Prices would go up if minimum wage hiked to $18: small business poll


About 11 per cent say the extra costs would weaken their business to the point where they would consider shutting down.

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One small business in three would have no choice but to raise prices if Quebec went ahead with a 33 per cent minimum-wage increase, a new poll found.

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Major unions, including the Quebec Federation of Labour, have urged the provincial government to boost the minimum wage to $18 an hour from $13.50. That’s the only way to allow the most impoverished workers to exit poverty, the collective said last month.

Nine out of 10 Quebec small businesses would be weakened by a minimum wage hike at a time when many have yet to return to pre-pandemic revenue levels, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said in a new member poll released Thursday . Boosting the minimum wage to $18 an hour would represent additional annual costs of $10,806 per employee, CFIB said.

Among other findings, 30 per cent of respondents in the CFIB survey said the wage increase would have a domino effect on all salaries, including those that currently exceed $13.50 an hour. Some 11 per cent of owners polled said they would shrink their workforce and work longer hours as a result, while another 11 per cent said the extra costs would weaken their business to the point where they would consider shutting down.

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“You really need rose-coloured glasses to think that a drastic increase in the minimum wage will have no impact on companies,” François Vincent, CFIB’s Quebec vice-president, said in a telephone interview. “We think targeted measures such as the cost-of-living allowances that the finance minister announced last week are much more effective. These are the kinds of steps that can really help people who are dealing with poverty without putting additional pressure on small businesses. Otherwise, inflationary pressures are just going to get stronger, which will hurt everyone.”

Premier François Legault’s government has already ruled out an even bigger hike — to $20 an hour. Cogeco executive chairman Louis Audet had called for the increase last month as a “social justice” measure to shrink the wage gap. Labour Minister Jean Boulet warned the decision would create a “significant economic shock.”

Should Quebec decide to proceed with a minimum-wage hike regardless, 79 per cent of small businesses said they would seek a reduction in the overall tax burden — with 73 per cent targeting a reduction in payroll taxes and 49 per cent advocating additional tax credits.

CFIB polled 424 of its members online from Sept. 9 to 24. Results are considered to be accurate to within 4.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

ftomesco@postmedia.com

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