KITCHENER CITIZEN OP ED – JANUARY 2018
The start of a new year is when many people resolve to make changes to improve their lives. Lose weight. Quit smoking. Get your finances in order.
At the start of 2018, the Ontario government resolved to create fairness and opportunity with a milestone plan to help people get ahead in our changing economy. This plan includes a higher minimum wage for workers and free prescription medications for Ontarians under 25 years of age.
So, why are we doing this?
Currently, Ontario’s economy is red hot. The unemployment rate, at 5.5%, is the lowest it’s been in 18 years. Economic success is being felt across all sectors, including manufacturing, technology, real estate, and finance. And for a third straight year, our growth is outperforming all G7 countries.
But, unfortunately, not all Ontarians are sharing in these gains. Many are struggling to get ahead in a workplace where jobs and benefits are less secure, and income inequality has become the moral issue of our time.
This is why the Ontario government is taking action to help more people afford life’s expenses.
The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act increases the minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1st of this year, and then to $15 per hour by January 2019. This means almost a third of Ontario workers will now earn a living wage.
It will also make employee scheduling fairer, require employers to pay the same wage to part-time employees who do the same job as full-time employees, introduce two paid days per year of personal emergency leave, and ensure at least three weeks’ vacation after five years of service with the same employer.
Recently, while browsing through dress shop Sisters on Huron, owner Delores Sullivan approached me to share her views on the minimum wage. Delores has experienced both sides of the retail floor – as a staffer, and now as a small business owner employing six workers.
“I agree and support the fact that the minimum wage should be increased. I appreciate that it is to be done incrementally over 2 years,” wrote Delores in an open letter posted on Facebook.
Delores’ next comments are striking.
“How is it possible that employers sleep at night, growing their successful companies on the backs of loyal and often hard working people, paying them poorly?”
She concludes by saying, “Thank you to the Wynne government for this new action to ensure that all will be treated fairly.” Delores encourages more business owners to take a positive stand and treat their employees fairly.
Ontario is also expanding medicare so no parent has to choose between paying for their child’s prescription drugs and providing other essentials. Everyone under the age of 25 with OHIP coverage and a valid prescription will now get their medications at no cost. OHIP+ provides access to more than 4,400 drug products, including ones to treat cancer and rare diseases.
Building a fairer Ontario is fundamental to the success of people in every corner of our province.
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