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From Our Bishops

Archbishop urges vestry motion on minimum wage increase

Dear Colleagues,

While we await the coming of Christ and anticipating the celebration of Christmas, many of you are also getting ready for the parish vestry early in the New Year.  As in past years, I encourage you to present a motion on a key social justice issue at your vestry.  The motion requests the Government of Ontario to raise the provincial minimum wage from $10.25 per hour to $11.50 immediately, with a further increase to $14.50 per hour by 2015.

This is a key factor in addressing poverty reduction, particularly among the working poor.  Most of this income will be immediately spent within the local economy, so it will have a direct ripple effect.  I have had several meetings with provincial cabinet ministers who indicate their support of this but they note it is not high on the agenda of voters they talk to.  As we heard at Synod, it is amazing what a number of emails and letters from concerned constituents can do to influence that!

The motion is printed below, and its preamble outlines why this measure is needed to provide dignity for the low-paid workers in our midst, and their families. I also encourage you to watch our five-minute video, “Out Of Poverty.” It clearly outlines the issues in a compellingly simple and accessible way.  We can do better as a society, strengthened by the Gospel’s call to justice. 

I ask you to include this motion and its preamble, printed below, in your parish vestry report and present it at your vestry.  The motion and related information also can be found at

Blessings for this season of Advent,

The Most Rev’d Colin R. Johnson
Archbishop of Toronto and
Metropolitan of Ontario

The minimum wage is an integral element of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. As such, it should be set at a level that makes it a true pathway out of poverty. This is a basic matter of justice, reflecting the abundant life that God wants for all of us (Deut. 24:14). Yet because Ontario’s minimum wage has not been raised since 2010, the 534,000 Ontario workers receiving the minimum wage actually live below the poverty line, resulting in hardship for themselves and their families.

Everyone in society pays the cost of low wages. Low-income families are at greater risk of health problems, which drives up health-care costs. Community organizations experience increased caseloads, requiring additional public funding. Our parish food bank and meal programs struggle to keep up with increased needs, including those of a growing number of people who work but do not make enough money to buy the food they need, or to find secure and affordable housing.  Recent studies show that about 11% of food bank users in Ontario are employed, but cannot meet their basic needs from their earnings.

We are aware that concerns have been expressed about the impact of a higher minimum wage on small businesses, but nearly half of Ontario’s minimum-wage employees work for large employers (500 or more), not small businesses. These employees are in effect subsidizing these large corporations. Moreover, extra earnings from a higher minimum wage would be spent at local food and clothing stores, and other local businesses, thus boosting local economies, generating tax revenue, and helping to offset the impacts of the increase. Recent research challenges the assumption that minimum wage increases lead to job losses. Between 2006 and 2012, Ontario raised its minimum wage from $7.75 to $10.25 and added almost 150,000 jobs to the sales and service sector, where minimum wages dominate.

God calls on us to care for the poor (Proverbs 29:7).  Increasing the minimum wage in Ontario is one practical way to do that.

Motion for 2014 vestry meetings
Moved that the vestry of ___________ (name of your parish) urge the government of Ontario to raise the provincial minimum wage from $10.25 per hour to $11.50 per hour immediately, with a further increase to $14.50 per hour* by 2015, and thereafter to keep the minimum wage indexed to the rate of inflation.

*The $14.50 wage would lift a person working 35 hours per week 10 percent above the poverty line (Low Income Measure).