CFIB statement on Bill 44, The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act
Winnipeg, May 31, 2022 – Despite the easing of COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year, many Manitoba small business owners remain stressed about the future of their business. Only 37 per cent of Manitoba small businesses are back to normal sales levels, and many are staring down significant debt while also being squeezed by skyrocketing inflation, supply chain issues, and increased taxes that are driving up the cost of doing business. As small businesses begin the long road to recovery, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s top message to governments has been to avoid introducing new costs.
Now, after two years of dealing with pandemic-related challenges and unpredictability, the introduction of Bill 44 will add yet another layer of uncertainty for employers in Manitoba.
The Manitoba government has provided very few details of what small business owners can expect with Bill 44. If inflation exceeds 5% in the first quarter of a calendar year, the minimum wage is no longer tied to a stable and predictable formula, and this new legislation only requires the government to provide 30 days' notice of what could be a significant increase to the minimum wage. Small businesses will be left with little time to adapt to wage changes.
Instead of continuing to add to mounting business costs and stresses, governments should be looking for ways to provide some relief. For example, we have seen several provinces take steps to reduce their provincial fuel taxes in response to rapidly rising fuel costs, and in Newfoundland, where a minimum wage increase was recently announced, the provincial government included a transitional wage subsidy for small employers to help ease their transition to a higher minimum wage. Manitoba has made no such effort to help small businesses, and business owners are expected to absorb the increased costs.
Before piling new costs onto struggling small businesses, the Manitoba government should ensure it is using all the tools in its own toolbox. Manitoba has one of the lowest basic personal amounts in all of Canada – taxing people at just over $10,000 in income. To help low-income earners, one of the first things the provincial government can do is significantly raise the basic personal amount and let low-income earners keep a larger portion of their paychecks.
CFIB is urging the Manitoba government to:
- ensure Manitoba is tax-competitive by significantly raising the basic personal amount;
- provide cost relief to struggling small businesses and their employees; and
- amend Bill 44 to provide better certainty, predictability, and a longer notice period for employers.
In early September, CFIB was asked to provide feedback to the Manitoba government on how minimum wage increases will impact small business owners and how the government can help small businesses absorb the increased wage costs. Thank you to those who participated in our flash survey, your responses helped us prepare our submission for the Manitoba government.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 95,000 members across every industry and region, including 4,000 in Manitoba. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.