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Montreal rally calls on province to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour

People gather in Montreal, Saturday, October 15, 2016, to demand a $15 minimum hourly working wage in the province of Quebec and across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
October 15, 2016 - 1:00 PM

MONTREAL - Even working 40 hours a week, Sara Vassigh says she sometimes has trouble paying her rent and bills at the end of the month.

With a salary just above minimum wage, she says home ownership, saving for retirement and starting a family are distant dreams.

"Not having a high income means I can't have more in life, because I wouldn't be able to support a family," the 34-year old community service worker said.

Vassigh was one of several hundred Quebecers who marched in Montreal on Saturday to press for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

With some waving union flags and signs reading "we shouldn't work for peanuts," many said Quebec's current minimum wage of $10.75 an hour isn't enough for a person to live on.

"(Raising the minimum wage) is fundamental to being able to improve our quality of life," said Dany Harvey, a unionized janitorial employee.

After working at minimum wage for years, he now earns close to $15 an hour, which he says makes a difference even if it still "isn't a lot."

"The difference is just being able to pay bills and do a few activities, and get out of the pattern of living from month to month," he said.

Saturday's event was the culmination of a summer-long campaign led by a coalition of unions, anti-poverty activists and students.

Although the campaign for the $15 is nothing new, many organizers said there is a growing momentum on the issue, pointing to other jurisdictions that have already decided to adopt the higher minimum wage.

The American states of New York and California have approved measures to gradually implement a $15 minimum wage, and Alberta passed regulations in September to follow suit.

Rallies to urge the government to raise the minimum wage have been held in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.

Business and industry groups have opposed the idea, saying it would have a negative impact on jobs. However advocates for raising the minimum wage say the predictions of job losses haven't come true following significant hikes elsewhere, and they suggest it could help the economy in the long run.

Daniel Boyer, the president of Quebec's largest labour federation, suggested that low-income workers are likely to spend any extra cash in local businesses, buying food or outings they couldn't otherwise afford.

"It's money that will be reinvested in the economy," he said.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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