Min­i­mum wage: A pro­vin­cial elec­tion primer

Go­ing be­yond the po­lit­i­cal baf­fle­gab to con­sult small busi­ness own­ers in Toronto

Annex Post - - NEWS - — Ron John­son

On­tario is poised to in­crease the min­i­mum wage from $14 to $15 per hour at the end of this year, af­ter a larger in­crease of al­most 30 per cent on Jan. 1, 2018, from $11.60. With Doug Ford threat­en­ing to can­cel the in­crease, cit­ing the dam­age that could be done to small busi­ness, which he terms the back­bone of the prov­ince’s econ­omy, whether or not to fol­low through on the next in­crease has be­come a hot-but­ton elec­tion is­sue.

In Jan­uary, the jobs num­bers in On­tario seemed to prove crit­ics of the in­crease cor­rect with a net loss of more than 50,000 part­time jobs, the most since 2009; how­ever, full-time jobs ac­tu­ally in­creased by 8,500.

Anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gested that small busi­ness own­ers were cut­ting back hours to try to bal­ance the ledger in the wake of the min­i­mum wage in­crease. But the jobs mar­ket bounced back in Fe­bru­ary num­bers with a re­bound of 15,400 net jobs.

So what is the truth be­hind the elec­toral baf­fle­gab? The best peo­ple to ask are the busi­ness own­ers them­selves.

Ja­cob Creed is the Toronto en­tre­pre­neur be­hind Creed’s Cof­fee Bar, which just opened a new lo­ca­tion on Bayview Av­enue in the up­scale Lea­side neigh­bour­hood. Be­fore Jan. 1, he had al­ready raised his pay rates to match the pro­posed amount ahead of sched­ule. And he’s plan­ning to do so again this year be­fore the next in­crease is sched­uled to take ef­fect.

“We raised our min­i­mum wage to $14 an hour in Oc­to­ber of 2017 at our cur­rent busi­ness, so when we opened up on Bayview, we were ready with the cur­rent min­i­mum wage,” he said, and he did not re­con­sider his ex­pan­sion upon hear­ing of the in­creased labour costs.

An­other crit­i­cism of the pol­icy has been that costs will be passed on to con­sumers, negat­ing the im­pact of a rise in wages be­cause ev­ery­thing will sim­ply cost more. And Creed does agree.

“Def­i­nitely there has been a pass off, and it was [im­ple­mented] very fast, but ev­ery­body does de­serve a liv­ing wage,” he said.

There are 44 some­what well­known names on a list of restau­rants that have re­cently closed in Toronto.

One restau­ra­teur who has closed up shop on a cou­ple of lo­ca­tions is Zane Ca­plan­sky of Ca­plan­sky’s Deli.

Was the re­cent min­i­mum wage in­crease some­thing that im­pacted his de­ci­sion to shut­ter his delis? Ap­par­ently not.

“It was a chal­lenge be­cause you’re go­ing to raise your prices, but it is evenly shared across the board,” said Ca­plan­sky.

“It was the same for ev­ery­body and ev­ery­body was go­ing to have to raise their prices and that was that. I don’t think it was a ma­jor is­sue.”

One chal­lenge for Ca­plan­sky’s busi­ness was ac­tu­ally the abil­ity to find great em­ploy­ees, and he thinks the in­creased min­i­mum wage might just help oth­ers in this sit­u­a­tion.

“For every help wanted ad there are fewer re­sponses, fewer peo­ple that show up for in­ter­views, and the ones that do don’t seem to be as qual­i­fied,” he ex­plained. “Toronto is a very ex­pen­sive city to live in, and if you are earn­ing $11, $12 per hour, it is im­pos­si­ble to sur­vive, so you have to live some­place else. Rais­ing min­i­mum wage from that per­spec­tive makes a lot of sense.”

Al­though he agrees with the min­i­mum wage in­creases, Ca­plan­sky said he’d like to see gov­ern­ment do more to pro­mote en­trepreneur­ship.

“The truth is I think Toronto and On­tario are great places to start busi­nesses,” he said.

“Even though I’ve closed a cou­ple restau­rants, I’m not done. There’s lots more for me to do. I don’t con­sider this to be a death by reg­u­la­tion kind of en­vi­ron­ment. It’s al­most the op­po­site. Peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how good we’ve got it here.”

Zane Ca­plan­sky (right) of Ca­plan­sky’s Deli with Mayor John Tory

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