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EDITORIAL: What’s the value of an employee?

What’s the value of an employee? Better yet, what’s the value of a human life?

A few weeks ago, the Ontario Liberal government announced a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 in the next few years. After the press releases were handed out, two things happened — low-paying workers rejoiced and businesses started complaining.

Small businesses argued they wouldn’t be able to stay afloat if they had to dedicate more funds to their employees. Larger industries also criticized the government’s decision, saying they will be forced to cut down on labour and raise the prices of their services.

As someone who understands the perils of living on minimum wage, I don’t exactly sympathize. But, it’s one thing to make a business-case argument and another to dismiss the value of having a hardworking (and well-paid) employee at all.

In Tuesday’s morning paper, I saw an advertisement doing exactly that.

In the ad, a woman is standing at a counter preparing to take a customer’s card and complete a transaction. The text reads: “The Ontario government has announced a devastating 31.6 per cent increase in the general minimum wage. Quick Service Restaurant operators now have a choice….More than $15.00/hour or only $2.50/hour.” The advertisement is for a self-serving order kiosk, by RT7 Incorporated. Under the picture of the machine is a list of benefits such as “never comes late”, “no coffee breaks”, “no overtime”, and “doesn’t complain.”

This advertisement isn’t about technology or the future of restaurants — it’s about an employer who thinks his/her workers aren’t worth the sick days and overtime pay. It’s about labelling everything that employee does as something not deserving of being fairly compensated.

And that is absolutely unacceptable.

Advertisements like this one are incredibly dangerous. It makes the assumption that every day human actions like getting coffee or getting sick are somehow of detriment to a company. That human beings, especially those paid minimum wage, complain too much and use social media (a.k.a. are irresponsible).

This is not a stereotype that should be allowed to spread.

As Ontario pushes forward this new legislation, it’s important to remember that employees are, more often than not, hard workers. Many have large student loans or families to support. They may have a second job or may be in school. All they want to do is be able to afford a place to live and food to eat. It’s not that much of an ask, right?

If a business can’t afford their employees, they shouldn’t be allowed to remain open. It’s as simple as that. And anyone who thinks a kiosk can replace a human being, obviously hasn’t had to call the cable company.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Affordable housing to recieve billions in federal budget

The federal budget is taking affordable housing seriously, with a new National Housing Strategy that wants to tackle Canada’s housing crisis.

The 2017 budget proposes to spend $11.2 billion over 11 years and will build safe and affordable housing across the country. In cities with high prices and a severe lack of affordable housing, like Toronto and Vancouver, this funding cannot come soon enough. The government’s proposed housing fund will be run by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) — the country’s public insurance program for mortgages. The CMHC will receive $5 billion over 11 years to work on several projects related to housing. Another $3.2 billion will be dedicated to affordable housing specifically and will use a multilateral investment framework, relying on private and public funding to get affordable housing projects up and running across the country.

Out of the $11.2 billion, $3 billion will be spent in the next three years and $20 million for this year.

The money budgeted falls short of what the big city mayors caucus asked for at their meeting in late 2016. They asked for a pledge of $12.6 billion, spread over eight years to solve the affordable housing crisis that are growing in Canada’s largest cities. Toronto specifically has $2.6 billion in repairs needed for Toronto Community Housing units on the brink of being closed down.

Mayor John Tory is asking that the province pitch in to the housing fund as well and fill the gap that the federal government cannot commit to. Affordable housing in Toronto needs a huge investment to repair current community housing units as well as provide more. There are 82,414 households on the waitlist in the city, most consisting of families and seniors, and with rising house costs people are desperate for somewhere to live.

All three levels of government ultimately need to work together to tackle the affordable housing crises popping up across Canada. The National Housing Strategy is a brave step and the commitment of billions of dollars will make headway to giving vulnerable parts of the population somewhere safe and healthy to live. Without a home, it is nearly impossible to escape the throes of poverty — finally it seems that Canada is realizing the importance of shelter in the Great White North. Let’s hope that investment is maintained!

The best farmer’s markets in Toronto

There’s nothing like a good farmers market. The smell of fresh produce, the friendliness of all the vendors, and the general atmosphere a farmers market creates is just something that can’t be replaced by a grocery store. Farmers markets are also important in fostering a sense of community through the buying and selling of local products.

If you are looking for a market to visit in Toronto, here are our picks:

The Junction Market (2960 Dundas St. W) is a farmer’s market on the Junction Train Platform that is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday. It opens on May 28 and closes on Nov. 5. This market showcases some delicious produce, but it also has extra perks that make it worth a visit. There is a kids area at the market with ukulele lessons and face painting. There are also local musicians. The Junction Night Market is held on July 16 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. with beer, wine, and cider for five dollars.

John market
Photo by Micki M.

If you want a weekday market for some fresh food after work, the John Street Market (197 John St.) is right downtown. This market is held on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 7pm, starting on June 5 and running until Oct. 30. It is located at St. George-the-Matyr Anglican Church, which is between Queen and Dundas St. close to the AGO at Grange Park. This market facilitates the delicious Big Wheel Coffee, which is yummy to sip on while shopping for local downtown products.

 

Sorauren Farmer’s Market (50 Wasbash Ave.) at the Sorauren Park Fieldhouse and is located near Roncesvalles. It is run by the West-end Food Co-op, which is a community-run grocery store in Parkdale that only sells local products and produce. I personally shop at West-end Food Co-op and am a huge fan of the farmer’s market as well. The market is run year-round and alternates products weekly on Mondays. Last week, the vendors included Earth & City, a vegan dessert company and De la Terre, which makes amazing sour dough bread.

Trinity Bellwoods becomes a happening place in the summertime with families and friends dotting the inner-city park. Trinity Bellwoods Farmer’s Market (790 Queen St. W) is a large outdoor market that is very popular with hot downtown vendors. The market runs on Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m, from May 3 to Nov. 1. The farmer’s market becomes a place for celebration with music and kids as well as delicious local food.

1280px-St_Lawrence_Market_Toronto_2010If ever there was a king of markets, St. Lawrence Market North (92 Front St. E) would have the reigning title. It opened in 1803 and is widely considered the best in the city. This market is permanent and is open every day of the week except Sunday. The best day to go is on a Saturday morning and it is open from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. St. Lawrence has several artisans, great local produce, and amazing bagels (with vegan cream cheese). The North Market Redevelopment, the original location of the market, is in its second phase of construction and still has several steps until its completion. But never fear, they opened up a replacement dome to keep everyone in business.

What is your favourite farmer’s market in Toronto? Let us know in the comments below.