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A $15 Minimum Wage Is a Step Towards a More Fair Canada

09/21/2015 12:37 EDT | Updated 09/22/2016 05:12 EDT
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Fast-food workers and supporters organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) protest outside of a Burger King Worldwide Inc. restaurant in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Fast-food workers in 50 U.S. cities plan to walk off the job today, ratcheting up pressure on the industry to raise wages and demanding the right to wages of $15 an hour, more than double the federal minimum of $7.25. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

This campaign season, HuffPost Canada is going past the sales pitch, away from the attacks and beyond the ballot.

Our Beyond the Ballot series is deep diving into three major problems facing Canadians: climate change, housing insecurity, and elder care. This election is our opportunity to join forces and figure out how to solve them.

Since the Harper Government took power in 2006 the wealth gap in Canada has continued to grow, while a Statistics Canada calculation of real wages shows working people are making virtually the same minimum wage as they were in 1975. The effect of this has been especially pronounced in recent months with the Canadian dollar's substantial decline, partly the result of the current government's short-sighted obsession with the oil industry which has left the rest of us stuck footing the bill of ever-increasing prices.

With parties vying for our attention and votes in the last remaining month leading up this year's federal election, this is an important moment for us as voters to make central these developments which highlight the rising economic injustice and growing income inequality in Canada.

To address this growing inequality, people across Canada have begun to push for a $15 federal minimum wage. A federal $15 minimum wage is vital not only because it would impact those who work under federally regulated industries but more importantly because it would restore the leadership role of the federal government in setting a fair minimum wage and thus provide a standard for all provinces to then follow suit. A $15 minimum wage is a fair and legitimate minimum, below which no employer nor government should fall.

With the movement for a $15 federal minimum wage gaining support throughout Canada, It is perhaps no surprise that conservative forces have tried to distract and deflect such aspirations for decent work instead relying on tactics of fear mongering and 101 level economic analysis to illustrate the supposed harm of introducing a higher minimum wage. All this is starkly in face of quite substantive statistical evidence from regions that have implemented higher minimum wages (including San Francisco, New Jersey etc.) that demonstrate that increasing the minimum wage actually has little or no impact on the overall rates of employment.

Establishing a $15 federal minimum wage is an essential first step to ensuring that all workers across Canada are able to earn a wage that brings them out of poverty. A higher minimum wage could also alleviate the increasing housing insecurity which is becoming an increasingly prominent issue in many urban areas in Canada. But winning a higher minimum wage isn't just about gaining immediate benefits for all working people; it is part of a larger struggle to ensure that the gains of our economy are more fairly distributed. To fight for a $15 minimum wage is to say that we are no longer willing to accept worse jobs and further financial pressure while the 1 per cent get more and more.

That's why this election matters -- the New Democratic Party has already promised to implement a $15 minimum wage and just last week, the Green Party followed suit. In September of last year, 30 out of 36 Liberal MPs voted in favour of a private member's bill that would have restored the federal minimum wage and increased it to $15. Join us to support the implementation of a $15 federal minimum wage that is indexed annually to cost of living so that all workers can make a fair wage that will allow them to support themselves and their families with dignity. Let your local candidates know that we the voters demand a $15 federal minimum wage and that we won't be taking no for an answer!

Some issues go beyond talking points. Tell us what they are on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #BeyondTheBallot.

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Minimum Wage Across Canada (2015)