A Column by Sam Oosterhoff, MPP, Niagara West – Glanbrook
Posted September 12th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
While many of us enjoyed summer with friends, family members, and the occasional ray of sunshine, the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs toured the province listening to the public’s perspective on Bill 148, the “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017”.
Although this bill makes a series of changes to the Employment Standards Act, public attention has been focused on the provisions which will increase Ontario’s minimum wage from its current $11.40 an hour up to $15 an hour.
In recent years, minimum wage has been tied to the rate of inflation, such that it increases incrementally, with the cost of living. However, Bill 148 will have minimum wage shoot up by 32 per cent in less than 18 months.
Business owners have been voicing their concern that such a drastic wage increase will have unintended consequences across the province. They expect that this will result in fewer jobs, fewer working hours, and greater automation. Small business owners across Niagara have been telling me that these increased labour costs could also cause a spike in the price of everyday consumer goods and services from a cup of coffee to a haircut.
According to an independent study commissioned by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, this wage hike threatens up to 185,000 jobs. As Chamber vice-president Karl Baldauf said: “Should the government move forward with these vast, unprecedented reforms, there will be significant, sudden and sizable uncertainty for jobs and economic growth in Ontario.”
On September 12th, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) came out with its own independent assessment of the impact of Bill 148. Since businesses which face higher payroll costs tend to respond by laying off inexperienced workers, the FAO says “job losses would be expected to be concentrated among teens, young adults, and recent immigrants”.
Even the NDP government in British Columbia is reconsidering their initial plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2021 – and they were planning to take 2 years longer than Ontario to phase in this raise!
Sadly, fifteen years of Liberal government have put the necessities of life almost out of reach. Whether it is sky-rocketing hydro costs, increasing fuel costs due to cap-and-trade, or the countless new taxes that have been implemented by McGuinty and Wynne, life is harder under the Ontario Liberals. Hardworking families are struggling just to keep their heads above water.
The government should commit to a proper economic impact analysis, and avoid rushing through legislation that is expected to have significant unintended consequences.
It’s not that the $15 minimum wage increase is a bad idea in itself. It is the manner of implementing it and the time frame that are in question. A higher minimum wage will not help the most vulnerable in our province if those Ontarians do not have a job to wake up to in the morning.