October 18, 2017

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Anti-poverty rally calls for $15 minimum wage by 2020, Kinew says 2024

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Make Poverty History Manitoba and the Manitoba Federation of Labour hosted a rally calling on the Government of Manitoba to make the minimum wage $15 an hour on the steps of the legislature Tuesday.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Make Poverty History Manitoba and the Manitoba Federation of Labour hosted a rally calling on the Government of Manitoba to make the minimum wage $15 an hour on the steps of the legislature Tuesday.

Having a good-paying unionized job helped Wab Kinew on the road to becoming a positive person, the new NDP leader said Tuesday.

One of the most important determinants in turning his life around was a good-paying job, Kinew told participants at an anti-poverty rally calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

The day he started his first job with the CBC after years of minimum-wage work, his income quadrupled overnight, Kinew told the organized-labour rally on the steps of the legislature.

That was in 2004, the year after two charges of domestic assault against Kinew were stayed.

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Having a good-paying unionized job helped Wab Kinew on the road to becoming a positive person, the new NDP leader said Tuesday.

One of the most important determinants in turning his life around was a good-paying job, Kinew told participants at an anti-poverty rally calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

The day he started his first job with the CBC after years of minimum-wage work, his income quadrupled overnight, Kinew told the organized-labour rally on the steps of the legislature.

That was in 2004, the year after two charges of domestic assault against Kinew were stayed.

"The first time I saw one of those paycheques in a unionized workplace, my eyes bulged out of my head," Kinew said. "It gives you dignity, discipline, esteem."

Unprompted, Kinew told the crowd that he's aware his past is still very much under scrutiny, and he won't be the one who decides when everyone has heard enough answers.

"There's a lot of discussion about me. I'm committed to answering questions. If there's anything you want to ask me, approach me, I'll make time," he told the rally after getting applause from several dozen people in public-sector union clothing, wielding signs for their unions.

Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck told reporters he hasn't wavered in his support of Kinew, even though he had been previously unaware of recent revelations about domestic assault charges that were stayed, and other incidents from Kinew's past.

Rebeck wouldn't say if Kinew should have handled differently how, and how much, he has divulged about his past.

"Anyone has concerns when you hear things like that," Rebeck said. "I've known Wab for two years now — he's become a role model in the community. He could do a lot of good. We need someone to challenge (Premier Brian) Pallister.

"He's a well-spoken man who stands up for people, services. A lot of people are talking about who he is today."

As for the rally itself, Kinew and Rebeck hustled to deny they're not on the same page after Rebeck called for Pallister to bring minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019 or 2020, and Kinew said it wouldn't hit that point until the end of an NDP government's first mandate in 2024.

"We think a two-to-three-year plan makes sense," said Rebeck.

That would allow time for small business to adjust. After the minimum wage hits $15 an hour, government could plan how to reach the poverty line, and to then index minimum wages to a living wage line, he said.

Low-income workers spend their wages in the community, Rebeck pointed out.

"All too often we hear the mythology that minimum wages (increases) will drive jobs out of the economy," he said.

Labour doesn't believe raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would prompt workers currently making that much to seek a similar dollars-and-cents increase, Rebeck said.

Anti-poverty activists must be sensitive to small business, though, Kinew said. Unlike Rebeck, he expects significant increases would have to wait for Kinew to become premier in an NDP government.

"We'd get there by the end of the first mandate," said Kinew, who argued that current cost-of-living levels would have the poverty line at about $16 an hour in 2024.

The Pallister government did not raise the minimum wage in its first year. It goes up by the level of inflation on Oct. 1, from $11 an hour to $11.15.

Nicole Dvorak, who works full time at a minimum-wage job, told the rally that 15 cents an hour does nothing over a full day of work.

"I can tell you, $1.20 day doesn't buy you anything, and doesn't get you out of poverty," she said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Nick Martin.

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