EDITORIAL: Living wage debate

It's not difficult for the city or school district to pass motions on this issue because they pay all employees more than $16.76

It’s difficult to argue against the premise of a Living Wage.

Who could be against families making enough to feed their kids and perhaps slot a little away for post-secondary education?

Thing is, we’d be in favour of eradicating world hunger, too. And ending all wars. And we like sunny days and wish for an endless supply of fresh water.

City councils like the one in Parksville seem to believe they can start us down the road of solving all the world’s ills by passing empty motions that make some of them feel better. And they do it without proper consultation or consideration of the possible effects of their pie-in-the-sky ideas.

On Monday night, Parksville city council started down a road that would have the city certified as a Living Wage for Families employer. The Living Wage right now, for this region, has been set at $16.76. That’s the suggested hourly rate for each of two parents, working full time, who have two young children.

It doesn’t sound like a lot of money — it isn’t — and we support the idea. It’s the whole idea of enforcement, or perhaps coercion, that troubles us.

It’s easy for the city or a school district to put this in place. No one who works for either of these taxpayer-funded organizations makes less that $16.76/hour. And even if they mandate that all their contractors pay that wage to be eligible for city contracts, the firms can pay that wage for that job only and build it into their bids.

However, the next step is scary. And where it’s coming from, the attitude of entitlement, is disturbing.

At one point in the debate Monday night, the usually-logical Coun. Sue Powell said: “Don’t tell me you can’t pay a living wage when you are socking profits into off-shore accounts.”

How many small businesses here, ones that employ fewer than 10 people (which is most of the businesses in this region) and pay their employees less than $16.76/hour, are “socking profits into off-shore accounts?”

Parksville city council has a lot of issues facing it these days, ones they have the power to fix or change. These forays into world social affairs are unproductive and smack of grandstanding and using the council pulpit to advance social causes at a time when it’s apparently become acceptable to mortgage the future by embracing deficits.

All we can suggest to Powell and other councillors who want to make a difference in this region: stick to issues where you can actually make a difference and keep your provincial/federal/world political leanings out of city hall.

— Editorial by John Harding

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