Sidewinder: The line where poverty begins in Maple Ridge

Our minimum wages don’t sound like living wages to me. They sounds like minuscule wages, not enough for survival.

In September, the minimum wage for most workers in British Columbia was increased by 40 cents to $10.85 per hour.

For liquor servers, the minimum was increased by the same amount and now stands at $9.60 per hour.

In both cases, the minimum wage is about half of the amount established by various agencies as a living wage. In other words, the wage a person must earn in order to live in minimal circumstances without incurring debt or having to rely on charity, such as food banks or families.

Our minimum wages don’t sound like living wages to me. They sounds like minuscule wages.

The following paragraph is a copy of a Facebook comment I posted seven or eight years ago. The statement was true then and remains true today:

Every time someone suggests raising the minimum wage, many short-sighted, greedy people claim it will ruin the economy. What a load of crap. The economy isn’t suffering because of minimum wages; it’s suffering because too few people have too much money and don’t intend to spread it among the less fortunate.

If paying your employees a decent living wage is a threat to what you perceive as your right to profitability, you don’t belong in business.

It’s one thing to hire people and pay them less until they learn the ropes, or for young people working a few hours per day after school. But beyond that point, in too many cases, minimum wages amount to plain, simple greed.

According to some studies, as many as one-third of all Canadians are living at or below the poverty line. That doesn’t quite fit the image of being a proud Canadian, and our current minimum wage laws are helping a bit.

It’s almost impossible to establish an accurate number, but I have often wondered how many food bank customers and how many homeless people are facing their current poverty stricken situations due to the primitive and greedy attitudes of governments, employers, big business or big unions?

Small or large business owners, politicians and government bureaucrats, and unions, in their haste to arrive at some sort of financial Nirvana, all forget that the poor suckers at the other end of the rainbow have to attempt to get by in the same expensive world they create for themselves.

During the Great Depression of the ‘dirty thirties,’ Franklin Delano Roosevelt fought to establish a minimum wage because he knew it was essential in a democracy for all people to be able to earn a decent living and to not be made to suffer in poverty so that someone else could live in luxury.

I can almost hear the moans of many readers who will disagree vehemently with my reasoning, or think that, in my old age, I’ve slipped over to the dark side of socialism.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

Socialism is an inevitable product of a society that heaps disdain on its less fortunate citizens and mandates that those less fortunate folks should not be allowed to escape from the ranks of poverty.

These short-sighted people are the same ones who staunchly oppose the establishment of a decent living wage.

Lacking an adequate income and being forced to live and compete in a greedy world drives many people on to welfare rolls, to food banks, to homeless shelters and other features of socialism.

People living in a free society aren’t born socialists. Socialists are born out of needs that aren’t met in the communities in which they live.

Most people want decent jobs so they can support themselves and feel they are contributing something worthwhile to their communities. But if they are employed at jobs paying minimum wages, they will be too busty keeping their butts out of the swamp to achieve their modest goals.

 

– Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former city councillor.