Today to the surprise of all businesses, the Ontario government announced an increase of minimum wage to $15.00 per hour effective January 2022. This decision has caught all small businesses off guard with no consultation or discussion with any groups representing the industry and looks more like electioneering as we lead up to the June 2022 election.
Unfortunately this is a touchy topic to oppose as most will agree part-time employees deserve a raise, especially with the continued inflation and costs of goods increasing.
Convenience store operators and owners should weigh in to this decision by not opposing the increase but pointing out the industry needs action and support in three areas to help us offset the ongoing costs of business with little understanding of operational costs from a government perspective.
No one is opposed to employees earning a decent minimum wage but we need to see some movement on promises and margins to help us survive in every community.
A) Lottery commission: Our industry has been asking for an increase in commissions from the present 5% (online sales) & 8% (scratch tickets). C Store cannot increase the costs of the lottery as this is a fixed sale price by OLG, therefore not allowing us to offset labour, rent and increased delivery costs. Keep in mind the Convenience store industry has not had a commission increase for over 30 years and we sell 80% of all lottery tickets for the Ontario government.
B) Beverage alcohol: We ask the government to live up to their promise of allowing all C stores to sell beer/wine in Ontario that would create additional sales and traffic in all C stores while offering local convenience to all consumers.Since the promise was made in 2019, we have seen the retail expansion in many channels but not the promised convenience store.
C) Contraband tobacco: C-stores sell 95% of all legal cigarettes collecting all taxes. However we continue to see 30% of all cigarettes being sold on and off aboriginal reserves with little action by the government to correct this ongoing issue. We need action on the illegal distribution and sales of untaxed reserve made cigarettes. These are our customers and the government cannot continue to ignore this issue as discussed in past budgets with little to no action.
Retailers should and need to reach out to their local MPP's office and express the need to work with us on the above three (3) points. These are not new initiatives but areas where local MPPs and Ministers are aware but have not moved forward. We need a wide range of c store owners to make some noise to let the government know we need help. Feel free to cut and paste the issues and send them off to your local MPP office.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News Canada.