Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne introduced a plan Tuesday, May 30 that would raise the minimum wage in Ontario, Canada from $11.40 an hour to $15 by Jan. 1, 2019. The premier’s office reports the increase would go to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and then the final jump the following New Year’s Day. The rate increase won’t stop there, as these jumps will be “followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation.”
“The economy has changed. Work has changed. It’s time our laws and protections for workers changed too. Too many families are struggling to get by on part-time or contract work and unstable employment,” Wynne said in the news release.
“And no one working full time in Ontario should live in poverty. With these changes, every worker in Ontario will be treated fairly, paid a living wage and have the opportunities they deserve.”
Other measures included in the proposal call for making sure part-time employees are paid the same rate as their full-time counterparts, and that every worker receives paid sick days. It will also enforce that every worker receives three weeks of paid vacation after five years at the same company, and to make scheduling “fairer” by requiring employees to be paid for three hours of work is a shift is canceled within 48 hours.
As for now, the provincial government will hire as many as 175 officers to launch the program aimed at educating workers and employees of the Employment Standards Act.
“These changes will ensure every hard-working Ontarian has the chance to reach their full potential and share in Ontario’s prosperity,” Minister of Labor Kevin Flynn said in the release. “Fairness and decency must be the defining values of our workplaces.”
A study accompanying the announcement from Wynne’s office reports the median hourly wage was $13 per hour for part-timers and $24.73 for full-timers, and that part-time work represented 20 percent of all employment in 2016.
Half of Ontario’s workforce between 25 and 64 is said to be currently making less than $15 per hour, with most being women.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Missing but not forgotten… One Little Rock family is holding on to hope that their daughter will come home alive. They’re discouraged, though, after some say mistakes were made during the most crucial hours after the now 20-year-old Ebby Steppach disappeared.
“There are only so many hours in the day,” Tommy Hudson, retired Little Rock detective, said. As each minute goes by–
“Time went on and on and on and on,” Laurie Jernigan, Ebby Steppach’s mother, said.
20-year-old Ebby Steppach is missing — and has been for nearly two years.
“Those early hours, early days, early weeks are critical,” Michael Jernigan, Ebby’s stepfather, said.
“For the first part of the investigation, no one looked for her,” Laurie said. Ebby’s mom, Laurie, and Ebby’s step-father, Michael, know all too well about time, and they say Little Rock Police know it even better.
“The whole first 30 days was just counting on Ebby showing back up,” Michael said.
Ebby fell off the grid in October 2015. Her family reported the then 18-year-old missing. Little Rock’s Violent Crime Squad picked up the case.
“The detective that was assigned to it at that time was one of our newer detectives,” Hudson said. Laurie says it didn’t take long–
“I would back track.”
–for her to lose trust in law enforcement.
“Part of the investigation that was going on didn’t match up with what they were telling me,” Laurie said.
About a week after Ebby vanished, her 2003 Volkswagen was found abandoned in Chalamount Park in West Little Rock. Ebby’s mother and step-father say a security guard reported the car, but the LRPD didn’t check on the tip for several days.
“The department itself, when the call came in on three different occasions that week, did not recognize and connect that this car belonged to a missing person,” Michael said.
“Didn’t put it together that this was a crime scene,” Laurie said. Ebby’s parents say the car had a dead battery and was out of gas, making Laurie think the worst.
“Her car was running and someone took her from it,” Laurie said.
The Central High School student’s cell phone, makeup, keys and eye contacts were left behind. Laurie says she encouraged the detective on the case to get surveillance footage from the Walmart across the street from the park.
“He said, ‘Do you know how much tape that is to look through?’ and I said ‘Yes I’ll look through it. I mean, I don’t care, I’ll look through it.’ And he said, ‘No, no, I’ll look into it.’ He never looked into it,” Laurie said.
“I think something has happened to her,” Hudson said. Ebby’s case would eventually be moved to Little Rock’s Homicide Squad — a group of the city’s most experienced detectives.
“When I got the case, there were things that weren’t done that should’ve been done on the front end,” Hudson said.
— Which included asking for the surveillance footage from Walmart. By then, the tapes had already been erased.
The retired detective says the case — which currently has the potential of being a homicide — needed to be “cleaned up.”
Hudson says some key people were never interviewed.
“I believe there’s somebody out there that’s in her circle, in her social media circle, that may know what happened to her and hasn’t come forward for whatever reason,” Hudson said. Hudson says the original detective skipped parts of the social media search.
“We always look at that. Why it wasn’t done at the time, I can’t answer that. I can tell you it’s been done now,” Hudson said.
“I don’t know if I can explain the level of powerlessness I felt,” Laurie said. From the balloons at Chalamount Park, to the interstate that connects city to city and state to state —
“The biggest fear is that we will never know,” Michael said.
–The clock will keep ticking, and Ebby’s family will keep praying for an end.
“I just want closure,” Laurie said.
–No matter the road it takes.
Ebby’s parents have both taken polygraphs. Sources say both parents passed. Hudson says the parents are not suspects.
