Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington was one of just three MLAs to vote against the creation of B.C.’s newest holiday, Family Day.
Huntington stood up in the Legislature Tuesday morning (May 29) during the second reading of the Family Day Act and said the current economic climate does not warrant a new statutory holiday.
“When you tally the costs on small and medium-sized businesses, small businesses in particular, it’s incredibly costly,” she told the Leader from Victoria following the debate.
The B.C. government announced Monday that Family Day is scheduled for the second week of every February, starting on Feb. 11, 2013.
“We all enjoy an extra day for family and friends and just playing and sleeping in,” Huntington said. But she said that the holiday will cost small business $42 million annually. That breaks down to over $1,100 in salaries for the average small business, she said.
“That’s a hard hit for entrepreneurs that are struggling as it is. Margins are really thin.”
Huntington said businesses have had to spend approximately $3,000 transitioning to the HST, and will soon have to spend another $3,000 to revert back to the GST/PST system. Add to that three minimum wage increases in one year.
“All in all, what we’re doing is causing increasing burden on the small businessmen who, in my estimation, are the real entrepreneurs of this community,” she said.
Huntington said the holiday will cost the government $28 million annually—money that could go to other priorities.
Independent MLA for Cariboo North Bob Simpson and B.C. Conservative MLA for Abbotsford South John van Dongen also voted against the bill.
“John (van Dongen) and Bob Simpson and I all felt that economically it just wasn’t the right time and that it created an additional burden for small businessmen that we just didn’t have to impose on them right now,” Huntington said.
Delta Chamber of Commerce executive director Peter Roaf hasn’t yet surveyed the organization’s members to hear their take on the new holiday. But he said that, while it’s nice for everyone to have an extra day off, it can come at a cost to businesses.
“I don’t think anyone in principal would be opposed to having another holiday in the year,” he said. “But for a small business it can have an impact. And of course for a manufacturing company, losing that day of production can certainly have some expense attached to it.”
For manufacturers that don’t shut down for the stat, there is the added cost of paying time-and-a-half wages, Roaf said.
“And then you add that up by the thousands of businesses it does have a significant impact.”
Meanwhile, the executive director of the Business Improvement Association of Tsawwassen, Ana Arciniega, said she hasn’t heard any complaints from member businesses about the introduction of Family Day.
“Besides a few exceptions that have full-time employees, the great majority of small businesses, especially the retailers and the restaurants, coffee shops, most of them have part-time employees,” said Arciniega, explaining that lost wages wouldn’t be as big an issue for those businesses that employ part-time staff.
And businesses that decide to stay open and pay staff on Family Day might even see an increase in customers, especially with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Arciniega said.
“If you didn’t have time during your busy days to go buy something for Valentine’s, well that (Family Day) could be a day that you could go and shop.”
Arciniega said she thinks that many locals will likely welcome an extra day off during the wintery first quarter of the year.