Presentation to Premier WynneJanuary 31 Townhall meeting in Thunder Bay
My name is Charla Robinson, President of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and I am here representing the interests of over 850 member businesses and their 20,000 employees, comprising all sectors of our local economy.
The job of business is to meet customer needs and to do so profitably…but it’s becoming more and more difficult for Ontario’s small businesses to be profitable. The addition of cap & trade pricing last year made it more expensive for every business to transport their products to and from Thunder Bay and to keep the heat on at their operations.
This year, the changes to Employment Standards implemented in Bill 148 including a 22% increase in minimum wage, new rules around stat pay, emergency leave, on call pay, vacation and equal pay for equal work are adding significantly to the overhead costs of many local businesses, charities and institutions and making it increasingly difficult for them to create jobs, pay taxes and support our community charities.
I stand here tonight on behalf of hard working entrepreneurs and their employees who are disappointed that the concerns of business owners were ignored when Bill 148 was being debated. Their anxieties were dismissed when they said it was “too much too fast” and requested more time for implementation. Their expertise was rejected when they said their operations could not absorb such significant cost increases in a 7 month timeframe and they would be forced to reduce staffing costs or increase prices. Many economists including Ontario’s Fiscal Accountability Office outlined similar concerns about the impacts of this quick change – they pointed to tens of thousands of jobs at risk and increased inflation – their research was dismissed as “fear-mongering”.
We are now one month in to this new reality. To date, the education provided by the Ministry has been sorely lacking and some employers are not sure what’s required. Business owners are reducing hours and increasing prices to stay afloat, the City of Thunder Bay is pointing to a $1.2 million bump in our tax levy to pay its share, citizens are paying higher prices on everything from groceries and dry goods to daycare and homecare for their family members. Seniors are struggling to stretch limited pensions.
Despite all the best intentions, the short implementation period means that these impacts fall squarely at your feet Madame Premier. You have promised help for the transition – we need that help now. Businesses are asking: what are you doing to help them through this?
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