A living wage is minimum wage’s ethical cousin: Opinion


A living wage calculation includes the cost of living in a specific community based on data from Statistics Canada and municipalities. The result is a decent – but far from luxurious – quality of life and the ability to live free of constant economic anxiety.The minimum wage has inched up over the years but it pales in comparison to a living wage.

Lots of people are sick of debating the minimum wage, which many people feel – and research seems to bear out – would do little to reduce poverty. It just doesn’t go far enough. In 2011, when the minimum wage had a fairly significant increase, the conservative Fraser Institute prophesied that it would result in a staggering loss of jobs, which was later proven to be vastly overstated.

It is possible that an across the board minimum wage in Canada isn’t a real solution, in part due to wide regional differences in the cost of things. So, that may bring us back to a living wage being a better model for the reduction of poverty and an improvement in quality of life.

A living wage is not only good for employees but it is good for employers too. Employers who have implemented a living wage found that it helps with hiring and retention: just in case doing the right thing isn’t reason enough.

Poverty has a cost to communities. Health care services are called upon to fix problems caused by poor nutrition and an inability to afford a prescription. The working poor have no time to help their kids with homework or to ensure they go to school decently fed and ready to learn. Many of the working poor cobble together two or three minimum wage, part-time jobs just to get by. It robs people of their dignity.

A living wage would allow families and individuals to participate in the life of the community and to support their communities through shopping locally and even volunteering. You can’t volunteer to be a parent sports or electives chaperone – and your child can’t afford electives anyway – if you’re juggling a couple of low paid jobs.

A living wage calls on employers to meet a higher standard to ensure that wages for their staff and major contractors reflect the true costs of living in a community and that parents can earn what they need to support their families. Part of that higher standard includes hiring full-time workers who get 40 hours a week; a living wage paid for 15 or 20 hours to avoid paying benefits defeats the purpose.

I think it will be small/medium size businesses that lead the way in making a living wage a true force in Canadian communities. They seem to be the ones with the creativity and will to be agents of change. Perhaps it’s due to them remembering the struggle they went through to ‘make it’.

Big corporations often seem to think that they got rich due solely to their own efforts. The truth is nobody gets rich on their own. If you have a factory you moved your goods to market on the roads that were paid for by our taxes. Your talented workers were educated by those same taxes that we all pay. If you are robbed or experience a fire, publicly funded police and firefighters came to your rescue.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or you had a great idea. You should keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.Elizabeth Warren

Businesses must keep a close eye on the bottom line. But surely there can be more of a focus on people’s lives and a little less focus on profit margin.

Muskoka Brewery seems to think so and I’m guessing that other local businesses will soon join them. But what I’m really hoping is that this will become a national movement over the next few years.

Dale PeacockFollowing a career in the hospitality sector and the acquisition of a law and justice degree in her 50s, Dale embarked on a writing career armed with the fanciful idea that a living could be made as a freelancer.  To her own great surprise she was right.  The proof lies in hundreds of published works on almost any topic but favourites include travel, humour & satire, feature writing, environment, politics and entrepreneurship. Having re-invented herself half a dozen times, Dale doesn’t rule anything out.  Her time is divided equally between Muskoka and Tampa Bay with Jim, her husband of 7 years and partner of 32 years.  Two grown ‘kids’ and their spouses receive double doses of love and attention when she’s at home. 

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  1. Good luck with that Huntsville. Doughty saw to it that the area will NEVER do something like that. Remember we still have a G8 to constantly pay for? Not to mention tax hikes EVERY YEAR FOR THE PAST 12 YEARS makes it almost impossible to work and live in Cottage Country. A big reason I moved away.
    Obviously some people have been spending too much time at the Chamber of Commerce thinking of more idiotic ideas. How about revitalizing the main street with businesses and sustainable living? How about not spending multitudes of money on projects no one cares about?
    Huntsville and surrounding communities are becoming bankrupt real fast. So a solution is to squeeze more money out of businesses? How about the local shops that have a hard enough time making ends meet, comprising probably 50 per cent of Huntsville’s downtown?
    It’s nice to think that things will change. I waited most of my teenage and adult life for it to. Never once happened. If anything, things have gotten worse in Huntsville and it’s well time that Huntsville closes its purse strings to repair what has been done to my hometown.
    People don’t want to hear it, but it’s the truth and Muskoka needs to wake up before it’s too late to turn back.

  2. Matt Richter on

    Great to read stories like this. A solid example that you don’t need to wait for government to catch up to the sensible initiatives that already exist!

  3. Emmersun Austin on

    Real living wages in a wellness environment & access to financials + a transformation into an advancing sharing economy\society is the way to go. Muskoka can be a leader of the pack.

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