On­tario pro­vides re­lief for small busi­nesses

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - SHAWN JEFFORDS

On­tario will slash small busi­ness taxes and of­fer mil­lions in in­cen­tives aimed at eas­ing the tran­si­tion to an in­creas­ing min­i­mum wage as the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment heads for a spring elec­tion.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa un­veiled the plan in the prov­ince’s fall eco­nomic state­ment Tues­day. The cor­po­rate tax rate for small busi­nesses will fall from 4.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent ef­fec­tive Jan. 1, 2018, the same day the prov­ince will in­crease its min­i­mum wage from $11.60 to $14.

Crit­ics have called for the tax off­sets for months to al­low busi­nesses to ab­sorb the cost of the wage hike. The gov­ern­ment plan will even­tu­ally see min­i­mum wage jump to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2019.

“We will not back down from these com­mit­ments,” Sousa said. “An in­crease to min­i­mum wage can­not wait. Peo­ple can­not wait ... de­lay­ing an in­crease is de­lay­ing an in­crease.”

As part of the $500-mil­lion pack­age for small busi­ness, Sousa said the prov­ince will des­ig­nate onethird of its pro­cure­ment spend­ing on goods and ser­vices will come from small and medium-sized busi­nesses by 2020.

The gov­ern­ment will spend $124 mil­lion over three years to help com­pa­nies with fewer than 100 em­ploy­ees who hire youths aged 15 to 29. The gov­ern­ment will pay in­cen­tives of $1,000 for each worker hired and an­other $1,000 for each worker re­tained for at least six months by a small busi­ness.

The prov­ince’s Fi­nan­cial Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice has es­ti­mated more than 50,000 peo­ple could lose their jobs due to the min­i­mum wage in­crease. A FAO re­port said losses would be con­cen­trated among teens and young adults, while the num­ber of min­i­mum wage work­ers in On­tario would in­crease from just over 500,000 to 1.6 mil­lion in 2019.

Progressive Con­ser­va­tive critic Vic Fedeli said the gov­ern­ment’s off­sets will do lit­tle to ad­dress the im­pact the min­i­mum wage hike will have on small busi­ness. The eco­nomic up­date is “noth­ing more than a pre-elec­tion Hail Mary pass from an out-of-touch gov­ern­ment say­ing any­thing to cling to power,” he said.

In a sur­prise move, the Progressive Con­ser­va­tives an­nounced a sig­nif­i­cant pol­icy prom­ise, that the party will slow the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the $15 min­i­mum wage in­crease. The party will in­crease the min­i­mum wage by 25 cents ev­ery year from 2018 to 2022, when it would reach $15.

CHRISTO­PHER KAT­SAROV, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

On­tario Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa speaks to re­porters in Queen’s Park in Toronto on Tues­day,

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