Philosophy

Family Day and Fair Stat Holidays

Today is Family Day in Ontario, as it is in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, PEI and Saskatchewan. BC celebrates it one week earlier. We came a little late to this party and, if you remember, it was very controversial at the time.

Prior to the introduction of Family Day in Ontario, all the major Canadian TV media outlets gave voice to various people decrying a new statutory holiday – one that would break up the huge holiday void between New Year’s Day and Good Friday. These “experts” told us that the holiday would harm the economy of Ontario somehow and they nattered on and on about it for months. Googling shows that most of these TV segments either never went to the web, have been taken down, or are now so irrelevant that Google doesn’t put them on the first page of results. The only thing I could fine was this idiotic piece in the Star from a year later, telling us, again, that Family Day destroys the economy. (It’s particularly idiotic since this is a Sun article in the Star. I mean, I thought the Star was the paper for workers? Who are these people complaining, anyway? They are obviously not workers. It’s a holiday. They must represent small businesses as one would assume corporations would not care all that much about something as minor as an extra stat holiday. Would they?)

The argument goes something like this:

  • Businesses close – therefore earn zero money – obviously this only applies to brick and mortar businesses with online stores
  • but they still have to pay their employees,
  • so they lose money.

This apparently happens to every business and the economy loses, oh I don’t know, let’s say $2 BILLION!!! AAAAAAHHHH!

It was usually a number in the billions that was thrown out to scare us, this despite the fact that the economy of Ontario is much bigger and, also, putting aside the obvious problem with any claimed future “losses.” (Until the losses happen, they are, you know, not losses.) The issue with the ‘argument’ about stat holidays being bad for the economy is that it ignores two very important things:

  1. If there’s one thing people do on long weekends, it’s spend money.
  2. Employee productivity is greater with more rest.

Now, I am not an economist and I have no evidence for this post because I’m lazy – it’s Family Day, after all, I have to hang with my family) -and because claiming future, projected losses as “evidence” that the holiday is bad just as bad as not having any evidence in the first. (Also, since that Star article, nobody has complained about the holiday destroying the economy in the media any more which suggests that it is not actually destroying the economy, surprise surprise.) But I’m going to make these two cases anyway.

Though Family Day is in February, and though this one is particularly brutally cold February, and though I am personally not spending Family Day with my family, long weekends allow people to travel and get together. And a necessary requirement of both is spending money. Now, given the few businesses that are open on Family Day proper, it’s likely that this money is not necessarily spent on the day itself – with the exception of certain leisure activities, and the costs of the additional night in a hotel, etc. – but it may well be spent on the days coming up to Family Day. If families do get together on Family Day itself, for example, they have to go grocery shopping. I would not be surprised to see higher grocery sales on the Saturday and Sunday before a holiday Monday regardless of season. Would you?

Anecdotally, I can also say that people are indeed traveling. My parents are on their way to Rochester right now. Sure, they’re giving most of their money to the evil New Yorkers (and not Ontario, for shame!) but they are buying gas and snacks on the way which they wouldn’t have purchased on a normal Monday. And my cousin and his wife are up north skiing. And those are just the two couples that have let me in on their long weekend plans. I probably know way more people doing other things that cost money.

But the other point may be just as important. Businesses love to think short term and say: “This is terrible! I have to pay payroll and close. It’s outrageous! The losses!” But what if an extra day off increases employee stamina, attentiveness and so forth? Now, the short weeks are always brutal if you work in any business with regular deadlines, but, over time, I think it’s safe to say that employees benefit from these short weeks. The stretch between New Year’s Day and Good Friday was a terrible one, where, unless you had vacation to take, you had months of no stat holidays.

Isn’t it at all possible that just one extra day of rest for people could make them better off over such a holiday void? It is for me. I always feel refreshed after the extra day off. And though I cannot demonstrate an actual revenue gain for my employer because we do not track productivity – and, in my job, cannot, really – I feel better than I used to during this time of year. Family Day is a welcome surprise – I still forget about it nearly every year because I did not grow up with it – and it makes the previous holiday void so much more manageable. (I do not have many weeks of vacation and I am not taking any anytime soon – for reasons I won’t get into – and so the extra stat is a true gift.)

