Monday, February 11, 2013

B.C. Family Day: a new holiday, but it'll cost you

Today is British Columbia's first Family Day and the government is spending $1.5 million on events in Vancouver, Victoria, Cranbrook, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo and Prince George. It hired "experiential marketing agency" Inventa, which, in turn, hired "brand ambassadors" to promote the holiday -- a creation of Premier Christy Clark. Read my story here. 

Shouldn't a good idea just sell itself? Or is it a good idea?

Family Day will be a photo opportunity for Premier Photo Op, who is fighting an uphill battle to be re-elected on May 14. Since taking office on March 14, 2011, she has tried to be seen as a champion for jobs and families. But is she really helping increase jobs and help families?
B.C. Family Day: is that mama bear or papa bear?

As much as a day-off during the winter doldrums is welcome in this hectic world of ours (even the Work Less Party would agree), is it really the best strategy for a Premier who has staked her future on the message of jobs for families? The facts indicate another holiday will harm the economy. Simply put, if economic activity falls -- even by a fraction -- then it will be more difficult for the struggling B.C. Liberal government to balance the budget and harder for families to make ends meet. 

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, whose members were already hobbled by the Harmonized Sales Tax and increased minimum wage, fears it will hurt businesses in lost sales, decreased productivity and increased costs. CFIB recently hired Mike Klassen (who is certainly no enemy of the ruling Liberals), who proclaimed "government gets the glory, but small business pays the bill."

When offices, warehouses, factories, mills, mines and construction sites are closed for a day, then economic activity decreases. Yes, there will be an uptick in tourism and hospitality spending, but it won't be enough to fill the gap. A study in the United Kingdom showed each bank holiday costs the economy an estimated £2.3 billion (about $3.6 billion).

(Don't waste your time with any comments calling me a party-pooper. I wish weekends were five days long and we only had a two-day work week, but we live in a capitalist-dominated world under a pro-business provincial government that claims to be the ultimate champion of free enterprise.)

Still don't believe me about the economic harm of a new holiday? Then read the Ministry of Labour's communications plan at bottom. Here is the relevant section that predicts less economic activity and higher labour costs for public sector workers. 

Estimate of the Economic Impact:
Applying a formula developed by BMO Capital Markets and that was first used in Ontario when it introduced a Family Day in 2007; the Ministry’s rough estimate is that a new statutory holiday could result in reduced economic activity in the range of about $198 million (i.e., the equivalent of approximately 0.1 per cent of provincial Gross Domestic Product).
In addition, a February holiday would have a direct fiscal impact on government. The Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat has estimated this to be approximately $28 million in additional wage/salary and benefit costs for employers in the broad public sector (0.12% of the public sector compensation base of $22.9 billion). 
Current Economy:
The Ministry of Finance has advised that Government is monitoring the current situation in the United States and Europe very carefully, as recent economic events in those regions are of concern. While British Columbia is not immune to economic events abroad, it has weathered the recession of 2008/009 better than most other provinces. Government expects that B.C.’s competitiveness will keep it in good stead going forward and is committed to the objective of a balanced budget in 2013/2014.
On September 8th, the Ministry of Finance released the first quarterly report, which indicated that the return to the two-tax PST/GST system will result in bigger deficits than forecast in Budget 2011:
o deficits of $2,778 million in 2011/12, and;
o $805 million in 2012/13.
The first quarterly update also projects a deficit of $458 million.

And, since that was written, the economic news has not improved. In November 2012, Finance Minister Mike de Jong projected a $1.47 billion deficit for 2012-13. B.C.'s debt was forecast to hit $55.9 billion in 2013 -- a massive burden for families today and families of the future. One need only look at the woes of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain to understand the toll that debt causes on families.

The B.C. government is spending $15 million on the B.C. Jobs Plan advertising campaign, despite little evidence that Clark's policies have resulted in any private sector job creation. Sun Media's David Akin deconstructed the government's spin. B.C. is fourth worst in Canada in job creation. Statistics Canada said it lost 16,000 jobs in January and little has changed over the last year. 

If the NDP wins the election, don't expect Family Day to be cancelled. Why would the party of Big Labour take away a statutory holiday on which workers get time-and-a-half or better? 

Why was Feb. 11 chosen as the first Family Day, instead of synching with Feb. 18 -- when five other provinces and the United States have their annual third Monday of February statutory holiday?

Bill Tieleman, who is no friend of the BC Liberals, celebrates his birthday on Feb. 18. Sarah Palin, an obvious inspiration to Clark, has her 49th birthday on Feb. 11. But the real reason may be the Chinese lunar new year, which fell on Feb. 10. Clark was born in 1965, which was also a Year of the Snake. While the role of families has eroded in North American culture, the family unit remains the bedrock of Chinese culture, where family names come before individual names. Clark held a Feb. 7 event at the Floata restaurant in Chinatown to kick off the Year of the Snake/Family Day weekend.

If the NDP comes to power, they can move Family Day to the third Monday of February without fear of offending the Chinese community. The Year of the Horse starts Jan. 31, 2014.  

Anyway, Family Day is here to stay. Relax, have fun, stay safe and enjoy it. Just remember that there are costs attached. 

2 comments:

islandpapa said...

be interesting to know how many lower mainlanders went for a bellingham shopping spree yesterday

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