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Young boy heading soccer ball as family watches. (Getty Images)
Young boy heading soccer ball as family watches. (Getty Images)

TONY WILSON

Family Day comes with hefty price tag Add to ...

The headlines all over the Vancouver papers during the week of Oct. 1 celebrated the addition of a new public holiday for B.C. in the third week February, starting in 2013: Family Day.

The province joins a club that includes Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan, where Family Day has also been proclaimed. And the same mid-winter break is called Louis Riel Day in Manitoba and Islander Day in PEI, bringing the number of provinces with such holidays to five.

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When you Google “Family Day,” you’ll get this kind of description:

On Family Day, many people plan and take part in activities aimed at the whole family. These include visiting art exhibitions, watching movies, skating on outdoor ice rinks, playing board games and taking part in craft activities. Some communities plan special public events, and art galleries and museums may have reduced price or free entry. As the weather is usually very cold in February, hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies are popular snacks. Other people use the long weekend as an opportunity for a short winter break or to travel to visit family members or friends. As Family Day falls on the same date as National Heritage Day, some people use the day to explore their personal heritage and family history.

“Cookies, crafts and hot chocolate” are all well and fine, but will Family Day in B.C. simply be Family Shopping Day, where consumers take their kids to the mall for the inevitable sales? And how much of a Family Day will it be if all those people who could be eating cookies with their families are required to work, albeit for time-and-a-half, to service the needs of all those shoppers?

Without trying to sound like the Grinch Who Stole Family Day, a new statutory holiday has a price attached to it, and that price is the overtime employers will have to pay their employees to come to work. Or it will translate into lost sales that employers won’t make because no customers will be walking through the doors if the business decides to close for the day.

Laura Jones, senior vice president of research and economics for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has stated that for B.C. small businesses with five employees, the cost – in terms of overtime wages – will be $1,135 each. This number is higher for business with more than five employees and lower for business with fewer employees, but it is particularly significant for small businesses where $1,135 may be the difference between making rent in a short month or not.

Ms. Jones states that this new public holiday will make BC and Saskatchewan tied as the provinces with the most number of public holidays in Canada.

And since a new public holiday will add additional costs to small businesses, Ms. Jones adds that “Family Day flies in the face of B.C.’s Jobs Plan,” announced in September by Premier Christy Clark. “It undermines B.C.’s job creation plan by adding costs to small business. If you’re interested in job creation, the last thing you want to do is add costs to business.”

B.C. also raised its minimum wage in May this year. Another increase to $9.50 an hour is scheduled to come into effect Nov. 1, and yet another to $10.25 an hour is scheduled May 1, 2012.

There’s another side to the equation that doesn’t involve small business. It involves taxpayers. If workers have a choice between overtime for the new holiday or a day off, emergency response providers, hospital workers and other public-sector employees do not, because our hospitals and other public agencies can’t just close for the day.

B.C will have to pay these public-sector workers overtime for the holiday. In a province that now owes almost $2-billion to the federal government to repay it for HST transition costs, and in an uncertain economic climate, where is the tax revenue coming from to pay these public sector workers Family Day overtime? How much will this new holiday cost B.C. taxpayers?

With that said, I hope everyone has a happy Family Day.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Tony Wilson practices franchising, licensing and intellectual property law at Boughton Law Corp. in Vancouver, and he is an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University. His newest book, Manage Your Online Reputation , was recently published. His column appears every other Tuesday on the website.

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