Windsor Essex Chamber of Commerce president Matt Marchand speaks to the Rotary Club, February 29, 2016. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

Windsor Essex Reacts To Fall Economic Update

The province of Ontario issued its fall economic update Tuesday and there is reaction in Windsor-Essex to some of what is included in that forecast.

One of the biggest stories coming out of the announcement is a plan to lower the corporate tax for small businesses in an effort to ease Ontario’s transition into a higher minimum wage. The tax is being lowered from 4.5% to 3.5% effective January 1.

Matt Marchand, president of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, tells that what was announced at Queen’s Park is not really what the chamber was looking for, but it’s a start.

“It’s a step in the right direction with┬árespect to lowering tax rates, although there’s much more work to be done with respect to that,” says Marchand.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Souza also announced Tuesday that Bill 148, the province’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr by January 1, 2019, is moving forward pending third reading and the approval of Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Employees are saying the increased minimum wage will improve their quality of life and help stimulate the economy since more people could afford to spend money. Businesses, on the other hand, say that raising the minimum wage will raise their labour costs and force them to either raise prices or lay off employees.

Marchand says the chamber has advocated a smoother stepping-stone approach to raising the minimum wage and he still has reservations about Bill 148.

“Our view is that we stick with her [Wynne’s] plan originally, which was steady, slow, transparent predictable,” says Marchand. “For whatever reason that plan has been abandoned to go for a 32% increase against the premier’s own advice back in counsel and legislation that she adopted.”

The province’s hydro rates also got a mention in the economic update. In response to growing criticism over the rate of electricity, the province announced its Fair Hydro Plan, which called for a 25% reduction in hydro rates for eligible households.

The update says those bills have gone down by 25% on average, but Amherstburg resident Libby Keenan, who operates a horse-training business, says she is not seeing it that way.

“I haven’t seen my bill change very much,” says Keenan. “I was told that the delivery would go down considerably and it did not.”

Keenan’s previous criticism of rising hydro rates in Ontario caught the attention of Premier Wynne, who invited Keenan to meet with her to discuss the matter.

Keenan does not necessarily believe that the information in the update is incorrect as far as hydro rates are concerned, but she urges people to await a report on the matter from the Ontario auditor general.

The entire fall economic update can be read by clicking here.