August 21, 2017

Peterborough Examiner: Wage hike is about removing poverty in Ontario

By Dr. Rosanna Salvaterra

Re: Minimum wage hike will hurt, especially in Peterborough, according to study, Aug. 14

The proposed increase to minimum wage continues to be debated here in Peterborough, but what appears to be missing from the debate is attention to the fact that increasing incomes for the lowest wage earners in our communities will also have benefits. These include decreased food insecurity and better health outcomes, especially for our children. It is unfortunate that an artificial divide has been created that seems to pit business owners against their employees, forcing everyone to choose a side. We all share in the responsibility to find solutions that benefit the health and well-being of ALL our citizens. Reducing poverty is one of the best actions we can take as a society.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has just released a report titled "Losing Ground" that shows that in this province income inequality has grown dramatically over the past 15 years. According to the CCPA, the bottom half of families raising children in Ontario saw its share of earnings fall to 19 per cent of total labour market income between 2000 and 2015. This is far worse than what is occurring in other provinces. There is ample evidence showing that the wider the divide is between the lowest and highest incomes, the worse the health outcomes are for everyone--rich and poor alike. There is a health imperative in working towards greater income equality and a $15 minimum wage is but one step in moving us in that direction.

I am concerned that the impact analysis highlighted in your recent article seems to focus solely on the direct economic costs to businesses without factoring in the potential benefits to both business owners and to our communities. Those benefits will not only be economic (e.g., more money in the pockets of low income workers, lowered demand on social assistance programs, higher productivity rates) but social and health-related as well (e.g., healthier workers, better nourished children and stronger communities).

Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health Peterborough Public Health

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