Family Day tugs on small business bottom line

While Family Day gives employees in a few provinces a mid-winter long weekend, it's also a time for businesses to grumble about the cost.

While Family Day gives employees in a few provinces a mid-winter break, it's also a time for businesses to grumble about the cost.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business puts the cost of Monday's provincial holiday at $2 billion in lost productivity.

Many small businesses, including retailers, restaurants and others in the hospitality industry, say the day off will hurt their bottom line.

If they close, they lose a day of business. If they remain open, they have to pay staff a holiday premium.

For Abdul Habib, a Sarnia, Ont., homebuilder for 20 years, the day amounts to a cost of more than $2,000.

"It's nice to have Family Day, of course, for ourselves, but I feel it's a little bit of pain if you have 10 or 15 employees who get a free payday," he told the Canadian Press.

Another expense

His family-owned business has suffered a loss of contracts since the economy began to slump and the day presents yet another expense.

"It could have been time off. We don't object to that, especially in this ... slow time," he said. "I'm not against a holiday, but it should be added that I have to look at myself as a survivor."

Small and medium-sized companies effectively end up footing the bill for the annual holiday, said Judith Andrew, who represents 42,000 members in the Ontario wing of the CFIB.

Alberta was the first province to introduce Family Day in 1990. Saskatchewan followed in 2007, with Ontario signing on last year.

Manitoba also introduced its own annual provincial holiday for February last year, calling it Louis Riel Day, named for the Métis leader who led two rebellions in Western Canada and was hanged for treason in 1885.

A politician in Nova Scotia is reviving her campaign for a mid-winter break.

Liberal MLA Diana Whalen is calling for a holiday to honour Joseph Howe, the former premier credited with securing freedom of the press and responsible government in the former British colony.

Nova Scotia has the fewest statutory holidays, celebrating only five mandatory federal holidays.

Americans, meanwhile, celebrated Presidents' Day on Monday. Stock markets were closed in both New York and Toronto.

With files from the Canadian Press