Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On June 1, 2017, the government introduced Bill 148 in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and the Bill passed unanimously on first reading. The Bill contains important amendments to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 and Ontario’s Labour Relations Act 1995.1
The Legislative Assembly, by unanimous vote, passed the first reading of the bill, and referred it to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for review.2 The Committee has scheduled dates in the summer for that review on June 22 (Toronto – Queen’s Park Room 151); July 10-14 (public input in Thunder Bay; North Bay; Ottawa; Kingston; Windsor-Essex) and 17-21 (public input in London; Kitchener-Waterloo; Niagara; Hamilton; Toronto) and August 21-25 (locations to be announced). The Committee has set a deadline of 10:00 a.m. on July 4 for confirmation to the Clerk of the Committee by any member of the public who wishes to make an oral presentation on Bill 148 during the week of July 10 (and by 10:00 a.m. on July 10 for oral presentations during the week of July 17). Speakers may reserve a time on a “first come/first served” basis, and must register with the Clerk of the Committee (Eric Rennie) by phone (416-325-3506), fax (416-352-3505) or email at email@example.com. Any member of the public also may send a written submission to the Clerk by 5:30 p.m. on July 21 (Room 1405, Whitney Block, Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON M7A 1A2).
The scheduled Committee meetings provide an opportunity for employers to engage in further advocacy and to influence the provisions of Bill 148 before the Bill is finalized into law. However, given the Liberal majority in the Ontario government, the changes to Bill 148, if any, will likely focus on smaller details, not on the major themes of the legislation.
The government has announced that it will engage in a “broad consultation process” for feedback from “a wide variety of stakeholders” on Bill 148. It is not clear whether this “broad consultation process” will be limited to The Standing Committee and the confirmed summer dates, or whether the government has something more in mind (e.g., further Committee review after the second reading of Bill 148). Our expectation is that these summer meetings will constitute the “broad consultation process” (and certainly that is the safer assumption for any employer that wishes to make any oral or written submissions on any aspect of Bill 148).
The Legislative Assembly is now in summer recess from June 3 to September 8, 2017. Given that most of the proposed ESA amendments are scheduled to be effective January 1, 2018, it can be expected that the Ontario government will move quickly to a second reading and a third reading of Bill 148, and Royal Assent to finalize the Bill, in the September/October timeframe.
1 For a summary of these important amendments, please see George Vassos, Canada: Ontario Government's Proposed Legislation to "Create Fairer and Better Workplaces" Includes $15 Minimum Wage and Equal Pay for Part-Time and Full-Time Workers, Littler Insight (May 31, 2017).
2 In Ontario, bills typically go through three “Readings” and Royal Assent before becoming law. When a Bill is introduced in the Legislative Assembly, it is called a “First Reading.” The objectives of the bill are explained and the members of the Assembly decide whether to accept the bill for future debate. If accepted, it is scheduled for debate for Second Reading. During Second Reading, the principles of the bill are debated and then the Assembly votes on whether to allow the bill to proceed to Third Reading. Prior to Third Reading, the bill is often referred by the Assembly to a Standing Committee for review and public input (and potential recommendations for amendments). (In the case of Bill 148, the Assembly actually referred the Bill to the Standing Committee after First Reading). After review by the Committee, the bill is sent back to the Assembly for final debate in the Third Reading. Once final debate is completed, a final vote is taken. If passed, the bill is then presented to the Ontario Lieutenant Governor for “Royal Assent” because the Lieutenant Governor must agree to the bill on behalf of the Queen of England (very colonial – there is no Senate in Ontario!). The bill specifies whether the law is effective on Royal Assent or on a specified date after Royal Assent.