Category Archives: Labour

The Ontario election: Why Doug Ford is the enemy of the “little guy”

While campaigning as the voice of the “little guy”, Doug Ford’s PC’s are actually joined at the hip with corporate interests that are pushing a detailed policy agenda that will make life worse for many Ford supporters.

Introduction

A previous post made the argument that the core appeal of Doug Ford populism (much like Trump populism) is a cultural resentment against the professional class as opposed to an economic populism in which working and middle class resentment is directed against the wealthy and large corporations. In other words, the “elites” that Ford rants against are professionals such as bureaucrats, academics, lawyers, journalists and teachers who Ford portrays as “looking down” on average Ontarians and recklessly spending their hard-earned tax dollars.

The previous article also described economic populism – in contrast to Ford/Trump populism –  as a politics that argues that the “elites” who really need to be reigned in are the large corporations whose business practices have directly resulted in an increase in part-time, low wage jobs and the loss of high wage, full-time jobs. This decline in good quality jobs with benefits has hurt many Ford supporters and the article asserts that economic populism embraces a set of policies that would significantly improve the economic lives of Ford voters.

The article also argued that Ford, a rich man’s son like Trump, has no interest in improving the lives of everyday Ontarians and his PC program (such as it is), is evidence of this. Put bluntly, Ford supporters are being duped into voting against their pocketbook interests by being led to believe that they are somehow striking a blow against “elites” by voting for Ford. In fact, the reality is just the opposite. Electing a Ford government would hand the province over to a tightly knit network of corporate interests that already have too much influence and whose policy agenda would hurt non-wealthy Ontarians. This is discussed in detail below.

The reality is that a Doug Ford government would hurt the people who voted it in because it would take its marching orders from corporate interests (the real elites) who have a detailed policy  agenda aimed at enriching themselves and the wealthy at the expense of average, hard-working  Ontarians. Those corporate interests are already talking amongst themselves as to who will fill staff positions in the Doug Ford Premier’s Office, in Ministerial offices (Finance, Health, Education, etc.), and in key positions in the Ontario Public Service. They want their people to implement their policy agenda and this agenda will hurt all but the wealthiest Ontarians.

These corporate interests are named below and parts of their policy agenda are discussed in detail. For years, these corporate interests have been working closely with PC MPP’s and staff at Queen’s Park and have had immense influence on the policy positions the PC caucus took on Liberal government legislation and other policy issues.

It is important to note that the two kinds of populism (Ford/Trump populism on the one hand, and economic populism on the other) have considerable appeal to Ontario voters with broadly similar social values – voters who value being fairly compensated for their hard work and for “playing by the rules”. However, when it comes to voting intentions, those not affiliated with a union (many of which are  rural residents not living in communities with a labour tradition), mistakenly lean towards a Ford-style cultural populism which portrays the elite “villains” essentially as “know-it-all” professional types who “think they are better than me”. In contrast, those with a union affiliation (or who live in urban communities with a labour tradition), lean towards an anti-corporate, economic populism most associated with the NDP.

The previous article further argued that Andrea Horwath’s NDP are in a good position to tap into those who hold to this anti-corporate, economic populism. Recent polls suggest that this is exactly what is happening in the Ontario election with a surge in support for Horwath’s NDP – especially in the economically hard hit regions of the Southwest, North and Hamilton/Niagara which have seen a massive loss of well paying manufacturing and resource jobs  in the past decade.

While the NDP may be pulling even with the PC’s in terms of the popular vote, as of this writing (June 1), the most recent polls still suggest that the Ford PC’s have an excellent chance to win  a plurality of seats and a good chance of forming a majority government. Therefore, the question of what a Doug Ford government would actually do during its time in office needs to be examined closely. Continue reading

Is a Basic Income Guarantee the Right Choice for Ontario?

Ontario has introduced basic income pilot projects in 3 Ontario communities that aim to provide a living wage for all. For those who believe in a living wage, the question is whether or not the approach being tested in the Ontario pilot projects is the best way to achieve this objective.

Introduction

In 2017, Ontario introduced pilot projects related to a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) benefit in three Ontario communities. The Ontario pilot projects apply to both low-income individuals in the workforce and low-income individuals not in the workforce. The objective of the pilot projects is to assess whether there is a simple way of providing a living wage that would lift all Ontarians out of poverty.

Before assessing BIG in the context of both working and non-working low-income Ontarians, here is how the BIG benefit works in the three Ontario pilot programs now underway.

Four thousand low-income Ontario residents in three communities have been offered a spot in the pilot study. Non-working Ontarians receive a Basic Income payment instead of standard social assistance and those working will receive what amounts to a wage supplement. The annual payment is set at $16,989 for single individuals, or $24,027 for married couples. An additional $6,000 per year will be provided to individuals with disabilities. Recipients get to keep any child benefits, dental and pharmaceutical access, and disability supports to which they are already entitled. However, their Basic Income payment shrinks by 50 cents on each dollar of work related earnings, and by 100 cents on the dollar of CPP or EI income.

