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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

A Note from Hugo – July 7, 2017

Updates on minimum wage and business advocacy

It’s been a while since I gave an update on our government relations work at the GNCC. Summer is usually a quiet time, with both Parliament and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario out of session, but this summer has bucked the trend.

The big issue right now, of course, is Ontario’s Bill 148, or the slate of proposed labour law reform and the jump to a $15/hr minimum wage starting January 1, 2019, with a $14/hr rate starting January 1, 2018. This would be very difficult for a lot of Niagara businesses to bear. Ontario’s economic growth has been relatively strong, but that hasn’t been shared across all sectors, and many industries such as retail, agriculture, or food service are being squeezed already. These new expenses are in addition to the costs of cap-and-trade, of higher hydro costs, of increased pension contributions, and so forth. We hear that a great many Niagara businesses can’t bear this burden without layoffs, downsizing, or even closures, and it will delay or cancel the expansion plans of many others.

We’ve been working hard on this legislation, in partnership with our colleagues at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and the Keep Ontario Working coalition. So far, we’ve sent an open letter to Premier Wynne expressing our concerns, copied to all of Niagara’s MPPs and to the Honourable Kevin Flynn, Minister of Labour. We talked about the lack of research and data that went into this policy, and the Ontario Government’s own 2014 minimum wage report which predicted alarming consequences in unemployment, particularly for young people, women, and immigrants. We’ve held meetings with MPPs from all three parties in Niagara and told them what business has to say. We encouraged all of them to think about the effect that this will have on Niagara’s employers as they consider this legislation. The OCC is facilitating a roundtable discussion with Premier Wynne and small business leaders, and we have ensured that Niagara will have voices at that table. The OCC has sent a letter to Premier Wynne on behalf of the Chamber network already, and another will follow next week after consultation with the Keep Ontario Working group.

We’ve been out in the community talking to non-profit, charity and poverty reduction leaders, trying not only to find common ground but to convey the negative effects that this legislation will have. After all, many of those effects will fall to them to deal with. The OCC is commissioning its own economic report, and has received submissions from the Conference Board of Canada and CANCEA. We will be holding a local event after those results are released.

The committee reviewing the Bill is holding a series of community consultations, including one on July 19th in Niagara, which we have applied to speak at. We will strongly advocate for restraint on this legislation, either at this meeting or in writing to the committee.

If you are concerned about this issue, you can also take action. Here are some suggested steps:

  • Send a message to Premier Wynne or Minister Flynn. We suggest that messages to elected officials focus on specific changes that you would like to see to the legislation, real opportunities for change by this government, and tangible examples of hurt that will be caused by the passage of this legislation.
  • Contact your Member of Provincial Parliament and express your concerns. We suggest that your communications to your MPP be similar to those recommended for the Premier or Minister Flynn above. In Niagara, they are:
    •  St. Catharines: Mr. Jim Bradley (Ontario Liberal Party)
    •  Welland: Ms. Cindy Forster (Ontario New Democratic Party)
    •  Niagara Falls: Mr. Wayne Gates (Ontario New Democratic Party)
    •  Niagara West–Glanbrook: Mr. Sam Oosterhoff
    (Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario)
  • Request to speak at the committee hearing in Niagara. The deadline for this is 10am on July 10th, so don’t delay.
  • Send a written submission to the committee at the address provided here. These must be submitted by close-of-business on July 21st.

More work on this issue will follow, and I will keep you posted. Please get in touch with me to express your concerns and your stories on this issue, or if you want to take action and discuss a strategy. The GNCC is committed to being an effective voice for your business in politics and policy.

Hugo Chesshire
Policy and Government Relations Manager

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