line with the US situation.

I looked up the reference and discovered the Ontario Report admits that when national currencies are used (as they should be in this case) Ontario’s increase in labour costs is actually lower than in the US. In fact, the rest of that section of the Report demonstrates that Ontario companies (not workers) are unproductive.

This the Canadian Conference Board confirms. Canada ranks 9th of 16 peer countries in adopting innovation. But we rank 13th of 16 countries in income equality – and Ontario ranks 3rd last – only Australia and the US have higher rates of inequality than Ontario does. So it should come as no surprise that Canada has the third highest rate of working age (18-64) poverty; only Japan and the US (as usual) are higher.

The economic argument for paying a living wage has been made time and again, including with reference to Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. If, for example, the big box stores in Grey and Bruce counties paid a living wage, there would be some $22 million more dollars injected in to the local economy

The current minimum wage is a poverty wage. A poverty wage puts people into debt. A poverty wage puts people into poor housing and on bad diets. A poverty wage puts people in the hospital. A poverty wage is a public subsidy for private profit.

$15 an hour is not a living wage. But it’s a start. Or, it would have been if the men who wrote ‘The Changing Workplaces Review’ had recommended it. But they didn’t. Looks like the Chamber has dodged a bullet. Too bad Ontario workers haven’t.

Source: David McLaren

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