Eligible participants are those living on a low income (under $34,000 per year if you’re single or under $48,000 per year if you’re a couple). There are no asset tests involved in determining eligibility. Continue reading

The unfinished business of labour law reform in Ontario: A strategy for implementing sectoral bargaining

Workers and community activists protest at Tim Hortons as some Tim’s Ontario franchisees eliminated paid breaks, fully-covered health and dental plans, and other benefits for their workers in response to an increase in the province’s minimum wage.

Introduction

This post on sectoral collective bargaining is the first of a number of posts related to the unfinished business of labour law reform in Ontario that will be published by Canada Fact Check during the run-up to the June 7, Ontario election. Future posts will focus on a range of topics related to employment standards, pensions, health and safety, and the WSIB.

While the post contains a fair amount of detail on the specifics of sectoral collective bargaining, it is first and foremost a political strategy paper. As such, if and when readers feel they’ve had enough of the fine points of the Changing Workplaces Review and Ontario’s Bill 148, they should feel free to scroll down to the “Implementing the strategy” section.

The context

On November 23, the Ontario legislature passed Bill 148, a sweeping revision of Ontario’s employment standards and labour relations legislation. While there was (and continues to be) substantial media coverage of employer opposition to the bill’s provisions to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr., there was far less coverage of other aspects of the bill, particularly the labour relations portion. In part, this is because labour relations is a somewhat more abstract concept than employment standards. Employment standards sets out a basic floor for all workers in areas such as wages, overtime, and vacation time. In contrast, Ontario’s Labour Relations Act sets out the rules by which employers and unions relate to each other including the initial certification process to form a union as well as the rules related to subsequent collective bargaining – including strikes. These rules can be highly technical and it was predictable that the debate over options to amend the Ontario Labour Relations Act would be pretty much ignored by the media.

Most of the changes in Bill 148 (albeit not the minimum wage increase) were rooted in recommendations contained in the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review, a two-year effort led by co-commissioners, Michael Mitchell and John Murray. Mitchell was a long time union-side labour lawyer while Murray represented the management side on the review.

The purpose of this post is to highlight a sub-set of labour relations options the Changing Workplaces Review labelled “broader-based bargaining”. While the Review’s discussion of these options was largely ignored by the media, behind the scenes unions, employer associations, academics, and lawyers representing both management and labour, engaged in an intense debate over the pros and cons of broader-based bargaining options with unions  (to varying degrees) endorsing the concept and employer groups unanimously opposing it.

One of the broader-based bargaining options strongly endorsed by the final report of the Review involved measures making it easier for unions to organize franchise operations. It is the author’s opinion that the Ontario Government’s refusal to include this very modest proposal in Bill 148 was a serious mistake and a completely unnecessary capitulation by the Wynne government to employer lobby groups opposing the measure. The franchise proposal is discussed in detail later in this post but the long-term implications of not implementing the Commissioners’ franchise recommendation is articulated nicely in a January 11, Star Op-ed by Ontario Steelworker head, Marty Warren. In addition to allowing for greater unionization of franchise employees as Warren suggests, the Commissioners’ franchise recommendation could have served as an effective “bridge” to a more ambitious broader-based bargaining regime.

But before addressing the specific broader-based bargaining options discussed in the Changing Workplaces interim and final reports and why such regimes are important, some context is in order.

Continue reading

Ontario NDP Bill on Domestic Violence Gets Support of Minister, Unions

Ontario Morning News Round-up and Legislative  Agenda for Nov. 28.

Ontario News Round-Up

  • NDP MPP Peggy Sattler seems to have the support of Ontario Labour Minister Dennis Flynn for her Bill 26. The bill was reffered to the Ontario legislature’s Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly after receiving approval at Second Reading on October 20.   Bill 26 would amend both the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act to include up to 10 days of paid leave and accommodation for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Federation of Labour is directing the 54 unions under its umbrella to negotiate paid leave for survivors of domestic and sexual violence in all collective agreements

  • The Ontario Government has announced that Howard Sapers, Canada’s correctional investigator, will be taking on the job of reforming Ontario’s troubled corrections system. On Jan. 2, Mr. Sapers will start as an independent adviser to the provincial government tasked with leading an external review of segregation policies.
  • The debate continues over the best way to implement toll roads in Toronto. Most experts agree that that a dynamic pricing model puts a fairer price on the road, which is more in demand at certain times of day than others. However, Toronto Mayor John Tory seems to favour a flat, $2 toll.

Ontario Op-Eds and Editorials

  • Martin Regg Cohn takes a shot at Provincial Conservatives for opposing road tolls when their former leader (John Tory), has come out for them.
  • Christina Blizzard says that there is a warning to the provincial Liberals in the fact that 127 new private schools have opened since 2015 — many of them faith-based.
  • David Reevely echoes Cohn in criticizing Patrick Brown’s Conservatives for their opposition to road tolls.

