‘It seems pretty knee-jerk and all of sudden’ says local chamber about minimum wage increase

Ontario chamber says businesses weren't asked about the change

The executive director of the Barrie Chamber of Commerce says a minimum wage increase has to happen.

At the same time, Tuesday’s announcement by the Ontario government that it is going to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2022, is missing the mark, according to Paul Markle.

“It has to be done in such a way that it is sustainable,” he said.

Currently, the minimum wage in Ontario is $14.35.

Premier Doug Ford unveiled the increase at a Unifor meeting hall on Tuesday and added the government will also hike the $12.55 minimum wage for workers who serve alcohol and receive tips to $15.

“We echo the comments from the Ontario chamber that we are disappointed that there wasn’t enough consultation with business with regards to this,” said Markle. “It seems pretty knee-jerk and all of a sudden, when you really get down to it.”

He said restaurants, accommodation and retail have been taking it on the chin for 20 months, and “this is not helping.”

Markle believes in many cases this will accelerate some businesses that have to make hard decisions about whether they’re going to stay open.

The minimum wage was last increased by 10 cents on Oct. 1.

“A lot of these businesses have already put in price increases to compensate for that, and now they are being asked to find ways to cover this one,” said Markle. “That’s difficult for businesses in this kind of an economy when their sales are down.”

He said when retailers raise prices the option for consumers is to go online.

“We are doing our best to get people to choose local and to keep their dollars on the ground and in our community, and they’re being given little choice when it comes down to it.”

Markle said businesses would have been more accepting of a minimum wage increase if had been stretched out, with the increase coming in March or perhaps May 24, so businesses are given an opportunity to build a bit of a reserve and plan for a gradual rate and price increases.

“But to sort of just jam this down on short notice is unfair to these businesses that have already been sucking it up for the last 20 months,” he pointed out. “Keeping the doors open is going to be significantly harder with this, and I think that’s really the position. You know, if the business closes, no one’s getting paid, and that’s not a good situation for anyone.”