To the Editor:

As someone once said: What is to be done? 

Let’s get the statement of the obvious out of the way right now. I am no expert on either business or taxation. Having said that, I do have two eyes and two ears and what I see and hear are pretty clear. We have hundreds of empty job positions in our region. A drive around Champlain Township or Hawkesbury, or any of the smaller villages around us, will turn up Help Wanted!, Positions Available!, We’re Hiring! signs by the score. In everything from manufacturing to retail to fast food to construction, business owners and merchants are desperate for workers. Some have reached the point where they have had to reduce store hours and temporarily shut down parts of their operations, because they simply don’t have the staff available. So, that’s on the one hand. 

On the other hand, we have thousands of people retiring every year – emptying yet more job positions. With about one in five Canadians now being 65 or older (and that number is going up) this drain on the numbers of available workers is only going to worsen. True, some people continue to work past the age of 65, but that number is small (about 20 per cent) and is simply not enough to fill the need. And most of them are only doing so because economically, they have no choice. So, what to do? 

There seem to be two main reasons more people 65 and over are not re-entering the work force. One is they simply don’t want another full-time job. They’ve been there and done that and after a lifetime of work are not prepared to go back to it all again. The other is money. Partly this is because of too low wages offered by employers, but it is also – and overwhelmingly so – government taxation. Why go to work, even part time, if the small amount you make is going to be severely taxed and/or the government will punish you by kicking you into a higher tax bracket? And so, not surprisingly, most people (about 80 per cent) retire and stay retired, and businesses and companies continue to struggle to find workers. 

The answer, it seems to my simple mind (and as mentioned, when it comes to business or taxation, there are few minds simpler), is two-fold. First, business owners must become way more flexible about part time work and pay. Shorter shifts, flexible hours, job sharing, increased wages, etc. But far and away the biggest obstacle, government taxation, must be removed. Why not eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) taxation of the wages on those who are over 65 and prepared to take a part-time job (call it less than 30 hours a week or so)?

And even more importantly, how about a governmental promise (in writing, thank you) to not link these part-time wages to your present retirement income and so push you into a higher tax bracket?. This is the government we are talking about here. With the incentive of manageable part time employment, a bit of extra cash in their pocket and no fear of a ruthless government tax grab, I suspect quite large numbers of retirees would happily step up and take a two or three day a week job.  

The retirees would have a bit of money to spend, business and store owners would (assuming they were imaginative enough to attract them) have a significantly larger pool of potential employees and the government would recognize a modest increase in tax revenue from an increase in general economic activity. And, no doubt, an uptick in the popularity polls as well. 

So, there you have it. My remedy for the empty job positions problem. Now all we have to do is convince the government to play ball. That’ll be easy. Yup, for sure. 

Colin Affleck 

Champlain Township