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Minimum wage hike won’t stem Mountain food bank use

About half Neighbour to Neighbour clients are working poor

 By Mark Newman, News Staff 

The executive director of Neighbour to Neighour Centre says boosting the minimum wage in Ontario from $10.25 to $11 an hour will do nothing to reduce the number of people using the west Mountain food bank.

“I don’t think it’s going to have any significant change to our clients’ ability not to use our food bank any longer,” said Denise Arkell, who noted they continue to serve about 1,300 families each month.

About half are the working poor or people with jobs that don’t pay enough to buy food after the cost of shelter and utilities are covered and the other half are receiving some sort of social assistance.

The Wynne government announced last week the minimum wage hike would take effect on June 1 and that future increases would likely be tied to inflation.

According to Living Wage Hamilton, a website that lists the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, Hamilton Community Foundation, McMaster Community Poverty Initiative and Workforce Planning Hamilton as partners, the living wage rate in Hamiltonwas $14.95 in 2011.

“The living wage is $14.95,” Arkell noted. “We’re a long way from that, so we don’t anticipate any changes.”

The living wage number is contained in a Dec. 2011 report by the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton.

To see the report, go to: sprc.hamilton.on.ca and click on the on the poverty reduction and elimination button.

Keanin Loomis, president and CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said while he is okay with the increase some businesses will not like it, although he has not had a big push back from the membership so far.

“There has not been a huge negative response,” he said.

Loomis said the Hamilton chamber supports the Ontario Chamber of Commerce position that increases to the minimum wage should be tied to the consumer price index.

He noted there was concern that the province was going to raise the minimum wage to $14 an hour and the hike to $11 an hour is better outcome for business.

“This is the right compromise,” he said.

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