Without any evidence beyond my own experience, I believe that the benefit of Family Day outweighs the supposed costs and I would like to propose more stat holidays (shock, horror):

 

Easter Monday – Variable

The schools already get it off. Government employees already get it off. Banks used to close. Quebec gets it off. Now, I don’t give a shit about Easter, except as a reason to see family, but, prior to Family Day, there was literally one stat holiday between New Year’s and Victoria Day. One day in nearly 5 months. Family Day gives us one per month with the exception of March/April, where there is only one day. We should have two. Given the number of businesses that already close for Easter Monday, this is not a sacrifice and it will not destroy the economy.

 

The Beer Company Long Weekend – Second Monday of June

We all know why the beer companies want a long weekend in June. They know what seemingly all the anti-stat businesses do not know: they make more money on long weekends. I propose the second Monday of June because of the proximity of Victoria Day and Canada Day. Travel-related businesses should eat this up because, as everyone knows, there’s nothing Canadians like doing more on a summer long weekend than leaving their city or town. This is a can’t-fail proposition and it drives me crazy that we still haven’t done anything about it.

 

Remembrance Day – November 11

I have a complicated relationship with Remembrance Day. (I do believe we should remember the sacrifices of the soldiers who fought in World War II and the Korean War, and the Peacekeepers who have died, as I think we can make an argument that they were doing something positive. However, the same cannot be said for the soldiers who fought in World War I – the war the holiday was created to remember – and, say, the recent assistance of US imperialist adventures in the Middle East. But this is the subject of another post.) But if you want people to really celebrate Canadian veterans on this day, asking them to work all day is not the way to do it.

At my current job, we are barely aware of Remembrance Day. The last time we noted it, an employee has to ask the rest of us to take a moment of silence. The looks on people’s faces – well, people thought she was being ridiculous. This past November 11, when she wasn’t there, we ignored it. Now, calm down. Before you get self-righteous on me, is it that much better to have just that moment of silence?

I used to work for an insurance company that deals directly with banks, not with individuals. The banks would all close on Remembrance Day but we would come in. It was a day in which we did not much of anything, beyond doing “catch up” work, if there were backlogs, and otherwise wasting time. (On the first November 11th I was there, we literally went on an office tour to understand what all the other departments do. Educational, sure.) This company used its PA to have a mandatory moment of silence at 11:11. But, lest you think they were doing a better job than my current employer, this company was located next to the site of the Hamilton Remembrance Day ceremonies. Employees were absolutely not allowed to go downstairs to spend 30-40 minutes observing those. Absolutely not. Why? I guess they thought something about Rules Are Rules, or some such thing. I don’t know. I never saw the harm. People wanted to go.

And that’s sort of my point. A lot of Canadians feel very strongly about this day and want to participate and they cannot. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate if they could? If they had the day off to attend these ceremonies?

Now, if you’re someone like me and you think about the horrors of war more frequently than mandated by the government, Remembrance Day is a little less important. However, it is still located in a massive holiday void, between (Canadian) Thanksgiving and Christmas. I believe that it’s possible that the orgy of unproductivity that is the 10 days or so between Christmas Eve Eve and January 2nd (for companies that do not close) is, at least in part, a reaction to finally having some time off. A Remembrance Day Holiday would reduce the void to about 6 weeks, which is much more manageable.

 

If we adopted these three holidays, we would have 13 stat holidays (well, the Civic Holiday isn’t technically a stat), one per month and one for the year, as a sort of bonus. I don’t think this is a particularly radical proposal nor do I think it will destroy the economy, though if any provincial government does adopt this proposal, there will no doubt be multiple claims that these three days will lose the province BILLIONS!!! I do think that I would be a happier employee with 13 stat days, and I’m sure most of the rest of us would too. I know I would take more short trips. I think we should do this already. I know of no strong reason not to.

(If you find the above holidays too Christian, in my book I proposed the idea of having a set number of holidays for all, but at optional times. The employer offers employees a choice: the Secular holiday calendar, or the Christian, or the Jewish, or the Muslim, etc. The employees who opt for non-secular holiday schedules then are required to take off the religious holidays instead. This works for the employer because, in theory, the business never has to close.)

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