Dear Premier Doug Ford,
I write to you as Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto, Canada’s largest non-profit food security organization. FoodShare works with individuals, families and communities to support good food for all. In 2017, FoodShare reached 262,197 people through our programs and initiatives across the city. Our work focuses on increasing access, as well as knowledge and consumption of fruits and vegetables for all Torontonians. FoodShare does this work in a number of ways, including supporting over 45 Good Food Markets (community-powered affordable produce markets) in Toronto, and our Mobile Good Food Market that stops in several low-income communities across the city.
As a city wide organization we work alongside Toronto communities to respond to the moral imperative that we all feel to support our hungry neighbours. We know that our work alone will not solve food insecurity or hunger, which is why we work with our government partners to advance meaningful social and economic policy to challenge food insecurity. Food insecurity is primarily an issue of income and we see adequate income as a key intervention to challenging food insecurity.
We are very concerned with media reports indicating that the government is discontinuing the planned increase to Ontario’s minimum wage that is scheduled to come in to effect on January 1, 2019 to $15/hour. Since 1976 Canadians have had a right to food, but the reality is that far too many navigate food insecurity – a growing number of which are full-time workers. Over 60% of food insecure households in Canada rely on wages as their main source of income – meaning many people in Ontario’s workforce don’t have enough income to be food secure (PROOF, 2014). That is not a reflection of the type of province that Ontarians deserve.
Rolling back the planned increase to minimum wage is going to affect folks that saw a glimmer of hope connected to the increase. To roll it back, especially as Ontarians prepare to enter the holiday season is cruel and disappointing.
Work should really be lifting people out of poverty, not holding them in it. There are full-time workers in Ontario that struggle to provide the basic necessities of food and shelter for themselves and their families and we believe the increase to minimum wage will help.
As an employer, we are well aware of the costs associated with the planned increase to minimum wage, but we are equally aware of the costs associated with inaction, which we feel is far more detrimental. An increase to $15/hour will help alleviate some of the pressures faced by Ontario’s most vulnerable workers, especially in their plight to access the food that they need. FoodShare proudly supports a $15/hour minimum wage for our employees and we recognize the benefits of doing so.
Increasing the minimum wage helps to boost the economy from the bottom up by increasing the demand for what businesses have to sell. Unlike higher income households, when lower income households see a rise in income they are most likely to spend it (as opposed to save it). The bulk of it goes to food and other necessities, meaning that almost all of their extra spending stays in the local economy and spurs economic growth.
Earlier this year, a Forum Research Poll demonstrated that 62% of Ontario voters overwhelmingly support the increasing of minimum wage. This is in addition to the Angus Reid Institute poll that found that 60% of Ontarians were in favour of a $15 minimum wage. FoodShare is asking the government to honour the planned increase of Ontario’s minimum wage to $15/hour and the indexing of it to inflation.
If you believe that $14/hour is an adequate minimum wage for Ontarians, I challenge you to live on $14/hour for the remainder of your term.
I look forward to your response.
Paul M. Taylor