With the newly elected PC majority government, change is the one certainty that Ontario employers can expect. The specifics of what the change will look like have not been spelled out since the PC five-point platform did not touch on areas that directly impact employers. We can nonetheless anticipate that this government will consider initiatives to improve the competitiveness of Ontario businesses, such as the following:
- a return to “a vote in every case” in union certification applications, other than in the construction sector, to limit certification to workplaces where employees show they want it;
- more restricted access to “first agreement arbitration” of collective agreements; and
- more restricted use of penalty certification or its elimination.
Employers can also reasonably expect that the PCs will again take up some or all of the policy initiatives agreed to by the membership at the last general meeting, held in November 2017. We outline these initiatives below.
- Increase minimum wage gradually – While the general minimum wage rate is set to rise to $15 per hour (from $14 per hour) on January 1, 2019, the PCs had promised to stagger the increase over the next four years, raising the rate by $0.25 each year. If implemented, this change would result in a significant cost savings for many employers.
- Recognition of foreign credentials – The PCs had committed to reviewing the appeals process for foreign credential recognition in Ontario with a view to speeding up the process and recognizing more foreign credentials. Both results would benefit Ontario employers who hire skilled workers from abroad.
- New graduate tax credit for high growth firms – The PCs had planned a graduate tax credit for employees who work in Canadian-owned high growth firms to help Ontario start-ups access the talent they need to scale up. Any technology or innovation firm in Ontario with 20 or more employees would qualify provided it earns between $1 to $50 million in annual revenue and is either growing by 20% per year or has secured at least $2 million in private sector investment in the past two years. The tax credit is intended to promote these companies continuing their growth within Ontario.
- Enable not-for-profit employers to join Jointly Sponsored Pension Plans – The PCs had proposed enabling not-for-profit employers to join existing multi-employer pension plans, called Jointly Sponsored Pension Plans, thereby providing their employees with access to a pension. Not-for-profit employers would benefit from a recruitment and retention perspective and would also benefit from the economies of scale in joining a pre-existing plan.
- Institute pension protection – The PCs had undertaken to work with the Federal government to identify ways to ensure that companies do not liquidate pension assets rather than paying pensions, including instituting fines and holding executives personally liable where they intentionally leave a company’s pension plan insolvent.
We will continue to monitor the new government’s announcements and will report on any plans impacting employers.
– With thanks to Ian Attema for his assistance with this article.