Candidate questionnaire on a Living Wage for Halton
What is a living wage?
A living wage is the hourly rate that allows working people to have a decent quality of life. Calculated for a family of four with both parents working full time (37.5 hours per week), it provides enough income to cover basic expenses like housing, food, clothing, utility bills and transportation, plus a modest amount for health insurance (prescription drugs and dental care), recreation and entertainment.
“No one who works full time should have to live in poverty.” This is the basic premise underlying the living wage. It has been embraced by more than 150 cities in the U.S. that have declared they are Living Wage Employers. In Canada such a declaration is being considered by many cities including Calgary, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Toronto, Waterloo, Windsor and Vancouver.
How much is a living wage in Halton?
For Halton the rate has been calculated by researchers at Community Development Halton (CDH) to be $17.05 per hour. If the employer pays benefits, the hourly rate would be reduced accordingly.
For more details about what is included and what is not included in the living wage calculation please see the CDH report, Calculating a Living Wage for Halton, available at http://www.cdhalton.ca/publications/reports-list/485-living-wage-discussion
See also, A Discussion of a Living Wage for Halton: https://cdhalton.ca/publications/community-dispatch/community-dispatch-archive/498-cd1806
We would appreciate your answering the following questions concerning a living wage for Halton. Please send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Do you support a living wage as a minimum standard for work performed?
- As a regional councillor or regional chair, will you commit to ensuring that all employees of Halton Region are paid a living wage at the very least?
- Will you encourage those agencies providing goods and services to the Region to pay their employees a living wage?
We thank you for taking the time to complete this questionnaire.
Candidates for Halton Regional Chair
Gary Carr – The Region has a wage rate larger than the living wage rate and so do our suppliers.
Syed Ali Naqvi – 1. Yes.
2. I am committed to having a pro-people agenda and would strive to ensure that all full time employees of Halton Region are paid a living wage at the very least if the resources allow. If they do not allow, then I would strive to work towards attaining such an arrangement as soon as possible in partnership with the Halton Region employees to realize savings from elsewhere to gain this benchmark.
Greg Woodruff – 1. Yes, Minimum wage is a good idea.
2. Campaigning I can tell you people will not accept tax increases of any type. Period.
You calculation works out to $34,125 a year. This seems to me like at pretty reasonable minimum, but very serious budgetary constraints are incoming. It’s going to be programs
like this OR affordable housing OR waste water upgrades. However in the vast majority of cases I think this should be possible.
3. Without a mechanism I’m not sure encouraging will do much good, but Halton region can try.
One of my great concerns over intensification as implemented is housing costs. I can’t see any way it will not create skyrocketing costs on all forms of housing. This will further complicate the living wage squeeze on low incomes.
Candidates for Mayor
Rick Goldring 1. Yes
3. I support the premise of a living wage, but I would have difficulty in imposing on agencies a standard that they might not be able to follow.
Candidates – Ward 1
Patrick Allen – 1. I think we are close on this issue in terms of minimum wage however, I do support the concept of a living wage and would like to see what proposals exist on how to improve the living wages of those in our community. I suspect that the support and endorsement of higher education along with attracting higher paying jobs to the community will help in this instance. Another way to improve the living wage is to bring the people to the jobs if we can’t bring the jobs to the people.
2. I will ensure that the council establishes a working to group to look at proposals aimed at improving the living wage. I don’t think it would be wise to simply ensure that all people living in the community are paid to live in the community by virtue of the wage they are earning. Those of us who care about one another and care enough to speak up ought to care enough to put together a think tank and come up with creative solutions that work for everyone. I support effort and creativity.
3. I will review the recommendations of a working group and discuss workable solutions. Often, wages and benefits eat up the profit margins for most companies and it is a fine balance as to what the municipal government can do and say with regards to what that business pays their employees. I do not want to drive away business from our community and I don’t want the community to be driven away. I do think there are workable solutions to improve the quality of life for all.
Jason Boelhouwer – The idea of course is to stamp out poverty, and to make sure that the people of Burlington – and elsewhere for that matter – are able to achieve a decent quality of life.
Where I need more education is on the question of how to get this in balance this with the current economic climate. As a small business owner I need to ensure that what that my employees make must be appropriate to what the client is paying to ensure the viability of my business. To increase wages one has to increase the customer costs, if that loses clients for the business then everybody loses.
