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Aug 15, 2017

Metro CEO warns of ‘significant pressure’ as Ontario plans to hike minimum wage

Ontario minimum wage increase good for workers and business: Economist

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Another corporate leader is warning about the impact of Ontario's plan to raise the province's minimum wage.

"The announced minimum wage increase in Ontario will put significant pressure on our industry in 2018," said Metro CEO Eric La Flèche in a statement Tuesday. "We will strive to mitigate this impact in order to continue on our growth path."

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's government announced a plan earlier this year to gradually boost the minimum wage up to $15 per hour by the start of 2019 as part of a broader overhaul of the province's labour rules.

The plan has been met with criticism from the business community. Magna International recently put Ontario on notice, saying the province was making itself a less competitive place to do business. Meanwhile, Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob told BNN earlier this month his company was looking at various options for offsetting the rising cost of doing business in Ontario. 

And on Monday, a report by Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis said The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act could put 185,000 jobs at risk in the province within two years of implementation. In turn, Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn gave no indication the province is going to reverse course.

Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges slower timeline for minimum wage hikes

Karl Baldauf, vice president of policy and government relations at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, discusses a new report, co-commissioned by his lobby group, which says Ontario’s minimum wage hike will put 185,000 jobs at risk and cost businesses $23-billion in the first two years. BNN's Michael Hainsworth asks him how he arrived at those numbers.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure Ontario’s business climate is competitive, and we are committed to working with the business community to bring forward initiatives that will improve our competitiveness even more,” he said in a statement. “That being said, we will not back down from our plan to bring fairness to Ontarians.”

Metro said it anticipates the new wage rules will cost the company as much as $50 million in 2018. As of the end of 2016, Metro had 259 stores in Ontario. On July 26, rival Loblaw also warned about the impact of a higher minimum wage in Ontario and Alberta, saying it would take $190 million off its bottom line in 2018.

“I don’t think a lot of CEOs know exactly how they’re going offset these higher costs,” Sentry Investments Vice-President Andy Nasr told BNN in an interview on Tuesday.

“To some extent, I think for the grocers they’re all in the same boat. So if they have difficulty passing through higher prices, then I think they’re just going to have to eat it. And you’ll probably see their margins decline.” 

Metro also  said on Tuesday its fiscal third-quarter earnings per share reached 78 cents on $4.07 billion in revenue. Analysts, on average, expected Metro to earn 79 cents per share on $4.05 billion in revenue.