Mi­ni­mum wage hike bad news for small bu­si­ness ow­ners

Le Reflet (The News) - - ACTUALITÉS | NEWS - GREGG CHAMBERLAIN gregg.chamberlain@eap.on.ca

It may be po­pu­lar with la­bour in the pro­vince but the pro­po­sed new mi­ni­mum wage fi­gure is cau­sing some wor­ry among small bu­si­ness ow­ners in the Pres­cott-Rus­sell region.

The Uni­ted Coun­ties of Pres­cott-Rus­sell coun­cil gave its full sup­port to a re­so­lu­tion for a de­le­ga­tion to the As­so­cia­tion of mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties of On­ta­rio (AMO), la­ter this year, to quiz La­bour Mi­nis­ter Ke­vin Flynn about his go­vern­ment’s plan to raise the pro­vin­cial mi­ni­mum wage to $15 an hour and why there wasn’t grea­ter consul­ta­tion with the small bu­si­ness and in­dus­try sec­tors about it. The re­so­lu­tion re­sul­ted from coun­ties coun­cil’s re­view of a let­ter from the Cham­ber of com- merce of Haw­kes­bu­ry and region.

‘‘The Cham­ber of com­merce of Haw­kes­bu­ry and region and its re­tai­lers are concer­ned, the let­ter says, of the im­pact of the bill that in­creases the mi­ni­mum wage across the pro­vince from $ 11.40 to $ 15, be­gin­ning in Ja­nua­ry 2018.’’

The let­ter ex­plai­ned that the new mi­ni­mum wage could hurt lo­cal small- and me­dium-si­zed bu­si­nesses in Eas­tern On­ta­rio and be­ne­fit their com­pe­ti­tors across the Ot­ta­wa River, in Que­bec, which has a lo­wer mi­ni­mum wage.

Bu­si­nesses here would have to raise the price for their goods and ser­vices to co­ver the wage in­crease ad­di­tion to their ope­ra­tion costs, which would drive cus­to­mers across the river see­king the same goods and ser­vices at a lo­wer price. The sole al­ter­na­tive would be to ei­ther cut back on the num­ber of their em­ployees or cut back on wor­king hours for their exis­ting staff to keep their ope­ra­tion costs at cur­rent le­vels.

Mayor Jeanne Char­le­bois of Haw­kes­bu­ry told her fel­low mayors on UCPR coun­cil that she and her coun­cil­lors have al­rea­dy had lo­cal bu­si­ness ow­ners ap­pear at Haw­kes­bu­ry coun­cil ses­sions as­king them what they plan to do about the si­tua­tion.

“They say, ‘Mrs. Char­le­bois, we just won’t be able to hire,’” she told coun­cil.

Mayor Pierre Le­roux of Rus­sell Town­ship, who is a small bu­si­ness­man him­self, des­cri­bed the pro­vin­cial go­vern­ment’s new mi­ni­mum wage plan as “an elec­tion ploy”.

Se­ve­ral mayors on UCPR coun­cil, like Guy Des­jar­dins of Cla­rence-Ro­ck­land are full-time far­mers. He won­de­red if the pro­vince’s new mi­ni­mum wage pro­po­sal would al­so ap­ply to farm la­bour, be­cause then that would mean On­ta­rio far­mers com­pe­ting with their Qué­bec coun­ter­parts for pro­duce mar­ket sales.

“We’re going to be ha­ving some bu­si­nesses that will close up,” Des­jar­dins said.

War­den Ga­ry Bar­ton al­so no­ted that in­crea­sing the mi­ni­mum wage could al­so af­fect the student jobs si­tua­tion if some bu­si­nesses de­ci­ded against hi­ring any or ma­ny student sum­mer wor­kers as part of their cost-cut­ting ef­forts.

L’in­ten­tion du gou­ver­ne­ment pro­vin­cial d’aug­men­ter le sa­laire mi­ni­mum en On­ta­rio à 15 $ a peut-être le sou­tien des tra­vailleurs, mais pas ce­lui des groupes d’en­tre­prises et des gou­ver­ne­ments lo­caux de la ré­gion de Pres­cott-Rus­sell. Ils craignent que les pe­tites en­tre­prises de la ré­gion soient for­cées de ré­duire le coût re­liés au per­son­nel afin de main­te­nir leurs coûts d’ex­ploi­ta­tion et le prix de leurs pro­duits ou ser­vices. Ils craignent aus­si de perdre des clients au pro­fit d’en­tre­prises qué­bé­coises.

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