December 13th, 2018

Who’s driving the Thrive bus?

By Letter to the Editor on September 26, 2018.

Re: “Better wages won’t fix poverty: Thrive,” Sept. 14

I was shocked by Thrive’s opposition to minimum wage increases coming in the near future! This organization has a mandate to end poverty in our city. Yet their CEO and board — comprised mainly of business owners — have decided to engage in a chicken and egg argument over which government social policies and supports should come before a wage increase. Realistically, all these are needed.

But there is a case for raising wages first. What are the facts?

Public Interest Alberta recent statistics note that, “300,000 workers in Alberta — nearly one in six — will receive a raise when the minimum wage increases from $13.60 to $15 per hour on Oct. 1. Of these 300,000 workers, more than 60 per cent of them, are women and more than three-quarters of them are 20 years of age or older.”

According to the Public Interest Alberta report, “7,800 employed Albertans in Medicine Hat and area earn less than the incoming minimum wage of $15 per hour (25.5 per cent). 4,700 workers earn the current minimum wage of $13.60 per hour (15.4 per cent).”

This wage increase barely maintains the cost of living for these workers. Many need to sustain two jobs just to make ends meet. There is a social cost when their children spend hours in daycare or are left to their own resources. Why isn’t Thrive talking about a “living wage” that prolongs parent time in the home? What has happened to Thrive’s priorities?

Think of the inflationary effect that increased fuel prices have had on all of us. These are workers who need transportation to get to work. And they spend locally. Who can afford shopping trips to Calgary or Havre on a minimum wage?

While it is true that small businesses may have to trim staff, nearly all the big box stores — by far the largest employer of minimum wage earners — can surely afford the increase from their million-dollar-a-day sales.

And what about those lost jobs? At the insistence of the Chamber, businesses and developers, the city has spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars to attract new business and industry. This effort has been rewarded! The new enterprises came with the promise of hundreds of new, well-paying, jobs. So, what is the problem?

I’m left to wonder whether profit margins or greed are the real issue. Shame on Thrive for its failure to represent the basic needs and interests of those city and area residents with the “lived experience” of poverty! These folks are the passengers on Thrive’s bus.

Les Pearson

Medicine Hat

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