The Ontario government blamed "radical" labour organizers for a break-in at an MPP's office without presenting evidence on Wednesday, and then called for "inflamed" debate on their legislation to be taken down a notch.
Minister of Labour Laurie Scott's office in Lindsay, Ont. was broken into overnight Tuesday. Vandals smashed the door and windows and spray-painted a message: "Attack workers. We fight back. $15."
Scott announced new legislation to freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour and roll back paid leave for workers with two other government ministers on Tuesday. The minimum wage was supposed to increase to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2019.
Union organizers and labour activists from the $15 and Fairness campaign panned the legislation.
"Unfortunately we saw a despicable criminal act yesterday," PC House leader Todd Smith told reporters on Wednesday morning. "We want to see $15 and Fairness and some of these other radical groups to acknowledge the fact that a line has been crossed here. They have gone too far."
He also pointed the finger at Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) president Chris Buckley, who held a press conference about the legislation on Tuesday.
"When the group was here yesterday, they made it very clear that Premier [Doug] Ford is an enemy of workers," Smith said. "And when asked what kind of action he was going to be calling for, he said, 'Stay tuned' and then we see this kind of activity in Lindsay."
Both the OFL and $15 and Fairness deny organizing the break-in. Police say they are actively investigating and that the suspects fled the scene before they arrived.
"It does a great disservice to suggest that our movement is radical," $15 and Fairness campaign coordinator Pam Frache told HuffPost Canada in an interview. "Our movement is comprised of ordinary working people, from one end of the province to the other."
She pointed out that polls have shown a majority of Ontarians actually support a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
The OFL said it only supports "non-violent" civil disobedience in a statement.
"I want to be clear, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) does not support or condone violence against persons or property in any form," Buckley said.
Less than two hours after telling reporters that $15 and Fairness had gone too far, Smith said he would "never" say that they were behind the break-in. A reporter had asked him what evidence he had to support the accusation.
"Unfortunately we've seen a lot of inflamed rhetoric over this introduction of this bill," Smith said. Debate should be "constructive and forthright," he said.
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Scott, who is the MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, did not name any particular group in her comments.
"I'm putting the call out to everyone to bring the temperature down," she said.
Scott was asked whether the premier also contributes to the hostile political climate, because he regularly calls opposition MPPs "radicals" and implies that the former government was corrupt. She would not directly answer.
"We are not threatening anyone," she said. "We've had political debate in the legislature."
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