Today's date: Tuesday January 16, 2018 Vol 51 Issue 02
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The Wellington Advertiser encourages letters to the editor.
You may, if you wish, submit your letter online.

Icons’ for home, church

Dear Editor:

RE: Nativity no-no, Dec. 1.

I am a bit slow to respond to Charles Vince’s letter complaining about the disappearance of the Nativity scene from the Stone Road Mall. The issues raised by Mr. Vince transcend season and deserve public discussion.

I am not questioning the depth of Vince’s faith, but does he really believe that Christmas has remained a celebration of the birth of Christ for most Canadians?

I too love the season and its emphasis on family and friends and generosity. But I do not see it as a time to place larger-than-life religious icons in the center of a shopping mall attended by people of all faiths, including atheists.

Canada is now a multicultural society. That means it is no longer “a Christian nation,” which can simply relegate the beliefs and concerns of non-Christians to the sidelines. Vince’s religious icons belong in his home and his church, where he is free to worship them. That alone is cause for celebration.

They do not belong in a public shopping mall, where some might find them intrusive or offensive. The manager of the Stone Road Mall made the right decision.

Hank Davis, GUELPH

OPINION: Who’s the bully when it comes to minimum wage hikes?

Dramatically increasing minimum wages in the food industry is irresponsible and even reckless.

On Jan. 1, Ontario’s minimum wage increased by 22 per cent, to $14 an hour. It will go to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019. That’s almost a 32% increase in 12 months. Other provinces, such as Alberta and B.C., will follow suit.

This obviously puts pressure on many businesses to recalibrate operating budgets. And the large food sector, where many workers earn the minimum wage, is already coping with major headwinds.

The minimum wage controversy got more exposure recently when letters from two Tim Hortons franchise owners, already mixed up in contractual clashes with parent company Restaurant Brands International, were leaked. These letters stated that employees would no longer have paid breaks and that some benefits would be withdrawn because of higher wages. Early reports inaccurately implied that the entire chain was taking part.

Even Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne weighed in on the Tim Hortons situation, saying the owners where acting like bullies. Her criticism was unfair and displayed flawed understanding of the underlying economics.

Most small food-sector businesses are likely making similar changes out of necessity.

The Wynne government’s policy on minimum wage is actually the bully.

Government generally has little or no understanding of franchising, how food distribution forces play out or even simply how small businesses operate.

A typical restaurant pays its employees anywhere from 25 to 35 per cent of total revenue. Therefore, a 32 per cent hike wage costs in 12 months is significant.

In addition, most businesses employing personnel at a minimum wage can’t increase prices. According to a recent study on the food service industry published by the Journal of Labour Research, operators could increase prices of limited skilled-labour-intensive food items by no more than three per cent over a period of a few years. That is far short of what’s needed to offset increased labour costs.

To remain profitable - and even to survive - businesses need to cut and adapt.

Higher wages would make economic sense if career development was part of the equation and those wages were part of an employee retention strategy. But minimum-wage staff in the food sector are either young students or retirees looking for some extra money.

Last year, more than 42% of food service workers were under the age of 24 and almost 24,000 were retired people.

For many of us, a food service job was the first opportunity to be part of the labour force. It taught us how to be part of larger organizations and to work as part of a team. That led to better experiential training, and increased and transferable skills. But a higher minimum wage will likely mean fewer such opportunities.

The push to a $15 wage is largely based on the desire to rebalance wealth for the bottom end of the income scale. It’s a noble objective to serve the less fortunate and there’s no doubt our economy’s imbalance of wealth is mounting. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives argues that several studies over 20 years show how the overall economy can grow because of higher minimum wages - and more jobs would be created. That challenges the conventional wisdom suggesting that jobs will be lost if minimum wages are increased.

However, most of these studies claim that overall productivity would increase because of higher wages. That argument is purely academic. Few studies have looked at food service or distribution sectors, which are low-margin and high-turnover environments.

With higher wages, the temptation only increases for enhanced automation and artificial intelligence. We’re already seeing more automation in restaurants.

Over the past few years, the Canadian labour market has undergone a quiet transformation as companies increasingly relinquish full-time employees. This is especially true in the food industry. Minimum wage hikes will only accelerate the process.

To address income imbalances in our society, other measures ought to be considered. A guaranteed minimum income or an increase in Canadians’ income tax exemption levels could be contemplated.

But allowing minimum wages to increase by 32% in just 12 months is simply irresponsible.

Charlebois is Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and dean of faculty of management at Dalhousie University.


Sylvain Charlebois,

What’s Erin hiding?

Dear Editor:

A big thank you and congratulations to Chris Daponte for investigating and reporting on settlements paid to terminated employees of Wellington County and its municipalities.

As his article reported, I had attempted to get the Town of Erin to give me the severance totals for the past five years. I gave up as their buffaloing tactics worked.

I am delighted that the Advertiser had more tenacity in pursuing the issue and on a larger scale.

It is interesting and dismaying that some municipalities will not give up the severance totals while others did without much trouble. The Ontario government needs to clarify the Freedom of Information Act so that all counties and municipalities have clear guidelines on requests for this information.

The reason I wanted the severance totals was so that I would be able to monitor the town budget for employee wages and benefit totals. If a certain year had a large number of terminated employees only that year would show a higher payout.

The Town of Erin has had two CAO terminations, a town planner, a roads superintendent, a recreation director, an executive assistant, an accounting analyst, not to mention the sudden retirements of both of our long-term director of finance and most recently the fire chief.

These assumed severance pay-outs with the departure of so many long-term employees would be extremely significant to a low-population municipality like Erin. Surely taxpayers have a right to know what such personnel upheavals are costing them.

Using population numbers and the figures given in Daponte’s articles, Wellington County and Mapleton households took a bit of a hit paying for severances. I suspect Erin’s total is much higher considering the high level positions of the people Erin terminated in the last five years.

The Town of Erin refused to include a letter in council’s agenda last July in which I ask council to assure the public that severance payments are a one-time expense and not embedded in salaries and benefits within future budgets. The town refused, saying my request was not appropriate for the council agenda. They just ignored my request for clarification.

I am left wondering what the town is hiding. Isn’t the council the go to place for taxpayers to direct such concerns?

Jane Vandervliet, ERIN



Wellington North Guide 2017-2018


Puslinch budget information meeting on Jan. 16
Elora teacher brings science, fun to the classroom
Centre Wellington mayor reports on county’s perpetual reporting
MacDonald Trust application deadline is Jan. 28
Guelph man charged in Dec. 25 theft of car with child inside
OPP identify Erin man charged with sexual assault


Olivia Rutt and Jaime Myslik
Stephen Thorning - 1949-2015
Kelly Waterhouse


Dave Adsett: The drive for data

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