An increasing minimum wage is taking away business flexibility and is a detriment to companies just starting out, according to a Brandon Chamber of Commerce director.
Carla Milne spoke out about the increase during Finance Minister Jennifer Howard’s post-budget talk in Brandon on Friday.
About 30 community leaders attended the event.
"If you’re just starting a business or not quite at the mature stage of your business, it does take a lot out of the businesses that are trying to grow," Milne said. "It’s taking away from their capital, or their profit that they’re using to reinvest in their business to let them grow to that mature stage."
In Thursday’s provincial budget announcement, Howard said the minimum wage will increase again this year, but did not say by how much.
On Friday, she defended the move.
"It’s been a commitment of our government to increase it every year," she said.
"We do believe that has made a huge difference for minimum-wage earners … not only has it kept pace with inflation, it’s recovered the ground that it lost when it wasn’t increased through the previous decade."
Howard pointed out that in Manitoba, small businesses pay zero per cent corporate income tax.
Milne said some local businesses struggle with the minimum wage increases.
"We appreciate entrepreneurship and support it, and if we continue to regulate wages to a point where businesses can’t even afford to go and follow their dreams … then we’re taking away some potential economic growth from our city because of it," Milne said.
During the question-and-answer portion of the event at the Keystone Centre, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst had the opportunity to ask the minister about Brandon Municipal Airport renewal. As the Brandon Sun reported Friday, Decter Hirst was "baffled" that the airport was not mentioned in the provincial budget.
She noted that the Wheat City is a transportation hub, with the junction of the CN and CP Rail and the intersection of Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 10.
"That municipal airport is part of our region’s transportation infrastructure and there isn’t much that’s more important to economic development than that airport," she said.
"So because it is shovel-ready, we’ve got great plans and engineering documents ready to go … If we put this forward in three weeks on our infrastructure list for the Building Canada Fund, can we count on the province … to be a partner at the table?"
Howard responded by saying she encourages Decter Hirst to speak with Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers.
"I cannot give you that kind of commitment today," Howard said. "Minister Struthers is the lead minister on the Building Canada Fund, and I will certainly relay to him the priority that you place on the airport, the importance of it, in terms of economic growth and as a transportation hub."
Howard was also asked about another major Brandon project — the expansion of the Daly Overpass, and when that might begin.
"My understanding of it, is that we are ready to start some of the pre-construction work, the design work," she said.
And as for when shovels would hit the ground, she said, "I can’t promise you that it’ll be this summer, but it’s a priority for us."