The constituency office of Labour Minister Laurie Scott was vandalized in a Tuesday night break-in, just hours after the Ford government confirmed it would freeze the minimum wage at $14 and eliminate two guaranteed paid sick days for Ontario workers.
A large plate glass window and door were smashed at the downtown Lindsay office in her riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, chairs overturned and a message in spray paint reading “Attack workers. We attack back. $15.”
Police are investigating the vandalism which occurred sometime after midnight.
The Liberal administration passed Bill 148 to modernize workplace laws, raising the minimum wage to $15 in January and giving workers more notice of shift changes. These were moves frequently criticized by Premier Doug Ford as “job killers.”
Government House Leader Todd Smith acknowledged the new Progressive Conservative government is expecting pushback on its agenda — which includes $6 billion in spending cuts — but said destructive acts go too far.
“We all know there are going to be sensitive times ahead, but this crossed a line,” he told reporters in a scrum with Scott before the legislature’s daily question period, noting that Ford and Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson have received death threats “in the last 24 hours.”
“I believe in democratic and peaceful protest and debate but we will not tolerate vandalism, intimidation or bullying,” added Scott. “I’m very proud of the piece of legislation that we have brought in. It’s fairness for workers and for businesses in the province of Ontario. It’s open for jobs.”
Labour groups have criticized the PC bill, which will index the $14 minimum wage to inflation starting in 2020, as “mean-spirited and reckless” and accused the government whose slogan is “for the people” of siding with business.
It’s expected the minimum wage will not get to the $15 range until 2024. About 145 countries require employers to provide paid sick leave for workers.
Smith called on labour organizations to condemn the damage to Scott’s office and appeared to blame them for it, even though police have made no arrests.
We want to see Fifteen and Fairness and some of these other radical groups to acknowledge the fact that a line has been crossed here, that they’ve gone too far, that this will not be acceptable,” Smith said.
“And unfortunately what we’ve seen is one of the union leaders saying that the premier, Doug Ford, is an enemy of workers and both the premier and Minister Wilson have received death threats.”
Ford said in a statement the vandalism is “very serious” and has “no place in our democracy.”
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1