NDCC urges province to rethink Bill 148

By Seth DuChene

Some proposed changes to Ontario’s employment standards will mean higher prices and lost jobs, a study conducted by the Keep Ontario Working Coalition suggested this week.

The coalition — which also includes the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Napanee and District Chamber of Commerce — released the findings from the study in hopes of prompting the Ministry of Labour to go back to the drawing board on the proposed legislation, The Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act (Bill 148), which was introduced at Queen’s Park this past June.

The study was conducted by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis.

According to the KOWC study, if the legislation is implemented by the provincial government as it’s drafted now, it will result in negative “unintended consequences” for Ontario businesses and Ontario consumers.

The study suggests the new legislation represents a new $23 billion burden on Ontario business, and will put 185,000 jobs at risk.

The study also predicts that the changes will result in a 50 per cent increase to inflation, and would see Ontario households pay about $1,300 more in higher prices as businesses pass along the new costs.

Megan Smith, Business Manager for the Napanee District Chamber of Commerce, said the NDCC has forwarded the findings on to government officials. In the meantime, the NDCC is hoping to raise awareness about the proposed legislation. “We’re just getting this press release out because it’s the first and only actual analysis of Bill 148, and we wanted to let people be really aware of what’s to come if the government moves forward with this,” she said on Monday.

“Really, we’re wanting our members but also the business community at large to really understand the risks that could be associated with it moving this fast,” she continued.

Bill 148 would represent a number of changes to employment and labour standards in the province. According to the Ministry of Labour, some of the provisions included in the proposed legislation include increasing the minimum wage, ensuring part-time workers are paid the same hourly wage as full-time workers, introducing 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.

Smith said that the study represents the first and so-far only economic impact analysis of Bill 148. “When the Ontario Chamber first went to the government to say, ‘Hey, you need to do an economic impact analysis of Bill 148’, they didn’t do it. So, they went ahead and was proactive about it, and this is the first and only report to come out,” she said.

“Given the scale of impact and pace of change, it will be impossible for the provincial government to make businesses, even small businesses, whole through offsets,” said Karl Baldauf, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the spokesperson for the KOWC.

“We’ve run the numbers and it’s clear that this is too much, too soon,” he said in a press release. “If the Ontario government chooses to proceed with these sweeping reforms too quickly, all of us will be affected, and the most vulnerable in our society chief among them.”

Smith said the NDCC is planning on holding a question-and-answer session for local businesses with a lawyer to go over the changes being proposed in Bill 148.

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