Toronto

Ontario Tories target of death threats, vandalism after bill to freeze minimum wage introduced

Premier Doug Ford has received death threats and Ontario's Labour Minister Laurie Scott says her constituency office was broken into and vandalized hours after the government introduced a sweeping labour reform bill that would cap minimum wage.

Tories announced Tuesday the minimum wage would be capped at $14

This graffiti was discovered early Wednesday morning on a wall of the provincial labour minister's office. Her office windows were also vandalized. (Submitted by Ontario PC Party)

Premier Doug Ford has received death threats and Ontario Labour Minister Laurie Scott says her constituency office was broken into and vandalized hours after the government introduced a sweeping labour reform bill that would cap the minimum wage.

Scott says the outside wall of her office in Kawartha Lakes, Ont., was spray-painted with a message that read "Attack Workers" and "We fight back $15."

"This is obviously tied into the piece of legislation that we introduced yesterday," Scott said.

"I believe in democratic and peaceful protest and debate but we will not tolerate vandalism, intimidation or bullying ... We don't know who did this; we are just saying everyone should say that that's not acceptable."

She says local and provincial police are investigating the incident, which took place early this morning.

'Very serious incident'

Ford did not comment on the reported threats against him, but thanked local and provincial police for investigating what he called a "very serious incident" in Kawartha Lakes.

"These actions have no place in our democracy," he said in a tweet.

Government House Leader Todd Smith said the incidents were an attempt to bully and intimidate the government and would not be tolerated.

"What we want is to see ... [is] some of these other radical groups acknowledge the fact that a line has been crossed here," Smith said.

He also suggested the vandalism may have been fuelled by comments made by Ontario Federation of Labour president Chris Buckley on Thursday, who was asked how labour leaders would fight back against the new legislation.

Side-by-side photos show the vandalism inside Labour Minister Laurie Scott's office (Submitted by Ontario PC Party )

"He said 'stay tuned' and then we see this kind of activity happening in Lindsay," Smith said.

"This has gone too far, we want to draw a line in the sand here that this will not be acceptable." 

Smith said all the groups opposed to the labour reforms should distance themselves from the perpetrators of violence.

"What we're saying is that vandalism, violence and intimidation is not going to be acceptable," Smith said. "We'd really like to see the NDP and we'd really like to see the union leadership say the same thing."

The Ontario Federation of Labour says it is not connected to the incident.

"I want to be clear, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) does not support or condone violence against persons or property in any form," Chris Buckley said in a news release.

The Tories announced Tuesday the minimum wage would be capped at $14 an hour until 2020 as part of a rollback of labour reforms introduced by the previous Liberal government.

The move was met with strong criticism from anti-poverty activists and organized labour who oppose the bill.

And on Wednesday, labour activists marched to Queens Park, calling on the Ford government to reverse its decision not to increase the minimum wage to $15.

Pam Frache, of the Fight for $15 and Fairness, a group which has been critical the government policy, said she learned about the vandalism at Scott's office via social media.

"We don't organize in that way," he said. "We did not organize that ... that's all I can say about that, but people are angry. I think that's the scary thing about the situation. When there is this kind of a threat coming from Queen's Park, I think people are feeling frustrated."

Christine, a woman who the CBC News has agreed not to identify to protect her job, works four part-time minimum wage jobs in Richmond Hill, Ont. 

"We knew that this was coming, but it still feels like I was kicked in the stomach," she said in an interview on Metro Morning. "How is he for the people if he's not increasing minimum wage?" 

You can listen to the full interview in the player below:

The Conservative government will not go ahead with the previous government's promise to increase the minimum wage to $15. For many low-wage workers, the news is devastating. But for some small business-owners, it comes as an enormous relief. 9:09

Opposition leaders react to incidents

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said people should engage in peaceful protest if they disagree with the government's decisions.

"No matter how much hurt this government creates, no matter how far they drag us backwards, no matter how many disappointing announcements we get ... there is no justification for violence, no justification for criminal activity," she said.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser, whose party had promised to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in January, condemned the incidents, but said he can understand the anger over the labour bill. He also said the premier and his government must set a higher standard for public debate.

"It's incumbent on the premier of this province to set the tone ...," Fraser said. "All I know is that when he's here in Question Period that tone is one of conflict, and combativeness and partisanship. We need to take that down a notch. A couple of notches."

With files from The Canadian Press