Comment 29206

By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2009 at 20:02:02

Grassroots asked me about the necessity of living wages and Bill 139. Let me make these few observations:

As Mayor I supported the 'fair wage' provision in the city's bylaws and had staff update the provision because it had been neglected for years, I was told. The labour movement made that request of me through the Building Trades. I also supported the Steel Workers when they were going through their CCAA ordeal and worried about pensioners losing their pensions. We organized a rally in support of these workers in front of City Hall and I pressed the case privately. My Council also accommodated Slater Steel which had been shut down. It reopened under new ownership who came looking for some property tax concessions. We made these concessions subject to the Union's satisfaction and the guarantee of jobs and 'legacy' obligations, or pensions. We also supported the 'living wage' resolution when it came in front of us.

All to say, that I wanted Hamiltonians to have a fair chance at leading productive lives with the basics being looked after and enhanced. I was asked to support property tax reforms for apartment renters. I did that. I was asked to give back the money the province clawed back from compensation for the marginalized. I and Council did that. There are other examples as well, not the least of which was the $20M or thereabouts we got from the Province to fund social services programs. We also launched the "Poverty Roundtable". etc.

In terms of Bill 139, I am not an expert but know that it is legislation aimed at assisting Temporary Workers gain a foothold in a more permanent job market with fairer rules for them while they are in the temp pool. It is a start only as you say, but an important one and a marked change in approach from the Harris government who introduced legislation to decertify unions. They spent their time fighting unions, McGuinty is spending time in supporing low wage employees. I support it.

The answer for Hamilton is to make us into a sustainable work community. We need to encourage business, not greed of course, but legitimate business that will make money, employ people and pay fair wages. Right now we are in danger of becoming a bedroom community to the GTA where too many of our residents work. The imbalance between Industrial/Commercial vs. Residential tax obligations is in the 70% to 30% range with the 70 being residential. This means that most of the tax money to run Hamilton's programs comes from homeowners rather than businesses. this trend needs to be reversed. Only by being business friendly and accommodating employment lands development and fixing up our brownfileds can this be done.

Apologies for length.

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