Chamber working on strategy to counter effects of Bill 148

By Chad Ingram

Published Nov. 21 2017

With the impending Bill 148 Ontario’s Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act poised to make a number of changes for employers the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce is commencing work on a strategy to strengthen support of local businesses.
Among other provisions the legislation will increase minimum wage in Ontario from $11.60 an hour to $14 an hour as of Jan. 1 2018 and to $15 an hour in 2019. The bill’s “equal pay for equal work” clause means that employers will be required to pay part-time staff at the same rate as full-time employees for performing the same jobs.

Work is in preliminary stages with a committee meeting next month to begin strategizing.
“It’s a multi-faceted approach that we’re looking at” said chamber president Richard Wannan explaining the program could entail such aspects as a loyalty program working with municipalities on their buying processes and would ideally include a number of partners including the Haliburton BIA and the local arts community.
“We need to support our businesses locally not just retail all of them” Wannan said.
A loyalty program would see customers amass rewards points for using local businesses.
“We have to talk to our members and see what they want in an effective program” Wannan said. “We are doing some research in regard to different programs that are out there right now.”
Wannan said the chamber is aiming for a spring start to the program whatever form it may take. While he said he’s not aware of any businesses that have been laying off employees specifically because of Bill 148 he said the implications could take other forms such as the hiring of fewer seasonal employees during the busy summer season for example.

“Businesses are going to have to have a different model potentially” he said.
While no one expects an end to out-of-town or online shopping Wannan said the idea is to redirect some of that traffic back to local businesses through their increased marketing.
Wannan said while some area business owners do very well many others are just getting by.
“Small business owners here exist” he said. “There are some that are marginal.”
Anyone who would like to join the committee or share their ideas is asked to contact the chamber office.