Coming election, minimum wage, hot chocolate on menu
BY VOICE STAFF
Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP Sam Oosterhoff held a New Year’s Levee at the Fonthill Legion on Saturday, an opportunity for constituents to speak with their representative.
Though the event had been announced for some time, many in attendance said that they had just received notification on the morning of, and only about two dozen people passed through the Legion during the two-hour session that ended at 4:00 PM.
Oosterhoff said that he wasn’t too bothered by the low turnout, saying, “the important part is that people have the chance to come and talk about what’s on their minds.”
Now that the next provincial election is less than six months away, Oosterhoff said that the campaign period has basically commenced.
“We’re not setting up campaign offices just yet, but we’ve released our platform, the NDP has released its platform, and the Liberals will be running on their budget,” he said.
Oosterhoff said that he was proud of the Progressive Conservative platform, one which has been considered much more liberal than past PC campaigns.
“It’s very different to past platforms,” acknowledged Oosterhoff, but nevertheless called it an exciting one.
To some in attendance at the levee, this leftward shift under PC leader Patrick Brown is troubling.
“We think that Patrick Brown is just a Liberal in conservative clothing,” said one couple, who asked not to be identified by name.
“We were surprised that he won—we thought that Christine Elliott was going to become leader. And after he flipped on the sex-education issue, we don’t know what he stands for, if he’ll switch after he’s under a little bit of pleasure.”
The two said that they were surprised when Oosterhoff won the seat, considering how young he was. The wife said, “My sister called me from Medicine Hat. She said, ‘Your candidate is so young!’”
The couple didn’t have any single issue on their minds, though they did say that they were worried that the minimum wage increase had occurred too quickly.
Pelham resident Bernie Law said the issue of minimum wage was on his mind, too.
“I absolutely support it,” he said. “People should be making fourteen dollars an hour. When I worked in business, at Gillespie Pontiac, we paid everyone—even the car washers—more than minimum wage. But then we also had to increase the cost of the sale.”
Law said that he was concerned that many minimum wage workers wouldn’t actually see the benefit of the raise.
“Look at Tim Horton’s right now,” he said. “The workers are having to pay more for their benefits, and are losing other things. There wage is going up, but their take-home pay isn’t any higher.”
Oosterhoff similarly espoused PC points on the minimum wage issue, telling constituents that the hike was done too quickly.
Weighty subjects did not entirely dominate discussion.
“I got the invitation to your fiftieth anniversary,” said Oosterhoff to Law. “If it’s on the twenty-eighth, then I won’t be able to make it. But I’ll send you a certificate.”
“Are you turning fifty, Bernie?” someone standing nearby joked. Law laughed.
“Fiftieth wedding anniversary,” he said proudly.
“That’s a long time,” said Oosterhoff. “My grandparents had their sixtieth two years ago.”
“My parents just had their seventy-third,” said Law.
“Well, I walked on the moon,” said Oosterhoff, smiling at the game that had emerged.
Another man nearby, retired dentist Jim Jeffs, also had a 50th wedding anniversary approaching.
“What’s your wife’s name, Jim?” asked Oosterhoff. “And what’s your address.”
He punched the information into his phone as Jeffs reeled it off. “I promise that I won’t stalk you,” said Oosterhoff.
As Oosterhoff moved away to speak to others, Jeffs remained standing beside another man, who was explaining the recent infection that he’d had in his finger.
“It was just a little scratch, and it kept getting worse and worse, even though I went to the emergency room. They were worried that I’d lose my finger at one point. It’s all right now, though I can’t really bend it.”
Jeffs said that his daughter, who is a veterinarian, has had scares before from animal bites.
“Cats are the worst,” he said. “Though I had an issue sometimes when I was a dentist. I’d ask people to bite down on the fluoride, and then I’d have to tell them to open up again so that I could get my fingers out of their mouth.”
The man with the infected finger chuckled at the story. His wife piped up.
“I was bitten once when I played basketball. We went to the ground, and the girl bit me. There was a mark on my arm and I showed it to the referee right away,” she said.
“Did you get a foul shot?” asked her husband.
“Yes,” she said.
“Did you score?”
“I sure did,” she said.
Four o’clock approached, and Oosterhoff and a staff member prepared to move along to Beamsville, where he had scheduled another levee later in the day.
An employee from the Legion came out to the hall to pick up the hot chocolate urn and the plates of sweets, which has barely been touched.
Most of the few left in the hall departed when Oosterhoff did, though two men remained, sitting and talking about Pelham politics.
They got as far as the doorway, still talking about Town Hall, then changed their minds and decided to keep their analysis going over a beer at the bar.