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Minimum wage motion sparks debate at vestries

By Murray MacAdam

The vestry of St. Saviour, Orono, debates the minimum wage motion.
The vestry of St. Saviour, Orono, debates the minimum wage motion.

A motion urging the government of Ontario to raise the province’s minimum wage to $14.50 in 2015 is leading to lively debate at many parishes this year. The motion acknowledges that the government of Ontario has raised the minimum wage from $10.25 to $11.00, effective June, 2014, but points out that this rate will still leave full-time minimum wage workers living far below the poverty line.

By mid-February, more than 25 parishes had passed the motion, with many parishes still to hold their vestries. “We had quite a lively discussion,” says Gail Holland, a member of St. George, Pickering Village, which approved the motion. The motion “is encouraging people to be advocates. Several women who don’t normally speak got up and talked about it.”

Similarly, the motion sparked discussion before its approval at St. David, Orillia, says the Rev. Martha Tatarnic, incumbent, who described the conversation as the most positive part of their meeting. Many people referred to the Gospel in their comments. A number of concerns about the motion were raised. Then one elderly member said, “At least we’re doing something. If we don’t do anything, then we’re just as bad as these big corporations we keep complaining about that only care about the bottom line.”

However, some parishes have decided not to present the motion, and a few have defeated it for various reasons, including a belief that the motion is unrealistic. Others have said that motions such as this one don’t belong at a vestry meeting. A few parishes have decided to present an amended motion. St. Martin in-the-Fields, for example, will present a motion in favour of “a living wage,” rather than call for the $14.50 rate in 2015.

A $14.50 per hour minimum wage would lift a low-wage single worker about 10 percent above the poverty line. “All faith traditions call on us to care for our neighbour,” says the Rev. Maggie Helwig, chair of the diocesan Social Justice and Advocacy Committee. “This isn’t meant to be the grudging kind of care which measures out the precise minimum we are obligated to give, but the generous love which wants each individual to be able to live a full, decent and healthy life. Therefore, we urge parishes to present a revised motion calling for the $14.50 minimum wage at their vestry.”

Murray MacAdam is the diocese’s Social Justice and Advocacy Consultant. Please email him at to let him know if your parish will present or has presented the motion, and the results of the vote. To learn more, visit the Social Justice and Advocacy webpage.