Family Day a costly holiday

Let us B.C. taxpayers hope that Premier Christy Clark does not bless British Columbians with another day off.

B.C.’s first Family Day holiday has come and gone, and it was widely appreciated by British Columbians. Who wouldn’t want an additional day off with full pay?

But there’s another way to assess this Liberal government initiative. My view is that creating this 10th statutory provincial holiday, at this time in the economic cycle, was a costly mistake. Consider the following.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has some 10,000 members in B.C. All had additional labour costs. If the average firm has five employees, as suggested, then, according to Shachi Kurl, the CFIB director of provincial affairs, the average cost for each firm which closed was $1,135 in direct labour costs, that is, wages paid for no work done. We should note that wages in the private sector are much lower than in the public sector.

Firms that were open paid an additional “time and a half”, a total of two and a half times regular pay, for the holiday employment. Thus they lost even more in holiday pay than did the firms that closed! The total holiday cost to the employers, whether open or closed, not counting the additional half time pay for an unknown number of working employees, was about $11,350,000.

In addition, of course, we must consider the millions of dollars of lost business for businesses that closed. We should also note that many small businesses that would have liked to close could not do so because of contracts with mall management or other site owners.

Some large stores also closed. Since no data is available for those businesses, I will not calculate the additional costs for them but the total would doubtless be many millions. Their loss of business was doubtless also high.

We turn next to the public sector. In B.C. we have about 360,000 provincial and municipal public-sector employees as reported by the Fraser Institute. Let us assume that the average hourly wage or salary, calculated very conservatively, is $40 an hour and the work week 37.5 hours. Let us further assume, again conservatively, that one-quarter of these employees, about 90,000, were required to work on Family Day. These would include hospital and other medical staff, ferry workers, prison staff, airport employees, police officers in most locations, park attendants, and many other groups.

The 90,000 working public servants would, on average, each earn a minimum of $300 a day. The law requires that the owner pay them two and a half times their usual income or $750 for that day. If we deduct the basic wage, then the additional cost to the owner, one and a half times the basic pay, for that day was $450 for each working employee. If we multiply that by 90,000 then the total additional cost for this working group is $40,500,000.

The cost for the 270,000 public servants who were idle on Family Day is the greatest cost. With 270,000 being paid an average of $300 per day for this holiday, admittedly a low estimate, then the total pay-out to this non-working group comes to $81,000,000.

For B.C. taxpayers, thus, the immediate public sector costs cost were $121,500,000. For the private sector small businesses the cost were at least $11,350,000. Thus the known total cost comes to at least $132,850,000. If we include the estimated costs to big business, the huge costs paid for a day’s work not done and the massive additional “time and a half” costs for the working employees, then the total Family Day costs likely exceed $200,000,000. And that sum does not include lost business.

Let us B.C. taxpayers hope that Premier Christy Clark does not bless British Columbians with another day off, perhaps a Single Persons Day. We can’t afford another $200 million holiday.

John H. Redekop Ph.D.