Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

The race is on to determine who will represent Cambridge residents for the next term at City Hall.

 

Although the municipal election will be held Oct. 24, advanced voting begins Oct. 6 providing many of those seeking a seat on City Council a limited amount of time to garner support in their quest to make a difference in how our community remains a great place to live and do business.

 

“I think every level of government is important to business,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “There are federal, provincial, and municipal regulations that mitigate the growth of business and business owners need to pay very close attention to every level of government and participate by voting or campaigning, or supporting, or whatever they need to do to stabilize their business within the confines of Canadian democracy.”

 

 

In Cambridge, three new councillors will be seated at the table with the potential for several others if the incumbents fail to retain their positions. But whether the prospect of massive change around the council table is enough to sway more residents to vote remains uncertain since traditionally, municipal elections garner a lower voter turnout than provincial or federal races. In the last municipal race in 2018, voter turnout in Cambridge was 32.4% compared to the provincial average of 38.30%. Compare this to the recent provincial election which experienced a voter turnout of about 43.5%, one of the lowest in decades.

 

“Media tend to focus on national or provincial elections, and of course those are organized by political parties who are able to mobilize an enormous amount of activity and intention because they can spend a great deal of money and voters can easily identify who the political operatives are,” explains Dr. Dennis Pilon, Associate Professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies – Department of Political Science at York University. “When you look at it from the point of view from the voters, the challenge they face is that it’s very difficult to get informed about what’s really at stake. For voters to work out what each individual (municipal) candidate represents without a party label is somewhat challenging.”

 

As well, Dr. Pilon is candid when he talks about the legislative controls at the municipal level, noting even their ability to determine land uses can be circumvented by developers through the Ontario Municipal Board process.

 

“When we look at how the founders of our country and current federal and provincial politicians look at local government, they deliberately made it the weakest level of government,” he says. “It has very little independent power and has almost no fundraising capacity and is completely controlled by the provincial governments.”

 

Despite that, Greg notes the fact municipal governments are responsible for many elements –waste collection, police, fire service, roads, water and sewer, snow removal – that provide business owners with the ability to operate their businesses.

 

“They make the community safe and habitable, so the people you need to run your business want to live in your community,” he says. “I think businesses should encourage their employees to get out and vote because local government is the one level of government that truly affects their everyday lives.”

 

But inspiring people to vote in a municipal election can be difficult.

 

“It’s not that people don’t care and are not passionate,” says Dr. Pilon. “But often it takes a huge issue to catalyze the public and give them a focus for their concerns.”

 

For example, he says the proposed construction of the controversial Spadina Expressway in Toronto in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and more recently the amalgamation plans outlined in former Ontario premier Mike Harris’ ‘Common Sense Revolution’ in 1995 mobilized an enormous amount of people.

 

“You have to have a big issue that’s going to affect the majority of people, and thankfully, we don’t have those big issues,” says Greg, adding even the approval of the LRT didn’t garner as much concern as expected. “When there are those neighbourhood issues, they generally don’t drive people to the polls.”

 

Dr. Pilon agrees and notes that even the current housing and homelessness issues facing most communities is likely not enough to inspire more people to vote.

 

“Historically, when we look over the 20th century, the market has had an uneven ability to respond to housing needs again and again. It’s not a new problem and not one that municipalities have the finances to deal with so there you’ve got this mismatch,” he says, adding it’s a difficult issue for local candidates to succeed with at the ballot box. “There will be no accountability on the issue because there’s very little that municipalities can do.”

 

Dr. Pilon says ‘dramatic events’ that rise above the ‘noise’ are needed to mobilize voters at the local level, which is difficult due in part to media cutbacks.

 

“A lot of local newspapers have taken a hit over the past decade, so people aren’t receiving as much local council coverage and that makes it difficult for them to find out what’s going on,” he says.

 

To encourage more voter participation, Dr. Pilon recommends several potential changes including allowing the formation of ‘slate’ parties in Ontario, similar in nature to what is allowed Vancouver, B.C., as well as reforming campaign finance laws to prevent developers from having too much ‘pull’.

 

“Another reform that would make a big difference is stop reducing the size of councils,” he says, referring to Premier Doug Ford’s reduction of wards in Toronto. “What kind of impact is that going to have on representation?”

 

In terms of representation, Greg says a party system is not the answer at the municipal level.

 

“People are there representing their neighbourhoods and community, their friends and family and the businesses they shop in,” he says, adding a party system doesn’t lend itself to this type of scenario and that leaving their own political ‘baggage at the door’ is key for a successful council candidate.

 

“You’re not looking for someone with a platform of ideas as much as someone who has leadership and communication skills and can deliver on the interest of the neighbourhood. You want an individual who is compassionate and understanding and can also communicate well to upper levels of government to make sure that the community’s broader needs that may relate to provincial or federal issues are understood and addressed as best they possibly can.”

 

To learn more about the 2022 Municipal Election, visit the City of Cambridge.

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The pain at the pumps consumers continue to feel as prices climb above $2 a litre won’t be dissipating anytime soon, warns Dan McTeague, President of Canadians for Affordable Energy.

 

“The problem is a shortage of oil,” says the former Liberal MP and long-time energy ‘watchdog’.