Little Rock Police are still asking for tips regarding the case. If you know anything about what happened to Ebby Steppach, you’re asked to give them a call.
Environmental groups are crying foul over federal legislation that benefits the shipping industry but which they say would weaken protections against invasive species entering the Great Lakes through ballast water discharges. On Thursday, May 18, the U.S. Senate commerce committee passed a Coast Guard reauthorization bill with provisions that would transfer authority over ballast water from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Coast Guard. The bill passed on a bipartisan voice vote, although several Democrats on the committee, including Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, withheld support over changes to ballast water regulation, saying that the bill as written “does not protect our waters from further incursions from non-native species.”
The shipping industry has advocated the transfer for several years, arguing for uniform nationwide discharge pollution rules that would end overlapping state and federal regulations on ballast water, which ships carry in their hulls to provide stability. Because the water can transfer exotic species, bacteria and viruses around the globe, it is regulated as a form of pollution.
The shipping industry argues the Coast Guard is a more appropriate authority to regulate ballast water because the service already enforces discharge permit violations and certifies onboard ballast water systems.
“The status quo, two federal vessel discharge regulations enforced by two different agencies, plus, at latest count, 25 state regimes, is unworkable,” the Lake Carriers Association said in a 2016 report. Environmental groups counter that provisions in the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, (VIDA), weaken protections against invasive species like the quagga and zebra mussels, which entered the Great Lakes in ballast water. Versions of VIDA have died in committee or been removed from must-pass bills before. The VIDA provisions strip the authority of the Clean Water Act over ballast water discharges and prohibit states like Michigan, which requires saltwater ships calling at Michigan ports to obtain a discharge permit from the state Department of Environmental Quality, from passing their own ballast water rules.
Michigan presently has EPA-delegated authority to enforce Clean Water Act rules under a special federal program. The state requires ships disinfect ballast water before entering state waters. Michigan’s general permit expires this year. The Senate bill as written would allow the EPA and states to consult with the Coast Guard, which would issue ballast water discharge permits, conduct enforcement and review proposals from states for more stringent future standards, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Coast Guard would have to decide by 2022 whether revising ballast water standards “will result in reducing the risk of introducing or establishing aquatic nuisance species,” according to the bill text, and any standards should be developed by “applying the best available technology that is economically achievable.”
The National Wildlife Federation says the VIDA provisions would “enshrine a regulatory scheme that places the economic burden associated with invasive species on the nation’s taxpayers rather than on the international shipping industry that is responsible for bringing those species to our nation’s waters.”
In 2015, the NWF and National Resources Defense Council won a federal appellate decision that forced the EPA to rewrite its general ballast water permit by 2018 to strengthen pollution controls. The NWF and NRDC say mid-ocean ballast water flushing and new onboard treatment systems are insufficient protections.
Oceangoing ships are currently required to exchange, or flush, ballast water at sea before entering the St. Lawrence Seaway. The practice, known as “swish and spit,” has largely been credited with stemming invasions, although in 2016 the EPA confirmed a new exotic species of zooplankton was present in Lake Erie. Committee chair Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, included the VIDA provisions in the Coast Guard bill prior to Thursday’s meeting, saying the changes would “ensure that our nation’s fishermen and vessel owners have one consistent and attainable standard for ballast water and vessel discharge.”
Thune said its time to get VIDA “across the finish line.”
“We’ve tried multiple times now.”
Peters and other Democrats objected to the VIDA provisions in the bill, asking to be recorded as “no” votes and expressing hope the language could be removed from an otherwise non-controversial must-pass bill on the full chamber floor.
“I’m disappointed (VIDA) was added to an otherwise non-controversial and bipartisan bill at the last minute and without consultation with all members of the committee,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, who called the bill a “step backwards in the fight against invasive species that could cause serious harm to state and local economies that rely on the Great Lakes.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, said “the Coast Guard’s mission is our nation’s maritime safety and security. I believe they should focus on that and leave water management requirements to the EPA, who have more of a scientific-based approach.”
Bill sponsor Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said ship owners have complained to him that some states have discharge standards that are “not achievable.”
“We could continue to work with EPA as a scientific advisor,” he said. Peters and Baldwin withheld support although the reauthorization bill, which funds the Coast Guard for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, included their amendment to authorize funding to begin initial design work on new a Great Lakes icebreaker, as well as a Peters amendment to create a Coast Guard Center of Expertise in the Great Lakes focused on studying the impacts of freshwater oil spills.
Peters entered a letter written by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on the record, which expresses opposition to the VIDA provisions.
“Michigan is taking action to address all potential pathways through which aquatic invasive species can enter our waters and currently has significant state resources dedicated annually to invasive species prevention, detection and management,” Snyder wrote.
“I urge you to continue to work to ensure the complementary benefits of regulatory certainty and environmental protection are met.”
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, ranking Democrat on the committee who supported the VIDA provisions in subcommittee, said “the question is, do we have a national standard or do we allow each state to have its own standard?”
“There are pluses and minuses on both sides of the issue, and we are going to attempt to work this out.”