Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Strongly Objects Consideration for Labour Law Reform

Rumoured policy changes including a $15 an hour minimum wage and a card-based certification process that diminishes an employee’s informed choice in unionization have the Ontario employer community feeling uneasy. Three of Ottawa’s largest business organizations have expressed their concerns and are urging Premier Kathleen Wynne to refrain from making these major changes to Ontario’s labour laws.

On behalf of the Ontario’s employer community, the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, the Orléans Chamber of Commerce and the West Ottawa Board of Trade, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) sent a letter to Wynne warning against potential changes to Ontario’s Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act (ESA).

In their objection, the business group cautions against the many reforms being considered in the province’s Changing Workplaces review and its various perverse effects. According to the heads of the Chambers of Commerce in Ottawa, “These extensive changes could seriously impact job creation and the health of our local economy. We need to get the message out the proposed changes may discourage investment in Ontario, thereby discouraging investment and diminishing economic opportunities in Ontario.”

Having experienced slower growth in GDP and job creation that in the past, the drastic reforms to our labour and employment expose the province to potential damage of future prosperity. Recent Statistics Canada data shows that since 2003 part-time work has risen 22% and 76% of part-time employees voluntarily choose part time work to better accommodate schooling or personal life. The proposed increase in minimum wage could put many small businesses at risk, leaving them no other option than to cut back on staff or increase their prices.

“We are urging Premier Wynne to complete an economic impact analysis of the proposed reforms to limit potential consequences that could seriously jeopardize our future growth,” said Richard Koroscil, Interim-President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We support reform where and when it is needed, but we caution against change for change’s sake.”

The OCC’s letter is twofold: raising concerns about the reform and reminding the Premier that Ontario's employer community is doing its part to create better jobs and working conditions in the province. Budget 2017 points out that 98% of all new jobs created since the recession have been full time, and 78% have been above-average wage for their respective industries.

The OCC believes that what supports competitiveness of Ontario’s economy can also help enhance quality of work. This reflects a common theme in the letter which is that the goals of economic growth and improved employee rights are not mutually exclusive.

In addressing many of the workplace challenges in need of attention, increased education and enforcement measures may assist with compliance to Government regulations and can improve worker environments. However, the effects of the regulatory reforms proposed – namely raising costs for businesses and reducing their ability to invest in and grow the labour force – are counterproductive.