Groups deliver ice blocks to MPPs to push for end to minimum wage freeze

The SPRC of Hamilton and the Hamilton and District Labout Council hand-delivered ice blocks to some of Hamilton's MPPs as a symbol of the province's need to melt the freeze on minimum wage.
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller chisels away at an ice block that represents the provincial freeze on minimum wage. (Lisa Polewski/CBC)

Community groups in Hamilton are calling on local MPPs to melt the freeze on the minimum wage.

Local poverty activists and labour organization representatives presented local MPPs with symbolic blocks of ice Friday containing a pictorial representation of $10.25, which has been the minimum wage in Ontario since 2010. In the past, Ontario's minimum wage increases have happened on March 31, which is why the groups decided to take action.

Hamilton's Social Planning and Research Council  and other local and provincial groups are calling for the provincial minimum wage to be raised to $14 per hour.

Deirdre Pike, senior social planner for the SPRC, said the province's minimum wage should reflect the actual cost of living, which is not currently the case. Pike said the government has kept minimum wage frozen at $10.25 for the past three years because it overestimate projections for the deficit.

"[The Ontario government] scares us into this austerity agenda, saying there's no money for this," said Pike. "We see joblessness numbers have decreased, and people say, 'Yay, everybody's got a job!' but what kind of jobs are we moving people into? We're moving them into poverty jobs."

Pike and her colleagues hand-delivered the block of ice to Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor's office, accompanied by Mary Long, president of the Hamilton and District Labour Council. Long echoed Pike's comments, saying the minimum wage needs to increase in order for people to live above the poverty line.

"We have union members who are making less than $14 an hour in our community," said Long. "So from a labour standpoint, we need to see those wages raised too."

Taylor was not present in the office, but her assistant agreed the provincial government should increase minimum wage.

The group also delivered an ice block to Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller's office, where Miller was equipped with safety goggles, a hammer and a chisel in order to break the symbolic ice block.

"Twenty per cent of the people in my riding live below the poverty level and it's terrible," said Miller, cracking into the ice block. "People deserve the right to a decent livable wage, and this province isn't providing that for people that are having financial difficulties. I'd like to see it changed."

The two groups' representatives were planning to head to Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP Tim Hudak's office next, and they asked Miller what he thought about their delivery of the ice block.

"I'd like to send it in pieces because he's not helping us out very much, is he?" said Miller, gesturing at the chipped ice block.

Pike says the groups settled on $14 as the desired minimum wage increase because it would raise a person working a minimum wage job to 10 per cent above the poverty line.

Long said this increase is necessary so more people can contribute to the local economy. "If Hamilton's ever going to be the best place to raise a child, then here in Hamilton we need to make sure that incomes match our expectations for our community."