I Am Befuddled

The minimum wage in Ontario went up to $9.50 today. In another year, it is scheduled to go up to $10.25.

I have heard the arguments in favour of this but I don’t get it.

Am I missing something?

I grew up in a family that did a lot with very little. We rarely got new clothes at the start of the school year. Most of our stuff was hand-me-downs from our American cousins. Almost everything else we wore was made by my Mother.

We rarely saw our Dad growing up because he was at the restaurant 12+ hours a day and when he wasn’t, he had to balance the books and do the payroll. This was part of the reason why we were allowed to stay up late- otherwise we would never see him. (11pm for a nine year old was pretty grown-up.)

Gifts were modest but I never felt poor. One of my favourite Christmas gifts as a child was a new pack of 24 Laurentian pencil crayons and a pad of construction paper. 

Simple, yes- but it was all I wanted.

That is not to say we didn’t want more or to do better.

Is raising the minimum wage the way to do it. That is, to raise the standard of living for those in the lowest income brackets?

I am not convinced. Look at the businesses affected by the increase in the minimum wage. Retail, fast food joints- the kind of job where people tend not to stay long, where there is little room for advancement. Guaranteed, the increase in the minimum wage will be passed on to the customer. When one establishment does it, everyone will.

The previous increase saw Tim Horton’s passing along the cost the next day. I would guess that all the other coffee shops did the same and other businesses also fell in line. That leads to an increase in the cost of living.

So, how then, do the people on the bottom get ahead. They don’t.

I don’t mean to malign the fast food industry or retail. I have done both and I am better for it. There are certainly people who can do very well but the vast majority don’t.

It makes more sense to me to go the way of education. Give people the skills to get a better job in a changing job market. This also gives them more options than just relying on the government for the next legislated increase in their pay rate.

I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people and I am usually in the minority. No one has been able to convince me that this is the right way to bring people up- and I know some very smart people.

People are sheep. They see the extra few pennies and think that it will make a significant difference in their life. The extra pennies (after taxes) don’t really add up to that much and with businesses justifying their price increases, how far ahead could they possibly be?

But this is an easy sell for voters- and voters are never wrong.

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~ by angryegg on April 1, 2009.

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