Family Day: Holidays ‘come with a cost’

The new B.C. stat holiday may be a nice break, but some Abbotsford businesses wonder about the cost.

Bryan Heidinger

Bryan Heidinger

Family Day will cost businesses and taxpayers millions of dollars each year, according to John van Dongen, MLA for Abbotsford South.

The new provincial statutory holiday, officially announced this week by B.C. Premier Christy Clark, will be held on the second Monday in February.

Van Dongen called the holiday more overhead for the business community, adding it will cost a small business, with five or fewer employees, about $1,135 annually.

“I don’t think people realize the cost impact because you are paying people to stay home.”

Van Dongen, who left the Liberal party in March to join the BC Conservatives, said the holiday announcement is a “political thing.”

“It came out of the leadership race. It wasn’t the product of any discussion, it wasn’t the product of any consultation and it doesn’t recognize the current economic climate.”

He said the message the Liberals are sending the business community is they can bring in a new stat holiday three months before the 2013 election and “don’t really care what the impact is on you.”

The estimated cost to the B.C. business community is about $62 million.

Van Dongen said it will also lead to an increase to taxpayers in terms of operating the government – an estimated $28 million annually.

“That’s half of a small ministry. That money could hire a lot of nurses, teachers or police officers,” he said.

Premier Clark has maintained the new holiday will boost business for ski hills, hotels, restaurants and other tourist businesses during a slow time of year. It will also increase family time.

On Tuesday, Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong spoke in the legislature about the issue.

She said as a former accountant, she understands the “implications that a new statutory holiday can bring.”

But Chong said where a holiday is placed can have impacts on productivity.

“If their employees feel that over the course of a long period of time they don’t have an opportunity to refresh or recharge themselves, there can be an indirect drain on that business. Therefore, I do believe that placing a holiday in a time where there is a long period between statutory days can be of benefit to small businesses as well.”

Abbotsford West MLA Michael de Jong was unavailable for comment by press time.

Bryan Heidinger, owner of Paper Nation in downtown Abbotsford, said a $1,000 hit is a lot of money for a small business.

“You have to make a choice, shut down for the day or pay the extra in wages.”

Heidinger only has one employee, whom he uses sparingly.

However, his plan is to hire more staff in the fall. Now he has to plan for the holiday and incorporate it into his budget.

He said he isn’t upset that the holiday has been created, but it does create another hurdle to deal with.

“We’re left with no choice but to adapt.”

But it isn’t just small businesses that will be impacted.

Dan Stefanson, executive director of Tourism Abbotsford said the new holiday “creates a challenge” for the Tradex exhibition facility.

“We’ve taken what was a profitable three or four days and just erased it from the calendar,” he said.

Stefanson said it will “compromise the bottom line” and will cost jobs and commercial activity.

In 2013, the Fraser Valley Home Show is scheduled to take place on that weekend.

“They booked that not knowing it was going to be a holiday.”

Stefanson said he will be contacting show organizers this week to discuss options.

Allan Asaph, executive director of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, said his group was asking for the holiday to fall on the third Monday in February. That way it would coincide with other provincial holidays and the Presidents’ Day holiday in the U.S.

Clark and Labour Minister Margaret McDiarmid said choosing a date that is not in step with other statutory holidays would mean less out-of-town traffic at B.C. attractions for people with a day off.

But Asaph said any B.C. company that imports or exports to the U.S. or has clients in other provinces will have to “work around two stat holidays in a row (consecutive weekends.)”

He said any new holiday creates an “additional financial burden” and a “loss of productivity” for business.

“It’s a two-edge sword. A lot of people are happy to see a holiday come in the middle of winter, but it comes with a cost.

“Holidays always come with a cost.”