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. .