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Search up-to-date Canada Fact Check databases for the full text, approval status, committee hearings and other details of all Ontario bills from the current session here!___________________________________________________________________________________

Projected Ontario Legislative Business for Friday, Nov. 28

Main Chamber Business

10:45 a.m. – Question Period. Watch Live!

1:30 p.m. – Second Reading of Bill 70, An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact and amend various statutes. Watch Live!

Ontario Legislature Committee meetings

2:00 p.m. – The Standing Committee on General Government will meet to discuss Bill 45, An Act to amend certain Acts with respect to provincial elections.

2:00 p. m. – The Standing Committee on Social Policy will meet to consider Bill 7, An Act to amend or repeal various Acts with respect to housing and planning. A full list of presenters is here. Watch Live!

Federal and Ontario News Round-up for Oct. 6

Federal News Round-up

In the House, Wednesday, the Liberal government promised new pay-equity legislation that will put the onus on employers in federally regulated industries (representing roughly 15% of the workforce) to ensure men and women are paid equally for work of equal value.

But the government is being criticized by labour groups for a timeline that won’t see the legislation tabled until 2018.

The Liberals’ approach will reverse the radical overhaul of pay equity the previous Conservative government took with the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act, which critics argued effectively killed workers’ rights for equal pay for work of equal value.

Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said Wednesday the legislation will take a “proactive” approach that’s aimed at helping employers comply with the law rather than forcing employees to lodge complaints about discriminatory wages.

Such complaints in the past have resulted in costly legal battles that are “burdensome, costly and unfair to workers,” she said.

The government intends to draw on the recommendations released in June of the special parliamentary committee on pay equity, as well as consultations it plans with experts and stakeholders for reforms that will force employers to review their compensation systems for gender-based wage disparities and fix them.

Ontario News Round-up

Ontario is undertaking a comprehensive review of how the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) operates and its role in the province’s land-use planning system.

According to the government, possible changes to the OMB may include:

  • Allowing for more meaningful and affordable public participation
  • Giving more weight to local and provincial decisions and support alternative ways to settle disputes
  • Bringing fewer municipal and provincial decisions to the OMB
  • Supporting clearer and more predictable decision making

In March, 40 municipalities passed motions calling for major changes to the land use tribunal.

At the announcement of the review, Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro said the government is considering giving more deference on decision-making to local councils.

That would make it harder for developers to go around municipal decisions and appeal to the OMB to intervene.

Ontarians wishing to participate in the consultation may submit comments online or in person at one of the town hall meetings being held across the province this fall. A consultation paper detailing the issues under review can be found here.

The deadline for providing online feedback is December 19, 2016.

The fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage in Ontario

photo $15 macondlad's

On April 4, 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law which will significantly increase the minimum wage in New York  from the current rate of $9, to $15. The remarkable New York $15/hr. minimum wage victory contains many lessons for Canadian minimum wage activists.

 

On April 15, thousands of fast-food workers in more than 200 U.S. cities, and thousands more workers in other countries, including Canada, participated in a global show of force in support of a $15-per-hour minimum wage and mandatory paid sick days.

In the U. S., the $15 minimum wage campaign has made remarkable legislative gains in the past two years. In 2015, policymakers in 14 cities, counties and states approved $15 minimum wage laws including impressive legislative breakthroughs at the state level in New York and California.

In contrast with the recent U.S. experience, actual legislative victories in Canada on the minimum wage file have been extremely modest. Alberta’s general minimum wage increased to $11.20 from $10.20 per hour on October 1, 2015 and Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government campaigned on a pledge to hike Alberta’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018. The Notley campaign plank and the campaign promise by the federal NDP to re-instate a federal minimum wage and increase it to $15 per hour by 2019 are certainly encouraging as is Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s recent support for a $15/hr. minimum wage in Ontario. Continue reading

What you need to know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

15-10-11 TPP

Current rules under the North American free-trade agreement (NAFTA) require that 62.5 per cent of auto parts come from North America in order to avoid tariffs. Under the TPP, content requirements are lower and this may cost Canadian jobs. A 45-per-cent level will be  required to be considered duty-free for some parts and 40 per cent for other components.

 

 

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ?

Canada, U.S. and Mexico have long had special access to each other’s markets under NAFTA.

Instead of a group of three as under NAFTA, twelve countries would share in the advantages of TPP membership. Broadly speaking, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is similar to NAFTA in that it involves pledges to reduce or eliminate tariffs on a wide range of goods and services. It also sets out rules for resolving disputes and provides a modest attempt to set some minimum employment standards in the twelve member countries.

Could anything stop the implementation of the TPP?

The TPP deal still requires the approval of the U.S. Congress and many Democrats and some Republicans are expressing strong reservations about the deal.

For example, just days after the signing, leading Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she couldn’t support the TPP. Continue reading