Residents in my neighbourhood recently received a notice from the municipal government, informing us of a meeting to discuss planned apartment buildings and our opportunity to voice any concerns about the project.
Several of the neighbours I chatted with weren’t planning on attending. They went down that road once before in respect to another apartment building that even exceeded a height limitation in place but that was ignored in the name of “intensification,” the new buzz word for cramming as many people as possible into a given space.
To make a long story short, neighbours up the street who once looked out their back windows and saw an open field now look at the concrete wall of a parking garage. Before another buzz word is thrown out, I got the impression that most people in the neighbourhood would have been fine with low-rise housing going in over the monster that’s there today.
The general feeling among people in the area is that the meeting was nothing more than a dog and pony show to put on the impression that the municipal/regional government actually cared about people’s concerns, even if it was a done deal anyway. So why waste time going through the process again on another project?
Of course, if you object too strenuously in matters of housing these days, you get called a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), the second buzz word I mentioned earlier and a truly obnoxious word for not taking the side of those who make such decisions and their minions.
More and more, name-calling is becoming a part of government business that goes beyond housing. Take, for example, the minimum wage that went from $11.40 an hour in Ontario to $14 on Jan. 1 and will rise again to $15 at the beginning of next year, a whopping 32 per cent increase in about 18 months.
That’s in comparison to Alberta, which saw its minimum wage rise from $10.20 an hour to $11.20 in 2015 and to $12.20 the next year and $13.60 in 2017. The minimum wage in that province will hit $15 an hour on Oct. 1, only three months before Ontario, but was phased in on a more gradual basis out west.
In each case, the eventual rise to $15 has been a part of election strategy. In Alberta, it was a key part of the New Democratic Party sweeping to power in that province in 2015 and the minimum wage will hit $15 less than a year before the next provincial election at the end of May, 2019.
In Ontario, the $14 comes just over five months before the next Ontario election and it’s no secret that it’s going up to $15 on Jan. 1, shortly after the province goes to the polls.
It’s little wonder then that Premier Kathleen Wynne was in such a rush to make this a done deal, considering her embarrassingly low approval ratings recently, with an election on the horizon.
If you think other opportunistic parties in other provinces aren’t taking note, you’re naive. Count on $15 to soon be the standard minimum wage across the country.
Naturally, governments won’t admit that, preferring instead to present themselves as champion of the people instead of political opportunists, whose own futures take priority over the concerns of businesses, particularly small businesses, and the workers themselves.
As it applies to golf operations, I’ve chatted with several representatives in both Ontario and Alberta who have discussed how to deal with the rising labour costs and among the choices are cutting hours and/or jobs and raising prices, hardly an attractive option in a game that is so often criticized for its lack of affordability.
It didn’t take long for the business backlash to take place after the minimum wage increased to $14 an hour on Jan. 1. Word quickly got out that the son and daughter of the co-founders of Tim Hortons, who are also married franchise holders in Cobourg, Ont., were cutting paid breaks, benefits and other perks.
The lineage of the Cobourg franchise became a convenient target for Wynne, in her efforts to paint herself as the champion of the oppressed against the wealthy, but other small businesses, both inside and outside the popular coffee/donut chain, were making similar moves as predicted.
“To be blunt, I think it’s the act of a bully,” said Wynne, who also tweeted the following:
I was upset to read how Ron Joyce Jr – whose family sold Tim Horton’s for billions of dollars – is treating his employees in response to the minimum wage. If he wants wants to pick a fight I urge him to leave his employees out of it. I’m right here.
— Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne) January 4, 2018
Those are brave words, except that business groups were more than willing to face the government last summer with their concerns at public consultations across the province and letters last year, but Wynne’s response seemed to be putting her two index fingers in her ears and running away, perhaps with a middle finger raised at her business antagonists.
Just like my neighbours being called to public meetings on matters that affect them, why waste their time if the government is only there for a dog and pony show to make it look good? When Wynne was first elected as Premier, she often talked about “adult conversations” about tough decisions, but through this process, the conversation has been one-sided.
Despite being warned by Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office that 50,000 jobs could be lost, Wynne and Labour Minister Kevin Flynn ramped up the name-calling, a tactic we all know from the schooyard is used by bullies, while Flynn mentioned a new tactic, business shaming, for those who violate the new minimum wage.
Ontario says it will hire up to 175 inspectors to make sure businesses implement the current $14 an hour minimum wage, but you can bet the inspectors will be making a lot more than that, not to mention receiving the typical government benefits, etc., on the taxpayers’ dime in a debt-ridden province.
All that wasted money is a curious move considering that, other than an allegation of one Tim Hortons in the Toronto area planning to ban tipping or require that money go in the till, every move by business so far has been legal and above-board. Businesses, despite their opposition, are paying the $14 an hour, but Flynn suggested that some of them are “abandoning the spirit of this legislation.”
The only spirit of this legislation is to get the Liberals re-elected and Wynne and Flynn, acting like true bullies, don’t like when people stand up to them.
In the meantime, people could lose their jobs or have hours cut, businesses will feel the pinch, particularly this summer in the case of golf operations, and some may cease to exist as governments continue to drive a wedge between employers and employees.
This is just the beginning. The name-calling will continue as the year progresses and the heat will reach new levels once minimum wage hits $15.