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Chamber of Commerce discusses Bill 148

By Celina Ip

Karl Baldauf, Ontario Chamber of Commerce Vice-President, Policy and Government Relations, spoke at the Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce's Bill 148 Town Hall meeting on Sept. 20 at the Clarion Hotel. Baldauf focused on Bill 148, the rise in minimum wage and the negative impacts the Bill will have on local businesses and business owners.

Karl Baldauf, Ontario Chamber of Commerce Vice-President, Policy and Government Relations, spoke at the Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce's Bill 148 Town Hall meeting on Sept. 20 at the Clarion Hotel. Baldauf focused on Bill 148, the rise in minimum wage and the negative impacts the Bill will have on local businesses and business owners.

The Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce wants to fight against Bill 148 and the negative effects it will have on businesses.

 

This year, the Ontario Government announced its plan to create more opportunity and security for workers through the proposed Bill 148, also known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017.

The Bill proposes to hike the hourly minimum wage up to $14 in January 2018 and all the way up to $15 in January 2019. Along with the drastic and immediate increase in minimum wage, the Government wants to introduce paid sick days for every worker, enabling at least three weeks' vacation after five years with the same employer and stepping up enforcement of employment laws.

On Sept. 20, the Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce held a Bill 148 Town Hall meeting at the Clarion Hotel in Pembroke.

Over 80 business owners and union workers from across the Ottawa Valley attended the meeting to discuss the final report regarding Bill 148 and the economic impact it would bring about.

The keynote speech was delivered by Ontario Chamber of Commerce Vice-President of Policy and Government Relations Karl Baldauf delivered the keynote speech during which he discussed Bill 148, the rise in minimum wage and the negative impacts the Bill will have on local businesses and business owners. Baldauf spoke on the legislation and how an economic impact analysis is a way for the Government of Ontario to protect businesses against the unintended consequences of Bill 148 and the increase in minimum wage.

“Over the course of the last five years in Ontario, the minimum wage has increased by $1.20 and in the next 18 months, it’s going to increase by $3.60. So just a massive change,” explained Baldauf.

“We are changing our minimum wage by 32 percent in 18 months. So when you think about impact of imposing that change on businesses, it is simply unprecedented and we cannot find other jurisdictions that have moved to $15 that quickly.”

According to Baldauf, the greatest concern is not regarding the rise in minimum wage, or the introduction of a living wage, but rather the timing of this change.

While the increase in wage will protect and support employees and those who are struggling to get by, it doesn’t protect employers and the success of their businesses.

A key issues is that under the new legislation, it is no longer a necessity for employees to provide proof of illness or injury when they have been absent from work.

“This legislation puts employers in a very challenging position and it also forces new costs and stringent rules on them. In an environment where costs are going to go up, they have fewer options from, which to determine how to accommodate those new costs. That is what Bill 148 is doing.”

According to Baldauf, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce called on the government to have at the very lease, the economic analysis done, in order to understand the most fundamental change between workers and employers in Ontario brought forth through the new legislation. The analysis would allow the government to understand what that would cost the economy as well.

Baldauf encouraged everyone to speak to their local MPP and to even send a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne in order to share their concerns about the proposed Bill.

“We believe that if the government is going to invoke major change, they need to take time to understand. While they conducted a large, two-year review, at no point did they conduct an economic analysis to truly understand what would be the impact on Ontario’s economy,” Baldauf stated.

Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Lorraine Mackenzie stressed the same thoughts, that everyone should speak up and inundate their local representatives with letters.

“John Yakabuski has voted against the Bill48 and all the changes, but we need to inundate him with letters so that he can go forward and say ‘this is what my constituents are saying, it's going to be too hard on them’,” said Mackenzie. “It's everybody's responsibility, whether you’re a business owner or not, and even if you’re just a person who pays taxes. Let your MPP know that this will have a major impact on everybody. We don’t disagree that minimum wage should go up, it's just that it's too much and too soon.”

cip@postmedia.com