(By Michelle Allan, Queen’s University)
At 4 months in, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has the lowest approval rating of any federal party leader.
This month, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer targeted the Liberals’ proposed tax reforms in a new attack ad. The ad, which aired for the first time on October 9th and had been online since the beginning of the month, accuses the Liberals’ new tax code of stifling growth of small businesses and start-ups. Scheer has attempted to popularize the hashtag #UnfairTaxChanges, and often pleads for his followers to help him “save local business.”
However, many economists argue that raising the minimum wage won’t lead to loss of jobs or businesses. Numerous studies have even cited minimum wage increases resulting in a boost to the economy from the bottom up and increased family income of workers who are low wage or below the poverty line.
Scheer’s concerns about the cost of paying workers a living wage are ideologue at best and downright venal at worst. Honest, hard work at a full time job should, at the very least, entitle the worker to basic human needs like food, housing, and healthcare. By opposing the minimum wage, Scheer is horrifically under-valuing the lives and labour of Canadians.
Besides the obvious benefit of reduced income inequality, a minimum wage increase means raising income of people who have little savings, and therefore spend the largest percentage of their money. Considering how much of the Canadian economy is powered by consumer spending, any reduction in labour due to the increase minimum wage could be offset by the increase in the working poor’s spending. This would not only lead to high qualities of life for low income families, but would also
stimulate jobs and economic growth.
If Scheer is truly committed to the wellbeing of small businesses instead of just using that cause as an excuse to ensure the upper class and financial elite remain in power, he should reconsider the efficacy of a low-wage economy. Paying less than a living wage not only leaves workers in poverty, but is also an unsustainable business model— it smothers small businesses, which cannot cut costs as aggressively as chain stores and large corporations. Choosing to pay employees as little as you legally can is not only demeaning and morally dubious, but economically shortsighted. If some businesses can only function by paying poverty wages, the loss of them won’t be mourned, especially with better employers cropping up in their place.
Scheer’s concern for government spending is valid, however misdirected. Instead of denying the poorest Canadians a human, dignified wage, he could expand some of his enthusiasm towards salary hikes for MPs and Senators to include the working class.
Scheer’s rejection of a living wage ignores the fundamental principles of modern fiscal conservatism. The most efficient economic system is the one that provides opportunity for the people. There is no reason to believe that a system that rewards entrepreneurship and one that provides the working class a fair wage are mutually exclusive. Recognizing that both CEOs and those making minimum wage vote is not only smart business— its smart politics.
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