Is Poverty our permanent house guest?

By Khimar’ Morgan, Community Worker and student in training at Access Alliance 

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I have noticed with complete disappointment the outcome of the minimum wage campaign and its impact on the working class in Ontario. After polls showed widespread support for an increase in the $10.25 per hour federal minimum, our Honourable leaders and their advisers have decided to grant a 75 cents boost in a long overdue minimum wage.

In my opinion, this comes as an insult after all society’s efforts to raise the minimum wage up to $14/hour and eradicate poverty. Brazil is a case in point, where by simply raising the minimum wage, the late president Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva elevated two million people out of poverty. Alluding to this success story, the following question comes to mind: what is our leaders’ tactics in getting Ontarians out of poverty with full time job prospects?

As one who has been pro-active on this issue, I have spent all my energy in this endeavour; numerous advocacy methods include the walking petition, spreading awareness with family, friends, and those in my church and community, shared insights with professors and fellow activists, as well as collaborated efforts with colleagues at Access Alliance. After months of campaigning and viewing with optimism the tremendous public support received for the goal of $14, it was a great disappointment to see our advocacy’s impact reflected in a few cents increase. I am honoured to have worked alongside the Access Alliance staff throughout the campaign, which gave me immense insight. If anything has been gained from this experience, it is that “the race is not for the swift, but the ones who can endure” (Ecclesiates 9:11). I will continue to lobby and advocate for higher standards of living for the working and lower-income classes. What is truly motivating is the support this campaign received; proof that people of all socio-economic backgrounds stand in solidarity in their vision for wiping out poverty in Canada.

From a simple economic standpoint, I only assume that if you pay wage earners more money, they will spend more money, fuelling economic growth and having a positive impact on not only the lower-income households but also on the industrialists, retailers and restaurant owners; eventually pulling Ontario and Canada out of this state of prolonged poverty. Interestingly, the intention of the minimum wage when started years ago was aimed at students just entering the workforce. Now, families forced to live on it have barely enough in the bank to eat well and healthily in such a rich country as Canada. Honourable leaders, do you really think $14 is too much to ask for? It could make all the difference to the vast majority of people who would be able to buy more goods and services and pay more bills. We, the people of Ontario, ask that you reconsider the increase and give us a liveable wage.

What is your opinion on the Ontario wage increase? Will it affect your life for the better or is it hardly significant at all? Please tell us by leaving a comment! 

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Immigrants as Nation Builders showcases critical writings by/about immigrants and refugees that highlight not just the deep impacts immigration/settlement has had in their lives but also how they are actively reshaping the social make up of Canada, in their own ways.

What would you do with $3.75?

Morris Written by Morris Beckford, Director of Community Programs for Access Alliance

I used to be poor.  Not just broke poor.  Poor, poor.  Ours was a single mother-led household, low income, food bank using, welfare (sorry I meant social assistance) every now and then, poor! So when I heard about the Raise the Minimum Wage campaign, I couldn’t help but join wholeheartedly.  In support of the campaign, Access Alliance collected petition signatures and delivered them on November 14 to Laura Albanese’s office. I joined this meeting and made a case for increasing the minimum wage to $14.

I grew up in a single mother led household with one sister and two brothers.  We watched as our mother worked two jobs just to try and make ends meet.  By age 18, while still in high school, I was working in a factory and making less than $7.50 per hour doing a 3:30 pm to 11:30 pm shift Monday to Friday.  My school’s principal was one of those people who understood that it was better for him to let me leave school at 2:45 pm to give me enough time to get to my 3:30 shift rather than be rigid with the time and see me drop out of school altogether.

As I got more involved with the campaign I started to wonder, what could we have done with a little more money?  Then I started to think some more, always a dangerous thing, what would someone making $10.25 per hour do with $3.75 cents more?  Then I started to map it out.

Most people get paid for working 70 hours bi-weekly.  (Ok, I know I’m being naïve, most poor people actually work far more hours!) But assuming a 70 hours bi-weekly paid at $14 per hour, each pay cheque would be approximately $980.  Now if you’re earning the current minimum wage of $10. 25, your pay cheque is about $717.50 per pay period; a difference of $265.50.  With me so far?  That is, $3.75 more per hour would put $265.50 more in your bank every pay period.  So what difference could an extra $3.75 have had on our life?

$3.75 more per hour would have allowed my mother to get us a bigger apartment so that 4 kids wouldn’t have to share a single room.  That’s more money for those in Property Management!

$3.75 more per hour would have allowed her to buy more nutritious meals.  This would have spared her the embarrassment of being a working woman with two jobs still having to use the food bank.  That’s more money for Walmart, Food Basics, No Frills and the rest of them.

$3.75 more per hour would have allowed her to buy an extra pair of pants or shoes or shirt for her kids.  You don’t know how humiliating it is to have to wear the same dress pants to church every week until you have to.  And there you have it, more money being fed back into the economy.

$3.75 would have allowed her to save a little bit.  Isn’t that what the Finance Minister has been pushing?

Looks like we all win when working people get paid a decent wage that is above poverty line.  It’s not fair to have to work 70 hours and still come up short.  It’s even worse to have to work another part time job and still only make the ends touch.  An extra $3.75 is only fair.  What would you do with an extra $3.75?!

Follow the campaign on Twitter: #14now and on our website: http://accessalliance.ca/14now

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