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Family Day holiday in February strongly opposed by independents

 

Premier Christy Clark is pushing ahead with plans for a new Family Day holiday in February, after independent MLAs voted against the move.

NDP MLAs supported B.C. Liberal members in the key vote to approve the new statutory holiday Tuesday. The first one will be next Feb. 11, and the second Monday in February each year after that.

Independent MLAs criticized the move and forced a standing vote, after listing the costs it would impose on business.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that Family Day will cost the average small business more than $1,100 in wage costs, either paying employees to stay home or overtime to come to work.

Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington reminded the legislature the new holiday is imposed on business after three increases in the minimum wage in the past year, an average $3,000 transition to the harmonized sales tax and soon a similar cost to switch back to the provincial sales tax next year.

Clark promised the new holiday during her B.C. Liberal leadership campaign last year. It will join February holidays in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

Clark has argued that the new holiday will not only increase family time, it will also boost business for ski hills, hotels restaurants and other tourist businesses during a slow time of year.

Independent Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson noted the provincial government’s own payroll cost of the new holiday will be $28 million, a sum that could be applied to a range of pressing government problems. Simpson urged the government to wait and see if its budget is balanced as promised next year before imposing more costs and reducing B.C.’s productivity.

Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen was the first independent to speak out against Family Day, backed by John Cummins, leader of the B.C. Conservative Party that van Dongen has joined.

Clark and Labour Minister Margaret McDiarmid said choosing a date that is not in step with other western provinces or the President’s Day holiday in the U.S. would mean less out-of-town traffic at B.C. attractions for people with a day off.

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