Last Tuesday morning, the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce participated in the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.  The Committee heard presentations by various groups and individuals relating to Bill 148, an act to amend the employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 and related amendments to other Acts.

On behalf of your Chamber members, we presented to the committee, the concerns that have been raised by our members together with the collective message from Chamber members throughout Ontario in conjunction with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.  Although from media reports, it appears that the major issue being discussed, was the increase in the minimum wage to $15.00, that is only one, of many issues that are on the Government’s agenda, regarding the proposed passing of Bill 148.

In the weeks leading up to the Committee meeting in North Bay, we reached out to our membership and surveyed what this portion of the Bill 148 meant to their businesses.  In relation to the survey, we received over 320 responses and of those responses, 76% indicated that the increase would have a negative effect on their business.  Many of the responses indicated that it was the speed and time frame that the Government was introducing these changes was more of the issue than the actual 32% increase.  Businesses need time to plan and implement changes that are a result of changes in legislation.

Business owners and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our economy and should be given the opportunity to provide input and advice on what works for them.  Profit is not a bad thing.  It is what pays salaries, buys groceries, pays taxes and supports the lifestyle and amenities that we enjoy as both a City and Province.  The business owners are the ones with the “skin in the game”.  The investments that they make and continue to make is essential to being successful as a community.  The business community is simply saying that consultation and evidence based decisions must be made and not for political gains.  We must work together.

On a very positive side, the announcement from the Mattawa Bonfield Economic Development Corporation this week, was welcome news to this area.  The potential $140 million-dollar investment by International Wood Industries and the creation of 90 new jobs is terrific not just for Bonfield but the entire region.  The hard work and dogged determination by the five Mayors and Donna Maitland of MBEDC has paid off, attracting private investors to their community.  Hats off to all involved and the best of luck.

Peter Chirico is the President and CEO of the North Bay & District Chamber of Commerce.