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Thirty cents more, and what d'ya get?

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

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  • Man am I ever glad I am the Premier and not some poor bastard trying to live on Mini-wage

    Man am I ever glad I am the Premier and not some poor bastard trying to live on Mini-wage

Written by Marty Williams

Here is what Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty didn’t actually say about the boost in the minimum wage:

As the Premier of Ontario, I have decided to offer a few suggestions on what to do with your loot now that we’ve raised the minimum wage by 30 cents an hour. After all, it’s been nine years since the mini-wage was hiked, so a lot of you people won’t know what to do with an increase. Heck sake, all you are used to is a decrease. After inflation, your pay buys you less and less. My pal Howie Hampton said that we’d have to jack it up by $1.30 just to bring your buying power up to 1994 levels. But don’t worry. We’re certainly not going to do that.

Instead, I thought I'd suggest what options I see for you and your additional $12 a week.

Now that you’ve cracked the $7 an hour barrier, you will likely be feeling pretty smug and entitled to all the good things in life. You’ll say to yourself "hey, why don't I go ahead, buy those fresh fruits and vegetables I've skipped since 1997? I just got a big raise. I deserve it." You might even be tempted to try the Tropicana instead of the frozen orange juice. Or perhaps your plan is to save up for a couple of months and buy a family member their first pair of new shoes.

In all these instances, I advise caution. It might seem like that $2.40 extra a day is a windfall, manna from heaven, and at times that extra ten-and-a-toonie will weigh heavy in your pocket. You'll want to spend it on things to improve your life but remember, that money will soon be gone. It will evaporate with inflation and be snatched back by the invisible hand of the market. If it’s a cold winter, it will be spent to keep you from freezing. So a word to the wise: enjoy, but be cautious.

Some people will take a more guarded approach and use their $12 to top up their RSPs or RESPs, while others may wish to take a vacation (a bus tour to Brampton is an eye opener, for sure) or start a business. Wise ideas all, but again, you should not rush into anything. Do what I do and consult your family lawyer and your accountant. Where appropriate you might also want to consult your spiritual advisor, Yogi, or bartender. They are in a better position to advise you on your investment portfolio, your tax exposure, and other programs such as “happy hour” that can help shelter and grow your wealth. Remember that just because you are living below the poverty line it doesn’t mean that you can ignore the bottom line.

My government also acknowledges that most people who are covered by this 30-cent bonanza can only work part time. Single parents with young children, students, the elderly and infirm, they will not feel the full majestic weight of the extra 12 Loonies. For them, we have a different strategy in mind.

  • Lottery tickets. A great investment for the poor. It is cheaper then Prozac (not that you’d have a drug plan to get it or a doctor to prescribe it) and as long as you have an unchecked ticket it is a really good reason not to step in front of the subway train. Work a mere 3 hours and 20 minutes more, and you've got another 1 in 14 million chance to be a millionare! And best of all, for every dollar you spend, you can sleep secure in the knowledge that you give most of it back to us, your government. I like to think of it as a win-win. Even though for you it’s mostly lose-lose.
  • Cigarettes. Too bad for you but the price of a pack went up about as much as your increase. If you smoke a pack a day you will be giving all the money you gained back to us. Again, sorry about your luck. But don’t bitch too much. At least it’s covered. Uncle Dalton to the rescue once again so smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em. It’s on me.
  • Donation to charity. In this time of need you might do as we have done and remember those folks less fortunate than you, those who have not and will not reap the benefit of my beneficence. Some will never see an extra 12 bucks. Like the folks on social assistance. For them the $10 food hamper for sale at Zehrs is a nice touch. Thus you may contribute to the cycle of poverty and still have two bucks in your pocket. What a deal!
  • A movie. Work 40 hours and you’ll have enough to catch a flick; 80 hours and you can take a date. Not that there is anything worth seeing. I mean I can’t believe the foul language and the sexual depravity in what passes for family entertainment. I took the kids to see that Mr. Bill movie – I’ve got a bit of a chubby for Uma Thurman – and I would have walked out if I hadn’t just dropped a king’s ransom at the box office and taken out a second mortgage to get through the popcorn stand. And talk about bad service. The kid working the counter was sullen – my god it was as if he was an indentured servant rather than somebody getting better than $7 an hour (except he was under 18 so he wasn’t, so never mind that, but still . . .) I remember in my day we were glad to have any kind of job. If I acted like that kid I would have been fired, and probably not be what I am today, which is the Premier of the biggest and richest province in the country. He should keep that in mind next time somebody asks him for extra butter.
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