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Minimum wage hike 'concerning' for small business in Thunder Bay

Some local business owners in Thunder Bay, Ont. are expressing misgivings about Ontario's plan to raise the minimum wage.

Business owners caught off guard by the timeline for the wage hike, says Jim Stadey

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a plan to increase the provincial minimum wage to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2019. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Some local business owners in Thunder Bay, Ont. are expressing misgivings about Ontario's plan to raise the minimum wage. 

"It's really concerning," said Jim Stadey, one of the owners of Eat Local Pizza, and the chair of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce board.

Stadey said he while he wants to see workers earn a healthy living wage, he's worried the timeline doesn't give small businesses enough time to adjust. 

The government plans to raise the current minimum wage of $11.40 per hour to $14.00 by January 1, 2018, and to $15.00 by January 1, 2019. 

"When you look at it, it's not really very gradual," said Stadey. "It's six months to get ready for $14 an hour, and that's huge. That's going to knock people out right away."

The wage increase could mean that some expansion plans at his own business will be put on hold, Stadey said, but he's worried other businesses will be hit harder.

"The idea isn't that business resists the idea of making sure everybody's taken care of. We just want to make sure it's feasible," he said. 

The wage hike could also mean higher prices for consumers, said Jodi Belluz, a partner in Belluz farms in Thunder Bay.

"My initial reaction is usually a little bit of concern and apprehension as a small business owner, and also as a farmer, because for us, where does that money come from in our budget? Usually it has to be passed along to the consumer," she said. 

Belluz said most of the farms' seasonal workers make minimum wage, or a little bit more.

While the number of workers fluctuates widely over the summer, during their busiest time they employ up to 100 workers.