Liberals' provincial pension plan a job killer: Survey

Premier Kathleen Wynne. (QMI Agency Files)

Premier Kathleen Wynne. (QMI Agency Files)

Terry Davidson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

TORONTO -- Steven Mastoras has 33 loyal and hard-working people in his employ -- and he is cautiously hoping to keep it that way after the June 12 provincial election.

The Toronto restaurant owner is one of a few thousand small-business owners in the province who recently completed a survey by the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

The results, released Monday, show 86% don't support the controversial 2014 budget proposal by Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne to create a provincial pension plan. And almost as many respondents say they are "unlikely" to back a candidate who supports the plan.

A little over half surveyed said the additional payments that the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) would require them to make could very well mean reducing staff to combat the extra cost. Almost 70% said it would result in them having to impose wage freezes and salary cuts.

The Liberals' proposed ORPP would be used as a supplement to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). And, as is the case with the CPP, the ORPP would see employees kick in a portion of their income to the plan, with employers having to match that.

While respondents also cited red tape, rising taxes, increasing energy costs and provincial debt as big headaches, the report gave particular attention to the ORPP -- something both the CFIB and Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak refer to as a "payroll tax" that would be detrimental for business owners like Mastoras.

In terms of numbers, Mastoras estimates the ORPP would mean a "hit" of $10,000 annually. The increase, combined with Sunday's minimum wage hike to $11 and various increases in payroll taxes and regulations, could cause him to put the kibosh on new hiring, reduce employees' wages, and even cut members of his "great team."

"Labour costs are really (a) small business' only controllable expense," said Mastoras, whose family has owned East York's Whistler's restaurant and banquet hall for 34 years.

"The only method where a small business owner can try to save some expense is by taking measures that reduce the number of employees or trim hours that an employee would work. Or a freeze and perhaps a reduction in wages where possible," he said.

While CFIB Ontario vice-president Plamen Petkov insisted the survey was meant to be a non-partisan measuring of where his members stand, he acknowledged the sweeping dislike of the Liberals' ORPP proposal.

"The good news is there are still two weeks to go (to the election). Hopefully, party members will begin to focus on small business," Petkov said.

The survey also found that 94% said they supported any government policy to reduce small-business "red tape," something Hudak recently vowed to do if elected Ontario's next premier.

CFIB Ontario represents 42,000 small- and medium-sized businesses in the province. The survey is considered to be accurate within +/- 1.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

terry.davidson@sunmedia.ca


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