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Politics Ontario Labour Minister’s office vandalized after PCs freeze minimum wage, unveil workplace reforms

Worker cleans up glass from broken windows at the office of MPP and Labour Minister Laurie Scott in Lindsay, Ont., Oct. 24, 2018.

FRED THORNHILL/The Globe and Mail

Ontario Labour Minister Laurie Scott says her constituency office was broken into and vandalized overnight after the Progressive Conservative government introduced workplace reforms, including a minimum-wage freeze.

Ms. Scott’s office in Lindsay, Ont., was broken into, the windows were smashed and a fire extinguisher was used to break items in the office, a spokesman for Premier Doug Ford told The Globe and Mail. Photos show broken windows and a worker cleaning up the glass.

Spray-painted on a wall outside the office were the words, “Attack Workers We Fight Back $15,” a reference to the provincial government’s decision to freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour.

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Ms. Scott told reporters on Wednesday the incident is “obviously” tied to her government’s new labour legislation introduced Tuesday, which includes the cancellation of two paid sick days for workers.

“This type of vandalism crossing the line is not going to be accepted by anyone,” she said. “I believe in democratic and peaceful protest and debate but we will not tolerate vandalism, intimidation or bullying.”

House Leader Todd Smith said Mr. Ford and Trade Minister Jim Wilson have received death threats over the past 24 hours as a result of the labour reforms, but didn’t elaborate on where the threats originated.

Sergeant David Murtha of the Kawartha Lakes Police Service said the police were notified of damage caused to Ms. Scott’s office late Tuesday night. “When officers arrived at Minister Scott’s office, it was discovered that extensive damage had been caused to the exterior and interior of the building. The suspects responsible for the damage had fled Minister Scott’s officer prior to the arrival of police,” he said, adding the police force is investigating.

The Ontario government announced Tuesday it plans to repeal chunks of the previous government’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act amid pushback from business owners who argued many of the changes included were too costly, forcing them to raise prices and cut staff.

Graffiti painted on the side of building at the office of MPP and Labour Minister Laurie Scott in Lindsay, Ont., Oct. 24, 2018.

FRED THORNHILL/The Globe and Mail

Mr. Ford was elected last spring on an “open for business” platform that included a promise to freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour instead of hiking it as planned to $15. On Tuesday, his government confirmed the freeze and followed up with a recently promised plan to scrap or amend other changes in the legislation, known as Bill 148.

The government said it will maintain the current minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020.

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Ontario Federation of Labour president Chris Buckley said Tuesday that the fight isn’t over. “We have always known that Doug Ford is no friend to workers, and with today’s announcement he has proven himself to be an enemy,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Smith said unions and advocacy groups such as “15 and Fairness,” which includes the Federation of Labour, should condemn the vandalism.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath said there is no justification for criminal activity, but said it’s “highly irresponsible” for Mr. Smith to directly link the vandalism to Mr. Buckley’s comments.

In a statement, Mr. Buckley said the OFL has a policy of non-violence and supports peaceful protests.

“I want to be clear, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) does not support or condone violence against persons or property in any form,” Mr. Buckley said.

Pam Franche, an organizer for 15 and Fairness, said it’s “sad to see” the Ford government attack the province-wide campaign which includes labour and health care workers.

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The group is organizing protests against the Ford government labour changes in Ottawa and the Toronto area on Wednesday and Thursday.

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