Coun­ties coun­cil un­hap­py over mi­ni­mum wage in­crease plan


The eight mayors re­pre­sen­ting the com­mu­ni­ties of Pres­cott-Rus­sell are not hap­py with the pro­vin­cial go­vern­ment about Bill 148, the new mi­ni­mum wage law.

Ga­ry Bar­ton, the current war­den for the Uni­ted Coun­ties of Pres­cott-Rus­sell (UCPR), no­ted that he and other mayors in the re­gion have heard com­plaints from lo­cal cham­bers of com­merce and other groups who fear the eco­no­mic im­pact of the le­gis­la­tion on small bu­si­ness in the pro­vince.

“I un­ders­tand the phi­lo­so­phy of trying to make things bet­ter,” Bar­ton said, about the goal of hel­ping low-in­come wor­kers, “but the way they (pro­vince) have gone about it is not good.”

Bar­ton ob­ser­ved that Bill 148 does not just deal with rai­sing On­ta­rio’s current mi­ni­mum wage to $14 an hour star­ting in Ja­nua­ry 2018 and then to $15 in 2019. It al­so deals with changes to ho­li­day and va­ca­tion pay rates, pay dif­fe­rences bet­ween part-time and full-time staff, and other items that could af­fect not just small bu­si­ness, es­pe­cial­ly in the tou­rism sec­tor, but al­so mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties and other pu­blic sec­tor go­vern­ment agen­cies that are now draf­ting their 2018 ope­ra­ting bud­gets.

“There are lots of other things co­ming in (Bill 148) that could create ma­jor hea­daches,” Bar­ton said.

Some of the concerns for mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties’ cen­ter around changes to sche­du­ling rules, the amount of leave time for em­ployees wor­king for bu­si­nesses or even mu­ni­ci­pal agen­cies that have 50 em­ployees or less in to­tal. Some of the changes out­li­ned in Bill 148 could af­fect ope­ra­tion of mu­ni­ci­pal fire de­part­ments where most of the fire fighters are ei­ther part-time or on-call vo­lun­teers.

Haw­kes­bu­ry Mayor Jeanne Char­le­bois ex­pres­sed concern how Bill 148 could af­fect her com­mu­ni­ty’s bu­si­ness sec­tion, which of­ten finds it­self in com­pe­ti­tion with si­mi­lar bu­si­nesses in Qué­bec, with ea­sy ac­cess via the Long Sault Bridge cros­sing over the Ot­ta­wa Ri­ver bet­ween Haw­kes­bu­ry and Gren­ville.

“Most bu­si­ness ow­ners say this in­crease is going to be ve­ry bad for them,” Mayor Char­le­bois said. “It’s going to hurt ma­ny bu­si­nesses, es­pe­cial­ly those in Haw­kes­bu­ry be­cause there is that bridge that leads right in­to Qué­bec.”

Grant Crack, MPP for Glen­gar­ry-Pres­cottRus­sell, de­fen­ded Bill 148 du­ring an in­ter­view with lo­cal media Sept. 15 while he was at­ten­ding the ONTour free con­cert in Haw­kes­bu­ry at Con­fe­de­ra­tion Park. Crack said he un­ders­tood the concerns ex­pres­sed to the UCPR and other mu­ni­ci­pal groups from their lo­cal bu­si­ness sec­tors.

“It’s fair­ly consistent across the pro­vince, these concerns,” Crack said. “But I am of the opi­nion that anyone who works full-time de­serves a li­ving wage.”

Crack no­ted that the pro­vin­cial go­vern­ment did a two-year re­view of the mi­ni­mum wage si­tua­tion in On­ta­rio and ma­ny of the re­com­men­da­tions du­ring that re­view be­came part of Bill 148.

“I am hea­ring that it (le­gis­la­tion) is too quick, that the ti­me­frame is too short,” said Crack, “but at the same time, the eco­no­my in On­ta­rio is strong. We (go­vern­ment) felt the pro­vince could handle the in­crease to the un­der-30 have a li­ving wage.”

The “un­der-30” group Crack re­fer­red to is the 30 per cent of On­ta­rio wor­kers whose wages are now at the mi­ni­mum le­vel or lo­wer.

Meanw­hile UCPR ad­mi­nis­tra­tion will pre­pare a re­so­lu­tion to present to coun­ties coun­cil at its re­gu­lar ses­sion la­ter in the month. The re­so­lu­tion will out­line coun­cil’s concerns to the pro­vin­cial go­vern­ment about the ove­rall im­pact of Bill 148 on mu­ni­ci­pal bud­gets, small bu­si­nesses and other groups. Cham­plain Town­ship coun­cil has al­so de­ci­ded to ex­press its ob­jec­tions about Bill 148 to the pro­vince. Les em­plois à sa­laire mi­ni­mum sont des postes d’en­trée de gamme pour de nom­breux jeunes. Mais de plus en plus de gens constatent que les em­plois à sa­laire mi­ni­mum sont les seuls em­plois ac­tuel­le­ment dis­po­nibles pour eux. .

—pho­to d’ar­chives

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