Earlier this month, Ontario premier Doug Ford announced in the provincial legislature that he would be axing Bill 148, an assortment of changes to the Employment Standards Act that the former Liberals put in place this year.
Highlights of the bill included a raise to the minimum wage; a mandate of equal pay for equal work; personal emergency leave of 10 days, the first two of which are paid; and changes to vacation.
“We’re going to make sure we tell the world Ontario is open for business,” Ford said to the legislature. “We’re going to make sure we’re competitive around the world. We’re getting rid of Bill 148. We’re going to make sure we protect the front-line workers, because 60,000 people lost their jobs under Bill 148.”
Ford also said the government would be providing a tax credit to those who earned the minimum wage. “Unlike the Liberals, who jacked their taxes up over $1,000, we’re going to reduce their taxes by $850, putting more money into their pocket. That’s what you call tax relief. That’s what you call supporting minimum wage workers,” said Ford.
The Ontario Federation of Labour condemned Ford’s call to scrap the bill, noting there’s no part of the act that can be scrapped without hurting workers across the province.
“The reforms under Bill 148 improved conditions for workers across the board, updating shamefully outdated labour and employment laws,” said Chris Buckley, president of the organization, in a press release. “For our government to answer the call of big business by hurting the people he has promised to defend is shameful. The workers of this province will not rest until these protections in the workplace are guaranteed.”
On the other side, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce called for the repeal of Bill 148, saying its consultation and implementation were done too quickly and that it undermines the Ontario business community.
Allan Wells, a Toronto-based partner with the law firm Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP, says that while he doesn’t have a lens on what happens in Queen’s Park, he hears the government is reviewing the bill, and notes it sounds like the Ford government will retain some of the legislation.
“I have no idea how much or how little they’re going to retain, but I’d be surprised if they scrapped it all,” says Wells.
The move isn’t unprecedented, he adds, noting Mike Harris’ Conservative government introduced legislation in the 1990s to undo labour legislation that was put in place by the previous New Democratic Party government.
Wells expects the Ford government to take aim at the two paid days of emergency leave, changes to minimum wage and equal pay for equal work.
“When he talks about jobs disappearing, what I’ve heard reported in the media is part-time jobs . . . the change to the part-time law was you have to pay them the same hourly rate as the full time. If that’s what he has on his mind, I assume he’s going to delete that requirement whereby employees all have to be paid at the same hourly rate regardless of their status,” says Wells.