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Dear Editor,

Well, finally. Jim Merriam wrote an article I can disagree with. He had me worried there for a bit. Thought I'd either have to turn Conservative or send him a New Democratic Party membership form. Whew.

A couple of columns back, Jim revealed his opposition to a higher minimum wage for workers. Nothing wrong with that – everyone's entitled to be wrong once in a while. But it's how he expressed it that's bothersome.

You see, he rounded up all the local letters to the editor he could find that opposed the raise to $15 an hour and let them speak for him. He ended up with a collection of the kind of misinformation that opponents to Ontario's Workplace Reform package have been spreading for the past few months.

For example ... 'the wage hike will put workers into a higher tax bracket and the government will claw back the benefits of a higher minimum wage'. Not true.

'There will be big job cuts.' Probably not. The research (some seven decades of it) shows an increase in the minimum wage does not result in a significant loss of jobs, or a significant rise in prices. That's holding true in Alberta where the minimum wage is scheduled to reach $15 an hour this October.

'Small businesses will have to close.' Some may indeed close, but they will be ones that already rely on the poverty of their employees to make a profit – not a sustainable business model in the best of times. Small businesses open and close all the time, but usually not because they pay their employees too much.

But Jim is right about one thing. Workers will continue to push for more. Why? Because $15 an hour is a poverty wage and poverty costs. It costs people decent housing and healthy diets. It pushes up the cost of health care and social services. It depresses wages and tax revenues. It costs, according to a report from the Ontario Association of Food Banks, some 6% of Ontario's GDP, or nearly $36 billion. And a living wage in Bruce-Grey – that is, a wage that's more than survival pay and allows people to participate in the economic and social life of their community – is $21.01 an hour.

David McLaren

Neyaashiinigmiing ON


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