The Liberals’ gift of a brand new Family Day holiday in February was the first action taken by the newly re-elected government and why not? Work-Life balance is to be encouraged and after all, aren’t we a wealthy country that can afford holidays? Well done politicians for giving families the support they deserve and a day for people to linger in bed, perhaps even to add to the population’s statistics in which we seem to be lagging.
Whoa right there! Do you honestly believe politicians thought fondly about families gathered around bountiful fare on the dining room table? Did the conversation in the Ontario Cabinet planning room go, “Those poor, tired, Ontario families need time off to snuggle up and watch Disney Movies together and have time to be…well, families.”
No, the conversation probably went, “Imagine if we kick off our re-election campaign with the promise to voters of candy.”
That would get the heads all nodding.
“What about candy with no cost to the government? And guys…business can pay the holiday salaries but we get the credit. Cool.” Even more heads nodding and, without more ado, Family Day Holiday got its stamp of approval.
Except that candy does come at a cost.
Lost revenue – GDP - from the 6.6 million full time workers eligible for Ontario’s Family Day is $2 billion. Big deal say Human Resource experts such as Wendy Poirier, managing principal at Towers Perrin, who believe that a day off in a freezing month will boost employees and “add to their productivity and engagement in their work." OK. Let’s run with that. Perhaps workers will make up for lost productivity and, at worst, the cost is half – only $500 million of revenue from business owners.
If you are thinking, “Why worry? It’s employers who are picking up the tab. Business owners are whining about one day, for heaven’s sake. What’s the big deal?” here’s a question for you. Do you have an RRSP? If it is a respectable and balanced portfolio, it’s guaranteed that you own shares in an Ontario business. That makes you a business owner and that means you will be picking up the tab for loss of one day’s revenue too. Maybe you think that’s OK and you can afford to be generous to your fellow Ontarians.
Then analyze Canada’s long-term competitive position for businesses. A day off comes at a difficult time in Ontario’s economic development – our business ranking is slipping, not rising, against other countries. Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman, comments, “Canada is stuck in neutral when it comes to creating a competitive economy.”
Business has lost the advantage of a weak dollar to give them a competitive edge. American companies cannot count on Canada to be a cheaper place to manufacture and are looking to Mexico, El Salvador and India, never mind the giant, China. As Ian Howland, head of the Canadian Manufacturing Association, asks, “Are those countries having Family Day Holidays?” The Canadian Venture Capital Association is also raising the alarm with a statement expressing shock that the elections did not even touch on the declining investment in Canadian businesses.
People - be smart about political spin. Sure, politicians are swell guys for thinking about the family, but be very clear: they are not the ones paying. You are. Whether you are an employee, a shareholder of an Ontario business or a Canadian hoping the future viability of our economy will continue at the same level for your younger family members as it has these past forty years. The “Peaceful Rise” of China and the business draw of India, El Salvador and Mexico in sectors that Canada used to have means that it is no longer business as usual.
But, gosh, that candy from the politicians sure is difficult to turn down. As the poet Ogden Nash said, “Candy is dandy, liquor is quicker.” So perhaps a free bottle of wine from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario would be a better bribe for us all!