Country Pork Producers

Minimum wage should not be used as a political tool

Minimum wage should not be used as a political tool

Perth, Huron, Grey and Bruce
County Pork Producers


John Nyenhuis, President – 519-393-6539

* The Rural Voice is provided to Perth County Pork Producers by the PCPPA

Minimum wage should not be used as a political tool

Any opinions expressed herein may not necessarily reflect the views of the Perth County Pork Producers' Association.
One of my favourite places to get breakfast in Listowel is Dianna Sweets. The restaurant has been a fixture in Listowel's downtown as long as I can remember. It is the restaurant you find in every small town – the back table populated with retired men; a few high schoolers that one would think should be in class; and farmers like me who every once and a while head to town for some deep-fried hash browns and bottomless coffee. Except now there is no bottomless coffee.
A couple weeks ago I went in for breakfast and the waitress shared they had just redone the menu and a few things had changed, most notably that now there was only one free refill with the coffee. The waitress was apologetic and told us that the owners had been faced with some tough choices to deal with the minimum wage increase. I learned that the wage increase was adding about $50,000 in cost. Fifty thousand dollars is not a small number for small businesses. For most small business owners, a net income at the end of the year with that number would be considered a victory.
I have been disappointed by reactions from both sides of the political spectrum towards the minimum wage hike. On the left, there is a visible contempt for the employer and an attitude that if the employer can't handle such a dramatic increase then they shouldn't be in business. On the right, there is a refusal to accept that we have an issue with working poor and that minimum wage just eliminates jobs.
If there is one thing that will stay with me from my political experience, it will be my conversations with people who had lost a high-paying manufacturing job but went back to work the next day somewhere else, sometimes accepting 50 per cent less of the wage they earned at the plant. Perth County has had to grapple with losing some major employers over the last decade and our economy has changed. People here are still working (our unemployment rate floats around four per cent and is well below national and provincial averages) but for many, wages have not kept up with the cost of living.
Raising the minimum wage so dramatically is a political shortcut. It provides short-term relief for people but it is a politically expedient way out of the difficult problem that is wages not keeping pace with the cost of living. Even at $14 an hour, people are still going to struggle to make ends meet. We need to examine what can be done to constrain living costs while identifying growth industries that can pay higher wages.
The agricultural value chain in Perth County has played a major role in the rebound here in Perth County and it provides opportunities for well-paid jobs at all levels. Right now one of agriculture's biggest constraints to further growth is the lack of labour. Labour shortages are being felt by farmers, our suppliers, and the processors who buy our products.
What can we do to improve the labour situation? We need to have our politicians understand that rural areas need recreational and transit services equally as much as cities, just in different ways. We also need to start impressing upon our children (at a young age) that there is opportunity here. From 2009 to 2014, Perth County had a negative net migration of 870 people aged 18-44 according to Statistics Canada. This demographic makes up the core of the workforce while parenting the next generation. We need to reverse this trend.
Having a minimum wage is necessary but it should not be used as a political tool. Increases should be determined by inflation and be protected from political meddling. Political interference polarizes the issue, making it more difficult to have a reasonable discussion about such complex issues.◊
– Submitted by Stewart Skinner

Perth County Pork Producers Pork Products

• Smoked Pork Chops • Fresh Pork Chops • Stuffed Loin Chops • Smoked Sausage • Smoked Cheddar Sausage • Bacon Burgers • Teriyaki Pork Steaks

Dave and Ruth Kloostra (Monkton)..................................519-347-2619
Ted and Donna Keller (Mitchell)...................................519-348-9836
Jerry and Sandra DeGroot (Kinkora)................................519-393-5237
Leis Feed (Milverton).............................................519-595-2048

Have the Perth County Pork Producers BBQ at your next event or celebration!
Phone Jerry DeGroot 519-393-5237 for more information.

MARCH 2018 77

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