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Fraser Institute Offers High School Students Cash Prize for Essays Bashing Minimum Wage

Ottawa-area school board circulates Fraser Institute contest offering cash prizes for anti-minimum wage essays

A right-wing think tank bankrolled by wealthy interests is offering high school students thousands in cash incentives to write essays bashing minimum wage hikes.

According to internal e-mails reviewed by PressProgress, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board recently circulated materials promoting an “essay contest” organized by the right-wing Fraser Institute to principals and office administrators at high schools across Ottawa.

According to contest guidelines, high school students are being offered prizes up to $1,500 for essays exploring why “increasing the minimum wage” is a “bad policy”:

Fraser Institute promotional materials circulated to OCDSB high schools

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PressProgress.

The promotional document encourages students to visit where the Fraser Institute portrays “the idea of raising the minimum wage” as a “contentious topic” and claims minimum wage increases primarily harm “young people and immigrants.”

The Fraser Institute also supplies students with anti-minimum wage talking points from a discredited Fraser Institute report that falsely portrays minimum wage earners as “young adults,” who are mostly “living with their parents or other relatives.”

As PressProgress reported in 2016, the Fraser Institute report actually counts middle-aged and married individuals among those living with “parents or other relatives” and misleadingly suggests “benefits from a higher wage go to non-poor households.”

And Statistics Canada data shows less than one-third (32%) of Canada’s minimum wage workers are teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19.

Fraser Institute’s essay contest instructions

In fact, Statistics Canada data shows that among Canadians earning less than $15 per hour – in other words, people who would see an immediate raise following a $15/hr minimum wage increase – the vast majority of low-wage workers (59%) are actually 25 years or older.

Source: Statistics Canada LFS Microdata, 2015


School boards might want to carefully vet materials from the Fraser Institute.

The right-wing organization’s Executive Vice President once told a workshop funded by a network of wealthy Republican donors that includes the Koch brothers that the Fraser Institute’s work on school rankings is designed to serve a political “communications agenda” aimed at promoting the privatization of schools.

The Fraser Institute has actually received millions in funding from the Kochs along with mining magnate Peter Munk, a Canadian billionaire and former CEO of Barrick Gold, “the world’s largest gold mining company.”

In fact, Munk donated $5 million to the Fraser Institute in 2016, establishing the Peter Munk Centre for Free Enterprise Education, an arm of the institute that runs workshops for teachers, produces anti-climate change propaganda for classrooms and, apparently, offers teenagers lucrative cash incentives to write essays.

The Fraser Institute’s anti-minimum wage essay contest is listed as a program of the Peter Munk Centre for Free Enterprise Education.

Fraser Institute 2016 Annual Report

 Following publication of this story, school board trustees announced the OCDSB has pulled the Fraser Institute’s essay writing contest from Ottawa-area high schools.


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