Photo by Maxime Agnelli

You might pay $18, $20/hour or more at your business and you’re thinking you don’t fit in to the conversation on business and minimum wage. The pay or salary you offer is already more competitive than the bare minimum, your employees are super skilled and educated, and you’ve got your own business problems to worry about.

Or, you earn more than $30,000 a year already, and you don’t see how this might affect you. You’ve also got your own issues on your mind!

Consider it this way: what the lowest earners make affects all of us because it determines whether or not our local economies are doing well. It’s a cycle – we all are better off when our communities thrive.

We can’t fully depend on forward thinking business owners to pay employees enough to live on. For those of us who do, we want to keep the $15 minimum wage – scheduled for January 1, 2019 in Ontario – so that we can compete fairly with other businesses who must now step up also.

I run a dog walking company, which many people laughingly suggest must be easy. It’s a ton of fun at times, but my experience is representative of a typical service company, with its ups and downs, late nights and nail biting.

The “decent work” theory that happy employees make good employees – that they stay for long periods of time – has proven true for me. It’s saved me a lot of time and money.

There is a community of businesses out there – “high road employers” – who think this way. Some people don’t yet realize that the way to make money isn’t by cutting corners, but investing in employees.

I’m just a small business owner with 8 staff, but small and medium businesses make up the majority of businesses in Canada. And we employ 90% of Canadians in the private sector. (Sources: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey (LFS), 2015; and calculations by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.)

It’s curious that large companies and lobby organizations are the ones we hear from the most, fighting so that the employees who make the least in our society don’t get appropriate raises or paid sick days.

Labour laws are not meant to make everyone a millionaire. They set a minimum standard of living. Hardly revolutionary.

I wish we didn’t have to debate this as much as we do but in the reality of today’s politics, laws are drawn up and then thrown out just as quickly. And we risk taking a serious step back soon. The Minister of Labour has said she intends to scrap the $15 minimum wage, promised to Ontarians for January 1, 2019.

Business owners, employees, consumers, clients: let’s have the courage to spread the word about a better way to do business.

It’s about telling people they deserve a steady, living wage that keeps up with inflation. Telling them we support their livelihoods. Letting them know we’re there for them. We get all that back and more – in productivity, good faith, good work – and healthier local economies. So let’s keep on the right direction. It’s worth it!

Gilleen Pearce, owner, Walk My Dog Toronto, and spokesperson, Better Way Alliance

The Better Way Alliance is a network of Ontario business owners who consider employee well-being a smart investment, for our long-term profitability and the health of Canada’s economy.