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Penticton Chamber warns minimum wage increase may be too much to bear

Some businesses won’t sustain higher taxes and wages, break-ins and labour shortages

The Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce is concerned that a 6.9 per cent increase in B.C.’s minimum wage will create unintended consequences for businesses and consumers.

“For a city like Penticton, the first thing we’ll see are those residents on fixed incomes, primarily our seniors, lose even more buying power as employers raise prices to compensate for higher labour costs,” said Chamber president Nicole Clark. “And the sectors where you’ll most likely see this occur include hospitality, food and beverage, and retail, including grocery stores.”

Another result could be workers’ hours get cut, said Chamber executive director Michael Magnusson.

“With only two months’ notice from the provincial government before the increase takes effect, businesses will be reviewing their budgets to see where they can shed expenses,” said Magnusson. “The most controllable expense in business is labour, so whether you’re a small business owner or a manager in a large corporation, if you don’t want - or can’t, pass this added expense onto your customers, you instead reduce employee hours wherever you can, which essentially cancels out the increase.”

READ MORE: Minimum wage goes up to $16.75

Just over a year ago, the province legislated employers to pay out five sick days regardless of whether an employee works full or part time. A statutory holiday was also added.

Penticton mayor and council just voted to raise the business tax multiplier to 2.22, which will cost the average Penticton commercial property owner another $617 in annual taxes, and small businesses are starting to drown from interest payments on loans they had to take in order to keep their business open, said Magnusson.

“Add to that the money now spent on security systems and private security officers along with any repair costs and insurance premiums resulting from vandalism and break-ins as community safety continues to erode, it will eventually become too much.”

“The Chamber is a bit like the canary in the coal mine at the moment,” said Clark. “We, along with other chambers and business owners are trying to sound the alarm that if all of these government forces from municipal up to the provincial and federal levels continue to independently load more expenses onto the backs of the businesses, the collective result will be increases in commercial insolvencies and reductions in access to goods and services, community vibrancy.”

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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