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Local businesses to province: Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Plan ‘too much too fast’

ELORA - Local businesses have a number of concerns with the Ontario government’s proposed Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Plan.

The issue of increasing the minimum wage from $11.60 to $15 per hour within 1.5 years seems to be just the tip of the iceberg for business owners.

On Aug. 1 the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce hosted an information session for businesses in the region in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Guelph Chamber of Commerce, other local chambers, Beyond Rewards Inc. and Nelson Watson LLP.

The information session, held at the Grand River Raceway in Elora, provided the opportunity for local businesses to voice their concerns and share with government the challenges the pace of implementation will have on them. 

The plan commits to sweeping reforms without ensuring protection against unintended economic consequences, including job losses, rising consumer costs, and economic hardship, chamber officials say. 

Implementing a plan this comprehensive, as quickly as is being proposed, without an economic impact analysis could have significant impacts on local businesses, the local economy and Ontario’s competitiveness, say officials. 

“Rather than rush implementation, the government ... should spend the coming months conducting the proposed reforms in the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review to an economic impact analysis,” said Roberta Scarrow, executive director of the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce. 

“This analysis should have clear thresholds, and any reforms ... should be those that pass such thresholds or are being implemented with a commensurate economic offset measure.”  

Kithio Mwanzia, president and CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, said, “As a leading community in job creation, it is vitally important that we ... advocate for evidence-based decision making on issues impacting our collective economic prosperity.”

As noted in the Business Prosperity Index of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Ontario Economic Report, despite projections that Ontario will lead Canada in economic growth in the coming years, diminished profitability, lower labour market participation, and sluggish market activity, along with other key factors, have resulted in a risk-averse atmosphere where businesses are disinclined to grow production. 

Businesses are questioning if they should grow in Ontario or expand offshore. 

Officials also say the regulations are being implemented during a period of decelerating economic growth, the adoption of Donald Trump’s America First policy, lower corporate taxes and costs in the United States of America, and growing uncertainty about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Ontario businesses are the backbone of our communities; creating local jobs and increasing economic growth around the province,” saidKarl Baldauf, vice president, policy and government relations, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. 

“The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act will have the perverse effect of discouraging investment and eliminating jobs, thereby diminishing economic opportunities in Ontario. Politics cannot drive decision making - evidence must.”

The key considerations for local businesses include:

- supporting reform where and when it is needed, but cautioning against change where it is unclear what the cost or the benefit of said change will be; and 

- there is need for predictability in the setting of minimum wage and the tying future increases to an appropriate economic indicator like CPI. 

August 11, 2017


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