Two issues that I see surrounding this question, assuming the calculations are correct for a family with two working parents are: 1) how do we ensure a living wage for that family if one of the parents leaves the picture ? 2) the calculations are not necessarily applicable in real life situations as it assumes that both people make the same amount, if one person makes $27/hr the family can in theory make the CDH’s living wage if the second wage earner is only making $7.10/hr.
I don’t think that there is a quick solution to this problem, and it must be continually looked at to make sure that progress is being made. Bringing new and better paying employment opportunities into Halton that will provide the higher standards of living should be the goal. I believe the BEDC for example is working on this, and I assume other municipalities have similar groups working on this as well. Once on Council, I will continually push for this type of employment growth.
I realise I didn’t answer your questions as formatted but I hope that this gives you a good understanding of how I support your cause.
Katherine Henshell – You probably won’t like it – but I am not going to promise something that I can’t deliver.
I am not saying that I am against a living wage – I just think that ecomonic balance is very necessary to preserve.
Margaret Anne Steiss – I certainly believe in a living wage. Having had many minimum wage jobs in my life I know first had how difficult, if not downright impossible they can be to live on. I would certainly do everything in my power to promote the benefits of a living wage. Unfortunately government cannot force employers to pay wages over the minimum.
Candidates – Ward 2
Marianne Meed Ward
Candidates – Ward 3
John Taylor – 1. I can agree in principle but before being totally in agreement I would need to see some evidence that widespread adoption would not start an inflationary compensation cycle resulting in massive job losses in the private sector.
2. Currently the lowest paid employee of the Region of Halton makes more than the $17.05 Living Wage calculated by CDH.
3. The Region has no business interfering with the Human Resource Policies of agencies or businesses providing goods or services to the Region of Halton.
Candidates – Ward 4
Carol Gottlob – 1. Absolutely. From recent reporting, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
2. I will certainly commit to ensuring all employees of the Region receive living wage.
3. I will work hard to encourage agencies providing goods and services to the Region to pay their employees a living wage.
Having recently attended a Halton Poverty Round Table invitational discussion, I am fully aware of the need for local government to provide support to workers and low-income families in the form of opportunities and incentives. A living wage clearly allows families to achieve a higher standard of living and thereby contribute to the economy and participate in the community. I hope all Canadian cities considering a Living Wage act upon it. You have my support.
Doug Wilcox – 1. Yes I do.
2. Yes I would.
3. Yes, during the US/Canada Freetrade Agreement Canada lost 300,000 good paying manufacturing jobs that were replaced by Walmart and other US based big box stores. Employees working in the retail industry need to have 2 to 3 jobs to stay above the poverty level. In Canada we have what is termed the working poor and we must narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.
Candidates – Ward 5
Candidates – Ward 6
Pardeep Kaur Dosanjh – 1. Yes. As the cost of living has increased over the years, I think it’s time,we should also look at the wages.
2. Yes. I also support this. By having similar living wage for minimum standard as well as employees of Halton Region, we are promoting fairness.
3. As we all live in the same community, then why different wages? We should definitely encourage them for living wage standard, and promote fairness.
Jennifer Hlusko – 1. Yes.
3. Yes, but I don’t know that “encouraging” will have the desired impact. I would look forward to having a rigorous discussion on this issue with fellow Regional Councillors if I am elected.
Thank you for asking these questions and bringing this need to the forefront.
Candidates for Mayor
Regional Councillor – Wards 1 & 2
Clark Somerville (Acclaimed)
Candidates for Regional Councillor – Wards 3 & 4
John Cooke – 1. In principal yes, but can it be solved with one broad stroke of the legislative pen? Certain businesses rely on a ready supply of part-time labor (ie students) that is quite happy working up to 24 hours/week for $11/hr, no benefits. Unfortunately, with the disappearance of so many well paying, full-time positions, many family wage earners have been forced to take these minimum wage jobs, in some cases more than one, just to survive. Legislating such an employer to pay a 60+% higher living wage would no doubt drastically effect their business operations, perhaps to the point where their business would no longer be profitable / viable &/or they would be required to operate with less staff thus reducing the available job pool even further. Some employees could benefit from a higher wage at the expense of others that might lose their jobs.
Is it really a question of the minimum wage payable or rather the type of jobs available? We should perhaps concentrate on attracting long-term, higher paying, full-time jobs to Halton while striving to supply the educated workforce to fill them so that those currently with no other option than to take minimum wage positions have secure, long-term viable alternatives. I believe this to be the challenge before us and I’m eager to work with the soon-to-be-elected Councillors on finding solutions.
