The hearings on Bill 148 Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act started this week. Monday saw the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs in Thunder Bay. Today, the committee will be in Kingston. Several Peterborough groups will be presenting, along with our Chamber counterparts at the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce.
Earlier this week we supported a letter to the Premier from the Keep Ontario Working Coalition, which includes the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and 12 other business groups and associations. Our Peterborough Chamber message to the Committee echoes that of the letter and the concern of our members, 93% of whom are small business. It’s simply that the changes contained in the proposed legislation will be difficult to absorb and adjust to in such a short time frame.
“Recently, a roundtable with 24 businesses from all sectors of the Peterborough economy expressed that the changes were too much, too fast,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses need time to adapt and have told us that without time, they are forecasting fewer hours, fewer new jobs, increased prices and, in some cases, more automation.”
As it stands now, Ontario’s minimum wage will increase by 32 per cent in only 18 months, with the bulk of that increase happening in the next six months. This particular element of Bill 148 means businesses will have to absorb between $30,000 and $100,000 per year depending on the number of employees.
However, the adjustment to minimum wage, which was not a part of the two year Changing Workplaces Review, is not the only concern. Other pieces of the legislation, such as the 48 hour rule, also bring challenges in industry
sectors important to the Peterborough region, such as agriculture and tourism. Broad sweeping rules do not recognize the unique aspects of these industries and the mostly small and medium-sized businesses that operate within them.
Over the past number of weeks there has been great discussion about how the $15/hour wage is impacting other communities and particularly large cities, such as Seattle, in the United States. However, in comparison to the quick timeline proposed for Ontario, many of these jurisdictions have been on five year trajectories and even then there is great debate about whether or not the desired outcomes have truly been achieved. For example, the State of California is taking five years to increase their minimum wage by 50 per cent to $15/hour with employers of less than 25 employees. Seattle has allowed for a 4-year implementation for a 36 per cent wage increase. However, recent evidence by the National Bureau of Economic Research has suggested that the costs of the Seattle minimum wage increases outweigh the benefits by 3:1. In that instance, low-wage workers are losing $125 per month due to less hours of work scheduled.
“To demonstrate true fairness and compassion for workers, we must ensure Ontario has a strong economy to help create jobs and increase economic growth,” said Karl Baldauf, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and Spokesperson for the Keep Ontario Working Coalition.
Throughout the past two years of the Changing Workplaces Review the Chamber Network called for a balanced approach to change. Achieving that balance includes slowing down the time frame for implementation, and understanding the economic impact of the proposed changes to businesses across sectors, and by size and
The Keep Ontario Working Coalition has commissioned an independent economic analysis of the impact of these proposed changes on the economy. The results are expected in August. Sure, we can make some preliminary recommendations around mitigation strategies, but without taking the time to understand all the potential ripple effects of Bill 148 and its quick implementation those strategies may not be as effective as hoped. Being able to look at both sides of the equation is prudent to ensure Ontario’s continued competitiveness.
Recent letter to Premier Wynne from the Keep Ontario Working Coalition