Cariboo MLAs debate over new Family Day holiday

Independent MLA Bob Simpson says the proposed Family Day holiday in February is a luxury that B.C. has not had an informed discussion about.

Independent MLA Bob Simpson says the proposed family day holiday in February is a luxury that British Columbia has not had an informed discussion about.

“I don’t think people are being given the full story on what a statutory holiday costs them as taxpayers and to the economy in general. The public policy that’s justifying another holiday is so families can get quality time with each other. That’s pretty presumptive on the part of the government,” Simpson suggests.

During the legislative debate Tuesday morning he joked that shopping on Sundays should be banned and retail stores should be closed so nobody’s working, everybody’s home and a weekly family day is guaranteed.

Alleging the public policy is a smoke screen for a political move, Simpson notes the first family day in February will take place just months before the election.

Simpson says an additional statutory holiday will cost $28 million a year for taxpayers and $42 million per year for small to medium size business.

The $28 million will cover the incremental wage costs for double time and a half for hospitals, buses, emergency services and other essential service employees to work that day.

“That’s what the government has estimated it will cost them. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses has figured out the cost of $42 million for small to medium enterprise and $62 million for all businesses operating in B.C.”

Citing the increase of minimum wage costs to businesses, plus the estimated $3,000 it will cost each business to switch back from HST to PST, he warns that mandating an additional statutory holiday is going to cause hardships.

“Some people may even lose jobs because other people are being given a statutory holiday.”

Alternatively he wonders if people would choose to spend $28 million a year on a statutory holiday in February versus seniors care or re-inventorying the forests in the Cariboo Chilcotin region.

Many low-income families probably won’t get a day off and single parents will be scrambling for child care because schools will be closed, he says.

“There are not a lot of families that can afford a ski family holiday in February. You’re talking about that upper middle income family who would have taken a holiday in February anyway.”

Another question Simpson says he’s saving for third reading and the committee stage of the bill is whether the government has looked at the impact of cross-boarder shopping and whether it’s going to be Americans and Albertans who are going to benefit from an additional statutory holiday because people will take trips to shop there.

“The federal government is increasing the exemptions for a day or weekend away, and with the dollar being strong, the net economic benefit the government claims is going to be there is not a given.”

A February holiday is a nice idea; however, Simpson proposes it’s something that should be revisited when the economy has rebounded and programs are in place to help and support people to achieve more family time.

Cariboo-Chilcotin Liberal MLA Donna Barnett counters Simpson’s opposition, saying she supported it in the legislature.

“I know that everything we do, whether it’s increasing minimum wage, whatever you do it will always be some hardship on business and of course a hardship on taxpayers because they have to pay for the holiday.”

Businesses are very successful in the Cariboo Chilcotin and Barnett is confident they will find the extra entrepreneur methods of continuing to be successful and enjoying the holidays with their families.

There are always going to be people for or against everything government does. She says she comes from the small business sector and understands the sector.

“I also understand when there are times when you know the cost of business is a little bit more, and the cost of production is a little bit more, but at the end of the day, it is a bonus to an employee that appreciates it.”

If employees are treated with respect and given a little extra here and there and everywhere, they work twice as hard, she adds.

“We’re accused in government of not listening to our constituents, but I can tell you the ones I’ve talked to and the comments that I’ve had back are that people are happy to have an extra holiday.”

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