2 & 3. I defer to Gary Carr, Halton Regional Chair, who states: “The Region has a wage rate larger than the living wage rate and so do our suppliers.”
Victoria Colby – I fully support living wages. I work in co-operative housing and understand the needs of working families struggling to get by and others struggling to find affordable housing in our region. Halton Region is rated one of the top employers and my hope is that in future they continue to strive for this and work with other agencies that pay living wages.
Candidates for Mayor
Candidates for Local & Regional Councillor – Wards 1, 6, 7, 8
Kristin Collver – 1. Yes. I do support the living wage. I don’t think it will be easy to implement but we should work toward it.
2. I agree that the region should ensure all its employees are paid the living wage.
3. I would encourage agencies providing goods and services to the region to pay the living wage.
Candidates for Local & Regional Councillor – Wards 2, 3, 4, 5
Candidates for Mayor
Gordon Brennan – If I am elected mayor of Oakville I will always support a Living Wage. This issue has been controversial at best among many parties. Governments of all levels are still debating this Living Wage. Businesses large and small are for and against a higher Minimum wage. I strongly believe in equal work for equal pay. I strongly believe that no-on should be taken advantage of in the workplace. I would expand the Living Wage though to even say and support a wage that can balanced with employers. One for small businesses whereby they can set a Living Wage that benefits their businesses purchasing power along with having employees that are receiving a wage that they are proud and able to work with that keeps them from poverty. Larger businesses should be able to balance their profits and much larger purchasing power to a higher minimum wage over the current $11.00 an hour and still be profitable enough to carry forward. So, based on what I just typed here, I would say yes, to all three of your preceding questions. Thanks so much for your e-mail and the work you perform.
John McLaughlin – Great question, really reveals the “high cost” of living in Halton, and particularly Oakville due to structural imbedded costs such as (a) one of highest property taxes in Canada (b) overspending of capital + operating budges, to $320 million – up over 50% since Mayor took office, (c) property taxes up 40% since Mayor took office, (d) other user fees, inaccessible transit, taxes, charges and of course provincial and federal taxes, and sales taxes out of after tax dollars leave little take home pay for Canadians. By trimming budgetary spending with zero-based budgets, the inherent cost inefficiencies (which are passed on to residents) should be mitigated or lessened.
Those are fiscal issues that need re-dressing, and monetary policy with low interest rates has kept many other Canadians just able to stay above poverty lines, as personal and sovereign debt increases to near record level (approximately 2.5 trillion federally combined).
I am in favour of a living wage, coupled with the fiscal changes needed above. That money will re-circulate into the larger economy, also creating more jobs, spending and hopefully – savings – so everyone can earn a dignified wage for a dignified life. The community will prosper – on a net basis.
Candidates for Town & Regional Councillor Candidates for Ward 1
Candidates for Town & Regional Councillor Candidates for Ward 2
David B. Lee – I was pleased to receive your questionnaire about a living wage. I have attached a PDF of my six panel flyer in which I have expressed my passion for social justice and how my life has been driven by a devotion to a social justice and understand how challenges to all societies are inter connected. I heard an article on CBC that revealed that 70% of the employees for Walmart in the US qualify for food stamps. So who are contributing to Walmart’s obscenely high profits and low taxes? the American taxpayer. I believe the service industry is the lowest paid and most abusive part of our economy, since it is almost impossible to unionize this sector. As I see it the answer could be is for each Province to legislate a basic union style contract. Just like worker’s compensation each employee would contribute to the structure that enforces the contract, or when there is enough willing numbers that they could form a union. This way we could enforce a living wage. I should like to know more about your organization and progress you are making to make this Region a more just society.
Candidates for Town & Regional Councillor Candidates for Ward 3
Candidates for Town & Regional Councillor Candidates for Ward 4
Allan Elgar – The lowest paid position at the Region is $18.72 per hour including benefits, which is higher than the $17.05 Living Wage calculated by CDH. Wage rates are based on a variety of factors including market comparators, internal comparators and collective bargaining.
The Region does not currently have policies referencing a living wage and has not investigated the implications of such policies. It is the Province’s responsibility to establish the minimum wage.
John Foster – 1) Yes; 2) Yes; 3) Yes
The only caveat I have is that truly be full-time position (ie., not a student cutting grass for the summer, etc.).
Candidates for Town & Regional Councillor Candidates for Ward 5
Candidates for Town & Regional Councillor Candidates for Ward 6
Tom Adams – The Region already meets and exceeds the Living Wage rate. I support these wage rates that are based on a variety of comparators (both internal and market).