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Party promises immediate jump in minimum wage to $10 an hour followed by indexing to inflation
September 14, 2007

OTTAWA–Provincial politicians gave themselves a pay hike last year higher than the entire salary of someone working a full-time minimum wage job. Now New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton wants to take it all back.

Hampton announced yesterday that, if elected, he’ll roll back the 25 per cent salary hike MPPs voted for just before Christmas and raise the salary of people who deserve it – those living on minimum wage.

Pay for minimum-wage earners, including students, would immediately jump to $10 an hour, he said while campaigning in Ottawa.

“New Democrats would ensure working men and women will get a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work,” Hampton said, adding further hikes would be indexed to inflation.Rolling back the increases would save the government about $3 million a year, he said.

The Liberals have said they’d raise the $8 minimum wage by 75 cents a year to $10.25 by 2010 and that to do it faster would hurt the economy because businesses would fire some employees to pay for the sudden higher salaries. The Progressive Conservatives haven’t said what they think the minimum wage should be – only that they’re committed to a “realistic” rate.

An immediate $10 minimum wage is needed, said Diane Rajaram, a health-care worker who says she makes $8 an hour and has to work for three different agencies to get enough hours.
“It’s hard, it’s very hard.

” You can’t sleep at night because you have to worry about whether you’re going to get money for the rent,” Rajaram said at an NDP campaign event in Etobicoke.
“Mr. McGuinty should be working (for) minimum wage and he should live on that and see what people are feeling.”

Last year’s salary hike pushed Premier Dalton’s McGuinty’s salary nearly $40,000 to $199,000. Most MPPs saw their salary go up $22,000 to $111,000.

“There’s nothing fair about a premier who hikes his own pay by $40,000, but denies a badly needed raise for Ontario’s 1.2 million lowest income earners,” Hampton said.

Liberals and Progressive Conservatives both voted for the increase after the New Democrats, who managed to hold the bill up for eight days, ran out of delay tactics.

(Hampton’s salary rose $30,000 but he donates the after-tax benefit to charities. Other New Democrats donate some or all of the increase.)

McGuinty and Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory have both said they knew the increase wouldn’t be popular with voters, but that it was the right thing to do to ensure good people are attracted to and stay in provincial politics.

Integrity Commissioner Coulter Osborne tabled a report last year saying MPPs were underpaid compared with federal and municipal politicians and deserved hikes.

But MPPs were already in the top 10 per cent of income earners in Ontario before the pay hike, and after, they were in the top 5 per cent, Hampton said.