At the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario [AMO] Conference in Ottawa, the 44 municipalities represented there expressed their concern to the Premier and her Ministers about the possible effects of Bill 148 on their bottom lines. The Bill, best known for promising to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019 and give equal pay to part-time staff, came as a shock to municipalities. Between them, they employ huge numbers of part-time and seasonal workers, including volunteer fire fighters, and summer parks and recreation staff. The impact on wage bills for volunteer fire fighters was pointed out clearly by AMO: “This could mean that if a volunteer firefighter is not exempted from the proposed changes to on-call pay, the cost of volunteer firefighter services will increase to $27,375 per volunteer firefighter per year ($75 per day x 365 days per year). If a municipality had 200 volunteer firefighters, this proposal alone will cost $5,475,000 per year without any increase in service to the community. This cost is wildly prohibitive for the small, rural and northern municipal governments and may likely force municipal councils to reduce the level of service they are able to provide to their communities”.
The Premier admitted that this effect on municipalities was “unforeseen”, and the Bill has been withdrawn for review. AMO have asked, and the Premier appeared to agree, that emergency services be exempted from the legislation in future drafts. All 444 municipalities are looking with intetrest to see what emerges from the province’s review.