Fergus Grocer Expresses Concern Over Ontario Minimum Wage Hike

The owner of a small grocery store in Midwestern Ontario is making big waves on social media after posting a letter she sent to Premiere Kathleen Wynne, slamming the proposed minimum wage hike.

Jackie Fraser and her husband own Frabert’s Fresh Foods in Fergus, and says the Ontario government’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 is a challenge businesses like hers cannot overcome.

Fraser is a former Executive Director of Farm & Food Care and studied resource management at Guelph University, and travels every week to Toronto’s Ontario Food Terminal, and says her discussions with farmers there are worried about how the hike will affect their business.

Fraser’s full letter is below…



Dear Premier Wynne:

Let me introduce you to my family and our story.
My husband and I started Fraberts Fresh Food in 2008 ….just three weeks before the arrival of our first daughter. We recognized a need in our community for a reliable source of local food, as well as healthy ready-made meals for busy families, and catering services.

Our community has embraced our vision. With their support, in 2012 we doubled in size and expanded our offerings. We are so grateful to our community for making our dream come true.

In turn we give back as much as we can. We support numerous causes and events in our community from our local food bank, co-op nursery school, 4-H, our fall fair, hospital foundation, curling and rugby clubs, and school lunch programs. We host kindergarten classes to teach them about healthy eating and the four food groups. We volunteer our time to many local groups and initiatives. We have become an integral part of our community and they have shown their appreciation with various awards over the years from Small Business of the Year, to Customer Service Excellence, and the Taste Real Local Food Champion Award.

Our business has had its ups and downs during these past nine years. We have taken on significant financial risk as entrepreneurs. Like most new retail businesses, it took many years to finally break even. We’ve faced challenges from local construction projects that have adversely affected traffic flow to ice storms that have hit during our busiest times. We have worked incredibly hard to keep our heads above water – knowing if we just worked hard enough, we would eventually succeed. And we are finally getting there.

However, your proposal to hike the minimum wage will be the challenge that we cannot overcome. We have twelve incredible staff who we think of as family. All but our new summer student make well over the current minimum wage. To be fair to our staff and maintain their deserved performance-based gap over minimum wage, we will have to raise our annual payroll costs by 32 percent in nineteen months (22 percent in just seven months). Payroll represents 55 percent of our total expenses. We aren’t able to cut hours or lay off staff without seriously jeopardizing customer service or negatively impacting sales. Our staff already works very hard and we are very efficient.

I have done the math. We will need to increase our sales by over twelve percent just to break even. Year over year we generally grow by three to five percent. Short of some miracle, we are not likely to be able to grow by twelve percent in seven months’ time.

We feel so blindsided. We are proud of the little family-run shop we have created. We are proud of our contributions to the community. And we love our staff like family. We’ve worked so hard for almost ten years to get here. There has been too much blood, sweat, and tears put into this to give up.

We understand what you are trying to achieve with this proposed policy. However we beg you to reconsider. Please slow down and give us a chance to adjust.

You may think we don’t matter because we are not a big corporation like GM or GE and we don’t employ hundreds of people. But I know we are not alone. I speak for many small family-run businesses throughout the province that employ a handful of people. Together our numbers do matter: small and medium businesses provide 87% of private sector jobs in Ontario (Stats Canada, 2016).

Just as importantly, we are critical parts of our communities. We are the businesses that add local flavour – that enhance the communities we are part of. We may not be important to Toronto, but we are very important within our small towns throughout this diverse province.

To put this in perspective, a landlord can’t raise their rent by 32 percent in nineteen months – why can a government force a 32 percent increase on the biggest expense for most employers? How is this morally possible? We just don’t understand how you can do this to us. There has to be a way for us to have some input. We need you to understand the drastic impact of this proposal on our businesses, employees, communities, and families.

We understand the whole “rising tides raises all boats” analogy, but not with a tidal wave. Putting us out of business is an unintended consequence of this proposed policy. Maybe our story – our one small business – is insignificant to you, but think of the cumulative impact of thousands of us closing up and each of us putting a dozen people out of work.

Please don’t make us roadkill on the political highway.

Jackie Fraser and Derek Roberts
Owners, Fraberts Fresh Food
Fergus, Ontario