Ottawa pizzeria: Liberals put minimum thought into minimum wage hike

There have been many opinions by various economists on the impact of the Liberal government’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15.
I wanted to give the real world perspective of a small, growing business that employs many students at the current minimum wage level.
We opened Fiazza Fresh Fired three years ago. When developing the business plan, we, of course, had to estimate expenses and have an allowance for increases over the years in line with the rate of inflation.
There are always unknowns, however, the prospect of our government increasing our cost of labour to a level that is more than a 15-fold increase over the rate of inflation, was something that was not in our model.
The restaurant industry is already burdened by excessive energy increases as well as the ever-increasing cost of food. To now be mandated to increase our labour expenses by up to 32 per cent will surely cause irreparable harm.
This plan will sound great to the minimum wage worker, up until they receive their termination notice. The very people that this sets out to help will be hurt the most.
This legislation will affect the most susceptible business owners in the province, the small business owner — the true entrepreneurs who take huge financial risk to offer first-time employment opportunities to people such as students and new immigrants, who are often neglected by big business.
Small business is the backbone of the Canadian economy. It accounts for nearly half our private sector’s GDP and comprises close to 50 per cent of Canada’s total workforce.
Our provincial government encouraged small business owners to create jobs by developing new businesses: Go out and take some risks and we will support you with various incentives. Well why didn’t they also let us know that they at any time could raise our expenditures by 32 per cent and jeopardize our hard-earned risk capital and sweat equity?
Our expansion plans may need to be placed on hold, which will limit future jobs we were looking forward to offering. Or maybe we’ll take those same jobs and go to another province that truly balances the needs of labour with the realities of the small business owner.
Big business has the capital to absorb these absurd increases. Most employees in large corporations are experienced and therefore deservedly earn a wage greater than the mandated minimum wage.
Small business, such as ours, provides the experience and training that helps people grow further within our organization or will provide resources for them to continue their education for future endeavours.
I am all for a fair wage; however, to increase this wage in such an irresponsible manner, at such an alarmingly fast rate, will surely backfire. Labour is our largest expenditure and will cause our already razor-thin margins to become non-existent.
What choice would we have other than terminating some jobs? Are we going to increase our prices by 30 per cent? Of course not, our customers would not tolerate that.
Fiazza Fresh Fired not only supports youth in hiring but we are also proud supporters of many community causes. The implementation of this legislation will have the ripple effect that can’t be measured.
The inability for us to continue with this community support, due to the lack of capital, will assuredly have a negative effect on our society’s most vulnerable.
In business we must look at the big picture and think long term. I wish politicians would have the same aim!

Steven Lesh, Fiazza Fresh Fired

Ottawa Sun June 3rd 2017

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