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Up to 185,000 jobs could be put at risk if Ontario’s Liberal government keeps its pledge to increase the minimum wage to $15.
Those are the findings of an “independent assessment” of Bill 148, the Liberal’s Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act. The bill will hike the minimum wage — currently set to rise with inflation from $11.40 an hour to $11.60 in October, up to $14 on Jan. 1, 2018, and $15 the following year.
But the according to a study commissioned by Ontario’s Chamber of Commerce, the bill will put jobs at risk and have “dramatic unintended consequences.” Chamber vice- president Karl Baldauf said the province needs to slow down and amend its legislation.
“Should the government move forward with these vast, unprecedented reforms, there will be significant, sudden and sizable uncertainty for jobs and economic growth in Ontario,” he said. The report also says that Ontario businesses will see a $23 billion “hit” over the next two years because of the legislation. While the changes won’t cause mass layoffs, they will kill job growth, said Paul Smetanin, president of the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis, which conducted the study.
“The results are not sensationalized,” Smetanin said. “We have been conservative in adopting what literature suggests. It pains us to have to deliver such a message.”
The report also estimates there will be costs for the Ontario government itself. Increased costs associated with the bill will add $440 million in debt to the province’s treasury.
“As I go from community to community, the thing that I’m hearing over and over again is that these changes are all too much too fast,” he said.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said the government will review the findings the report. It’s one of a “long list” of studies on the topic, he added.
“We recognize there are concerns from the business community,” he said in a statement. “We’ve worked hard to make sure Ontario’s business climate is competitive, and we are committed to working with the business community to bring forward initiatives that will improve our competitiveness even more.
That being said, we will not back down from our plan to bring fairness to Ontarians.”
Progressive Conservative labour critic John Yakabuski said the Liberal government needs to conduct its own economic impact study of the new bill.
“It’ll be a tragedy if all of these 185,000 people are put out of work,” Yakabuski said in a statement. “A higher minimum wage doesn’t help if Ontarians don’t have a job to wake up to in the morning.”
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