A rally this afternoon marked the start of a fairness campaign in North Bay, demanding the increase of minimum wage to $15 an hour in Ontario. Henri Giroux, North Bay District Labour Council President said it is a campaign sweeping across not only Ontario but across Canada and the United States as the ‘$15 and Fairness movement.’ The protest today was along Lakeshore Drive near the CUPE office.
“This is just the beginning,” Giroux said, “and we’re going to keep doing this until the government raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”
However, with the argument of raising the minimum wage, many have stated the increase would severely hurt small and medium businesses in North Bay. Giroux believed that to be a myth and that quickly the community would see the economic growth for one particular reason.
“We don’t believe it will put small businesses out of work since workers are going to spend more money in the community,” he said. “We strongly believe the economy will grow and it has grown in the States where the minimum wage was brought up.”
Giroux also doesn’t see the minimum wage increase being a direct cause of the cost of goods being increased since prices continue to rise no matter what and this needs to be combated with a higher wage to ensure workers can live. “The costs of goods are going up no matter what so I don’t think it will effect it. I don’t buy the argument that raising the minimum wage will increase the costs of goods directly,” he said.
He said the most disappointing fact is how most jobs in the Nipissing region are minimum wage and many workers he’s spoken to have had to use the food bank just to feed their families.
“Right now what’s happening is that they don’t have enough money to spend in the community, People are telling me after an eight hours shift they need to stop at the food bank so they can feed their family. It’s impossible how people live off a minimum wage with a family.”
More so, he believes the need to increase the size of the Gathering Place to accommodate the growing need is a clear indicator that the minimum wage needs to be increased to levels above the poverty line.
“It’s pretty bad that North Bay needs to make the Gathering Place bigger to accommodate the rising needs of the community,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to depend on these services, but people do. I talk to people working minimum wage jobs and many have to work two or three jobs and they never see their families since their always working. Even single people are struggling to pay their bills. $15 is a beginning and brings people 10 per cent over poverty. We will work with it after that.”