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Aided enthusiatically by Althia Raj of the Huffington Post (author of the “Tiger Beat” style eBook Contender: The Justin Trudeau Story), the Liberal Party is trying to create the impression that the NDP’s promise to reinstate the federal minimum wage (and set it at $15 an hour) is somehow misleading.
In fact, the NDP is not promising anything more than they (or any federal government that wanted to) can deliver. Like any federal labour legislation, a federal minimum wage would apply to workers in areas of federal jurisdiction (like the customer service staff at your phone company or the people who handle your baggage at the airport).
The Liberals’ position on the federal minimum wage is not only misleading; it is utterly confusing. For example, the Liberals falsely claim that a $15 federal minimum wage would benefit only 416 workers. The actual number of people who would benefit is more than 135,000.
More to the point, without a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour, the number of Canadians getting a raise would be zero (something that the NDP helpfully illustrates in the graphic below… even underselling the number). Is it not better to help 135,000 people than to help none?
Equally importantly, a $15 minimum wage at the federal level would set the gold standard for provinces and provide pressure on them to increase their own minimum wage at $15 an hour (something that the new NDP government in Alberta is already doing). Of course, if one province did increase its minimum wage, Liberal logic would condemn that province for not doing anything to benefit workers in other provinces.
For those joining the program in progress, it’s worth noting that Canada used to have federal minimum wage. It was abolished in 1996 — by the Liberals. The question is: If the protections offered by a federal minimum wage were and are so insignificant, why did they bother to abolish it?
More recently, the Liberal position on the issue has grown even more muddled (if that was possible). In September 2014, they voted with the NDP (and the Greens) in favour of a motion calling for a $15 federal minimum wage. Now, I know that it is a well-established Liberal practice to vote for something that you claim to actually oppose, but Liberals said at the time that they were voting for something that they agreed with.
What their policy is right now is a mystery. Maybe the Huffington Post could enlighten us.
Image: Flickr/Cannabis Culture