Chavenne Stamp, 26, face painting at the Jane-Finch minimum wage 'street party'.

‘Try living on it’: Toronto workers protest minimum wage

When Chavenne Stamp realized she could not afford to hire a face painter for a children’s party, she got a paint kit and gave it a go.

Credit hard work and initiative; Stamp found she was quite good at it and now makes extra money on the side painting faces at children’s parties.

Stamp, 26, is raising her two children on a $12 an hour wage. She got the pay raise barely six months ago when she left her job working at a big-box retail store where she earned $10.25 per hour, Ontario’s minimum wage.

“If you have an issue with raising the minimum wage, then you should try living on it,” Stamp told the Toronto Observer.

She was among a small group of people who attended a Saturday demonstration at the Jane-Finch Mall, following a North American-wide groundswell of protest by the working poor who are seeking a living wage.

In the past six weeks, Mcdonald’s workers across the United States have taken to the streets in cities such as New York and Chicago demanding a living wage. In Ontario, advocates are asking the government to raise the minimum wage to $14 an hour.

While Ontario’s minimum wage was last set in 2010, at $10.25 per hour, the cost of living has been steadily rising. According to figures released by Statistics Canada the cost of living has risen at an average of two per cent per year since 2010.

“Enough is enough, we need to raise the minimum wage now,” said Ama Amponsah, event co-organizer and member of the Jane Finch Action Against Poverty (JFAAP).

“I was working 35 hours a week and still didn’t make ends meet. Rent was hard to come by. Food was still difficult. We’re hoping that being here today will send a strong message that people can’t live like that. People need to live with dignity.”

In July, the Ministry of Labour set up a panel to establish a process by which the province will determine the minimum wage in the future.

Ontario, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories remain the only provinces without a standardized approach to adjusting the minimum wage, according to a statement released by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour.

“By establishing the Minimum Wage Advisory Panel, we’re taking steps to ensure that the setting of minimum wage is out of politicians’ hands.

“This will ensure a fair wage for Ontario’s workers and predictability for businesses,” Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi said in a press release.

The province-wide minimum wage campaigns, which began March 2013, is coordinated by a coalition of advocacy groups including Ontario Campaign 2000, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Put Food in the Budget, Social Planning Toronto and the Workers’ Action Centre.