Scott's Lindsay office vandalized
By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 1, 2018
The Lindsay constituency office of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP and Ontario Labour Minister Laurie Scott was vandalized last week, and the reason for the attack was made abundantly clear by the vandal or vandals.
Just after midnight on Wednesday, Oct. 24, someone smashed the front windows of Scott’s Lindsay Street office, ransacking the front customer service area. On the side of the building, in black spray paint, was written: “Attack workers. We attack back. $15.”
Earlier that day, Scott, in her capacity as labour minister, had made an announcement that the minimum wage in Ontario would be frozen at $14 an hour, and that guaranteed paid sick days for workers would be retracted as part of a number of rollbacks by the Ford government to the Wynne government’s Bill 148. Under the plan Wynne had laid out, minimum wage in the province would have risen to $15 an hour in January.
Scott said the vandal, or vandals, had attempted to break into the inner section of the office with a fire extinguisher.
“By then, the alarms had gone off,” she said, emphasizing that the perpetrators had not entered the inner sanctum of the office, and therefore had no access to computers or files.
“The police alerted the girls [who work in] the office, then I spoke to everyone in the morning,” Scott told the Times. “I’m very upset this occurred, especially trespassing in the office.”
“I feel it was threatening and intimidating to them [staff], and trying to intimidate them,” Scott said, saying she would not tolerate bullying of her staff members, and that the police were continuing to gather information as they pursue their investigation.
In the wake of the incident, there were some implications from the PCs that the attack was the doing of labour groups, some of whom had given fiery press conferences in response to the government announcement earlier that day.
Scott was asked if she believed the crime was carried out by members of an organized labour group, rather than simply a disgruntled Lindsay resident or residents.
“It’s hard to know what to say,” she said, adding she didn’t know who did it. “There’s obviously a connection [to the minimum wage freeze]. There’s definitely a tie-in.”
“Everyone’s been very good, including the unions,” Scott said, explaining she’s received a number of correspondences and that a number of unions had decried the act.
“We can have debate and peaceful protests,” Scott said, adding she understood there was going to be protest.
Of the minimum wage freeze, she noted it had been made clear by the PCs during the election campaign that they intended not to proceed with the increase to $15 an hour. It will stay at $14 per hour for nearly three years. The additional $1 an hour means minimum wage workers would have made an additional $2,000 or so per year.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said that as a result of Bill 148, “endless companies” have taken their business south of the border. During a press conference following last week’s announcement, Scott was asked if she could name a company that had closed or moved to States as a result of the bill. She
passed the question to Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson, who could not.
The Times asked Scott if she could name a business in either Haliburton County or the City of Kawartha Lakes that had closed as a result of Bill 148, known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act.
Scott referenced the fact that Baked and Battered in Haliburton Village had closed its doors during the last winter season as a result of the changes.
“I know businesses that have laid off workers,” she said.
“I’ve had businesses close up in Lindsay,” Scott said, but said she could not give specific names due to privacy concerns.
Scott said in the big picture, it’s a competitive world, and Ontario needs to do its best to retain large, international companies with operations located in the province.
“I’ve had a lot of private meetings with businesses,” she said. “We want good-paying jobs, not minimum wage jobs.”
Scott said that a number of small businesses were feeling the pinch of the minimum wage increase, which jumped from $11.40 an hour in 2017, to $14 an hour as of January, 2018.
“Small businesses produce our jobs – they have margins,” she said.
Scott was asked how any of the reforms announced last week would help, say, a person making minimum wage working at a coffee shop.
“You still have jobs to go to, right?” she said.
In addition to the minimum wage freeze, the government is repealing a number of sections from Bill 148. One is a legal requirement for two paid sick days for each worker in Ontario, each year.
The bill had guaranteed workers 10 “personal emergency” days per year, including for injury, illness or other emergencies, and that two of those days had to be paid. The Ford government has reduced 10 emergency days to three sick days, two bereavement days, and three family responsibility days, all unpaid.
Scott stressed these days are guaranteed.
“Your employer can’t fire you,” she said. “Yes, they’re unpaid.”
Scott went on to say the bulk of employers she knows in the riding allow their workers to take sick days, often paid.
“They’re reasonable people,” she said. “They don’t want you to come to work sick. The small businesses in our area, they treat their employees like family.”
The government also made changes to the bill’s equal pay for equal work clause, which basically prohibited employers from paying one employee less than another, if they had the same skills and were performing essentially the same job. There were some exceptions for seniority and performance pay.
“It’s not a gender issue, it’s seniority,” Scott said, stressing that requirements that men and women be paid equally for the same work are still in effect.
“I’ve heard stories in Northern Ontario, where mining companies didn’t hire students [because they would have been required to pay them too highly],” Scott said.
Critics say the move will allow companies to hire cheap labour to do the same jobs as full-time employees, for less pay.
Scott stressed that none of the changes should be overly surprising, since the PCs had opposed Bill 148.
“We voted against 148, we fought against 148,” she said.