Changes would discourage investment, eliminate jobs and diminish economic opportunities in Ontario, especially among small business owners
The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC), in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne warning against potential changes to Ontario’s Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act (ESA), including the introduction of a $15 minimum wage. The letter is cautioning that these reforms may have unintended consequences impacting job creation and competitiveness, as well discouraging investment in the province.
More Niagarans work in retail than in any other single industry, and retail will be hugely impacted by these changes. They will not only result in downsizing and layoffs in Niagara’s retail workforce, but the costs will be passed on to consumers, resulting in higher prices.
Niagara’s economy depends in large part upon the tourist industry. Employers in this highly competitive sector operate on thin margins. The proposed changes will have similar effects in this industry. This becomes a vicious cycle, with a less-competitive tourism sector then shedding further jobs.
Niagara’s agriculture and world-renowned viticulture industries will also be profoundly affected. These changes will not be abstract ones affecting GDP analytics and stock prices, but will have a real and often wrenching impact on thousands of people living and working here in our community.
Many businesses will have to address these higher costs by increasing prices. This will mean that the same people who benefit from an increased minimum wage would promptly lose it again as they pay more for groceries, rent, energy, and so forth.
The potential reforms are coming at a time when costs for consumers and the cost of doing business is high and putting Ontario at a competitive disadvantage. Ontario has experienced slower growth in GDP and job creation than in the past, and drastic reforms to labour and employment run the risk of causing serious damage to the future prosperity of the province.
“These sweeping changes could seriously impact job creation and the health of our local economy,” said Mishka Balsom, President and CEO of the GNCC. “We need to get the message out that the proposed changes would discourage investment in Ontario, thereby diminishing economic opportunities in Ontario. Evidence must drive decision-making, not politics.”
Statistics Canada indicates that 76 percent of part-timer workers voluntarily choose part-time work to better accommodate schooling or personal life.
“We are urging Premier Wynne to complete an economic impact analysis of the proposed reforms to limit potential consequences that could seriously jeopardize our future growth,” said Richard Koroscil, Interim-President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We support reform where and when it is needed, but we caution against change for change’s sake.”
Budget 2017 points out that 98% of all new jobs created since the recession have been full time, and 78% have been above-average wage for their respective industries.
The goals of economic growth and improved employee rights are not mutually exclusive. That which supports the competitiveness of Ontario’s economy can also help enhance quality of work. Increased education and enforcement may assist with compliance to Government regulations and can improve worker environments. Regulatory reform that raises costs for business, only to reduce the ability of business to invest in and grow the labour force is counterproductive.
The GNCC and the Ontario chamber network believe that, while workplace reform is doubtless necessary, such reform should only take place based on evidence, research, and carefully-planned policy in consultation with all involved stakeholders, and not as part of electioneering or party politics.
For more information, please contact:
Mishka Balsom, President & CEO of GNCC
Mishka@gncc.ca or 905-684-2361