Ahead of the upcoming provincial election, Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca is promising several benefits for employees and employers in his economic platform.
The platform, announced ahead of the 2022 election campaign, includes providing all Ontario workers with portable drug, dental and mental-health services; matching up to $1,000 in annual retirement savings for long-income earners, including portable savings plans for gig workers; building to a four-day workweek; providing 10 paid sick days for all workers; and replacing the minimum wage with a regional living wage starting at $16 an hour.
In its platform, the Liberal party said around half of working Ontarians don’t have access to basic workplace benefits, such as prescription drugs, dental care, vision care, mental-health care, parental leave and retirement savings. It’s promising “to create a package of high-quality and affordable benefits that everyone can use, including self-employed, gig, contract and creative workers. Employers without comparable benefits would be required to enrol their staff while offering employees the option to opt out. The plan will be portable and able to follow workers between employers.”
The provincial Liberal party also said it would encourage employers to contribute to the cost of the package, with small businesses given an extra two years before auto-enrolment is required. It will also provide a tax credit when employers contribute up to 25 per cent of their employees’ benefits.
“We’ll also make it easier for smaller employers or individual people to join pension plans and provide low-income earners with dollar-for-dollar matching up to $1,000 a year to help save for retirement or a rainy day.”
The Liberals are also promising to launch a four-day workweek demonstration to show its potential. It noted that, while adopting a four-day workweek would be another big change for employees who have been impacted by the new ways of working during the coronavirus pandemic, it could also boost work-life balance.
“We’ll work with businesses and labour groups of all types to design and evaluate the model. If a four-day workweek demonstrates potential in Ontario, people could have many more ‘family day weekends’ — extra time to invest in their well-being and spend with loved ones.”
The platform also promises to provide 10 paid sick days for all employees, which can be used for major life events that require stepping back from work, like a death in the family or pregnancy loss. “We’ll also reintroduce a ban on employers making their workers produce a sick note in order to access the leave they need and give businesses up to $200 a day to compensate for the costs of workers taking more sick days.”
In addition, the Liberal party said it would increase the minimum wage to $16 an hour and develop a living wage structure for different regions of Ontario. If the Liberals are elected, the change will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
“We’ll then consult broadly and develop a living wage structure that factors different wage rates in different regions of the province, recognizing that some areas are more expensive to meet basic needs in than others.”
In a press release, Del Duca said his parents taught him the value of hard work and the right to a fair wage. “In a province as wealthy and healthy as ours, no full-time worker should struggle to make ends meet. The [plan for economic dignity] will provide immediate recovery for workers today and secure new, long-term portable benefits that let all workers save for a good retirement.”