Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
Mr. Chair, I need to start with a quick shout-out to my mom, who happens to be one of your constituents. I'm sure she's watching you and me today.
Thank you for inviting me today as a witness.
In my five minutes, I have some general comments. I'm happy to take questions and discuss these important issues with you after that point.
First let me tell you a little bit about FETCO, the organization for which I work. We are an association of private sector federally regulated employers. Our membership includes major airlines, courier companies, railways, telecom firms, etc., as well as others. Our members are businesses that carry out 24-7 continuous operations almost exclusively. They run businesses that essentially never stop. They connect the domestic and global supply chains and provide critical services to Canadians on a daily basis.
Let me start by saying that FETCO and its members fully support and endorse truth and reconciliation. Our members have a tremendous commitment to diversity and inclusion within their organizations, and this fits perfectly within that broad framework. Our members have no opposition to this proposed holiday. They appreciate the significance of setting aside a day of reflection. They agree it's a positive step in the direction of reconciliation, and frankly, they'd like to be partners in this important journey.
In the broader context, what I'd like to talk to you briefly about today is basically the concept of what a paid statutory holiday means within the context of the federal private sector to provide you with, I hope, some insights around what this looks like in practical terms. What I'm not going to do, and I don't want to do, is in any way disrespect this important dialogue by somehow implying that we should put a price on reconciliation. That would be wrong. That's not my intention. However, I think it's important that we all understand what a paid holiday means.
My colleagues at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business conducted some research a couple of years ago and concluded that a paid statutory holiday across the entire country basically costs the economy, in effect, $3.6 billion. That's assuming all jurisdictions participate in the holiday.
Within the federal private sector, where my members reside, we've done some back-of-the-envelope analysis. It's pretty crude. It looks as if it's probably about a $600-million cost for a one-day paid holiday.
I spoke with some of my members about this specifically. I spoke with a member who employs about 5,000 Canadians in a 24-7 continuous operation. They, in their operation, estimate that a paid holiday costs about $1.4 million for them specifically.
It's important to note that the federal private sector is unique in Canada. As I noted earlier, these businesses don't stop during a holiday. These are not your typical nine-to-five desk jobs. These are businesses that continue to run whether there's a holiday or not. They don't shut down and take the day off.
What happens in practical terms is that those who work typically receive extra compensation, and we all know the expression about receiving overtime at time and a half, for example. What happens, building on that perspective, is that those who receive that time and a half will often take it off later on as time off, and then those who are brought in to replace them for that day are again paid overtime at time and a half, so there's a bit of a compounding effect of what a paid statutory holiday means in the context of continuous operations. Really, in essence, it becomes a cost item, for all intents and purposes.
It's also important to note that a change like this one doesn't occur in isolation. Last year, for example, the government introduced three new paid days to the Canada Labour Code. They're called “personal leave” days. Employees are entitled to them for a multitude of reasons, and the reasons for which they can be taken are quite flexible. Five are guaranteed, three of which must be paid to the employees.
Today we're talking about Bill C-5, which will potentially add one more. Minister Tassi, the Minister of Labour, is planning to soon add another—it's in her mandate letter—under the title of “family day”. This means that over about a two-year period, the government will be adding five days of paid time off in a very condensed time frame.
With all this said, if the government does proceed in this manner, we do have a few recommendations that we hope you will consider in your deliberations.
First, one option is to consider declaring a national truth and reconciliation day without necessarily making it a paid holiday within the federal private sector.
I've looked at the witness testimony you heard earlier in the week. I'm not sure that there's necessarily a huge push from advocates asking that this be a paid day off. Some of your witnesses talked about the fact that this is not meant to be a day for people to put their feet up and watch TV.
If we did it this way and it was not necessarily a paid day off, employers could be actively engaged with indigenous leaders to ensure that the day is commemorated properly and respectfully.
However, if the truth and reconciliation day does proceed as a paid holiday, our second recommendation is that it actually be made effective as a paid holiday in 2022. The 2021 budgeting in most major corporations is done. That financial planning is already complete, and it would be quite disruptive to the process to start that process all over again to accommodate this change.
Our final request, if we do add a paid day for truth and reconciliation, is that the government reconsider its commitment to adding the family day as well. Adding both in the federal sector at this time would mean that the federal jurisdiction would have the highest number of paid statutory holidays within all the Canadian jurisdictions. What ultimately will result from that is a bit of an unfair asymmetry between organizations that operate in the federal sector versus the many—the vast majority—that actually operate across the provincial sector.
That's all I have to add. I'd be happy to take your questions and talk about this. We do believe that this is a critically important issue, and we want to be supportive.