Smiths Falls town councillors have voted to ask the province of Ontario to carry out a full economic impact analysis before passing any proposed changes to the province’s employment standards.
In a resolution to be forwarded to Premier Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Labour Kevin Daniel, and local Member of Provincial Parliament Randy Hillier, councillors both endorsed the official position of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and voiced some specific concerns of their own.
The resolution, approved by council Oct. 16, states that “the Town of Smiths Falls requests that the government of Ontario conduct a full economic impact analysis of Bill 148 to clearly understand the effects of the proposed legislation on businesses and municipalities in Ontario.”
In a report to council’s Committee of the Whole on Oct. 10, Chief Administrative Officer Malcolm Morris advised that the bill, entitled The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 has received second reading at Queen’s Park, and is at the committee stage.
Morris said research carried out by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) had identified five areas within the bill that could potentially impact municipalities: staff scheduling, on-call provisions, equal pay, and provisions which could potentially apply to volunteer firefighters.
“Staff believe the proposed minimum wage increases warrant special mention due to the immediate and downstream impact on costs to deliver municipal services,” stated Morris in a written report. The bill proposes to increase the minimum wage, currently set at $11.40 an hour, to $14 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2018, followed by another increase to $15 an hour as of Jan. 1, 2019.
“The immediate financial impacts of a $15 per hour minimum wage is in excess of $90,000 annually provided the town continues to employ staff to the same extent it does currently,” stated Morris.
Bill 148 calls for staff to receive three hours’ pay for each day they are required to be on call. Morris advised that if this provision were applied to volunteer firefighters, that this would amount to an extra annual cost of $492,750 based on a contingent of 18 volunteers.
Although this may not be the intent of the legislation, added Morris, “we have to interpret it this way.”
The impact of proposed personal emergency leave provisions is difficult to calculate, said Morris. The proposed legislation would grant 10 days of leave to each employee, including two paid days. It is difficult to calculate potential costs, he added, because some employees on leave would have to be replaced, while others would not.
“You can see the impact is quite profound for each of these areas,” said Morris.
“We need to speak up,” commented Councillor Jay Brennan at the Oct. 10 committee meeting. “ I think we have to at least express some concern.”
If the legislation is applied to municipal employees, said Mayor Shawn Pankow, the impact would cause a tax increase and/or a reduction in municipal services.
“It’s probably going to have the same impact on a lot of businesses as well,” said Councillor John Maloney at the Oct. 16 meeting.
Brennan noted that the Smiths Falls and District Chamber of Commerce is hosting an open forum on Bill 148 on the evening of Nov. 1.