 

He says Russian President Vladimir Putin knows the world is vulnerable right now and has made it geopolitical and weaponized oil supplies in Europe through the invasion of the Ukraine, which has only magnified the issues already facing the other two major energy links in the world – namely Canada and the U.S. and OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries).

 

“We’ve completely destroyed the Canada/U.S. relationship,” says Dan, referring to the political decision to ‘kill’ proposed pipelines in North America and notes that OPEC, which cut oil production to keep prices at a certain level, is looking towards Asia and markets of the future.

 

As well, factor in a slowdown of world economies during the two years of the pandemic which resulted in a decrease in the demand for oil, resulting in oil companies putting a stop on drilling for new supplies or slowed, or even stopped, some refineries. Now, these same companies continue to have a tough time ramping up production to keep pace with demand.

 

It’s a dire situation, which Dan says he discussed in the fall of 2021 in an interview with Driving.ca, long before Russia launched its Ukrainian invasion. In the article, one of the things he points to is the introduction of the Trudeau government’s Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) which he bluntly referred to as ‘another tax dressed up as a clean-air credit’ that is going to cost average Canadians even more at the pumps. The CFS is set to be introduced Dec. 1 of 2022.

 

Taxes, of course, remain one of the largest components of fuel prices in Canada accounting for at least 34% of the average pump price.

 

Breakdown of gas taxes in Ontario:

  • Federal excise tax - 10 cents/ per litre
  • Federal carbon tax - 11.1 cents/ per litre
  • Ontario tax - 14.7 cents/ per litre
  • GST/HST - 22.9 cents/ per litre.

This translates into a total amount of 58.6 cents/per litre worth of taxes in Ontario, on top of the base price of which near the end of May was 139.6 cents/ per litre. On average, this is in line with many provinces, except for Alberta which is 29 cents/per litre and Manitoba at 43.8 cents/per litre. Overall, Canadians are paying an average of 51.2 cents/per litre of taxes.

 

But is there a solution? Ideally, supply and demand would have to become more balanced which could be accomplished in several ways:

  • The war in Ukraine ends and countries begin buying Russian oil again;
  • OPEC ramps up oil production;
  • Other oil producers increase production;
  • People start driving less;
  • Society as a whole embraces greener energy solutions that don’t involve oil.

 

Dan believes the world is still a few decades away from turning fully away from oil and natural gas.

 

“We’ve got to get real about building pipelines again,” he says, adding we need to be more realistic when it comes to our current energy needs.

 

He says as it stands, there is not much business operators can do as they continue to deal with disrupted supply chains and expenses, especially around transportation costs.

 

“I think food costs are the next shoe to drop because of course fuel affordability is gone, and with it now comes everything else,” says Dan.

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On April 11, 2022, Bill 88 – Ontario’s Working for Workers Act, 2022 – received Royal Assent and became law.  We reviewed this new legislative change with local legal experts, Hina Ghaus and Tushar Anandasagar, of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP.

 

“We discussed the proposed legislation, with a specific focus on workplace electronic monitoring policies, in a previous blog post.  At that stage, the legislation was still in draft form.  For the final version, we wanted to provide the members with an up-to-date overview of what actually applies,” says Tushar.

 

Here are the key takeaways:

 

Employers: “Electronic Monitoring Policy”

 

Bill 88 introduced new provisions into the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), which require all employers who employ 25 or more employees to have a written policy in place on electronic monitoring of employees.

 

The electronic monitoring policy must include:

  • information on whether the employer electronically monitors employees and if so,
  • a description of how and in what circumstances the employer may electronically monitor employees,
  • the purposes for which information obtained through electronic monitoring may be used by the employer;
  • the date the policy was prepared and the date any changes were made to the policy; as well as
  • any other information as may be prescribed by law in the future.

According to Hina, time is of the essence: “There are 3 key dates to keep in mind for the first year.  Employers who had 25 or more employees on January 1, 2022 must have this policy in place by October 11, 2022, and provide a written copy of the policy to existing employees by November 10, 2022.  In subsequent years, any employer who has 25 or more employees on January 1 of any year, must have a policy in place by March 1 of that year.”

 

“There are more requirements to consider regarding ongoing compliance, including when you will need to deliver a copy of the policy (once finalized) to your staff,” says Tushar.  “Employers must provide a written copy of the policy to all employees by no later than 30 days from the day the employer is required to have the policy in place, or for new employees, within 30 days of their joining date.”

 

There are additional wrinkles to consider for those businesses that utilize temporary help agency employees.  “For “assignment employees” (the ESA term for temporary help agency employees), they need to receive a copy of the policy within 24 hours of the start of the assignment, or within 30 days from the day the employer is required to have the policy in place, whichever is later,” says Hina.

 

During our last overview of the draft Bill 88, there was ongoing debate about this legislation and how it would be enforced.

 

According to Tushar, the “enforcement” mechanisms under the ESA are quite limited:  “Yes – the ESA contains several provisions which allow an employee to file a ‘complaint’ about this policy compliance requirement – but the grounds upon which the complaint can be based are very limited.  For instance, the ESA allows an employee to complain about whether a copy of the policy was provided in a timely manner, or not.”

 

Notably, there is no prohibition under the ESA which prevents an employer from engaging in electronic monitoring of one form or another. In fact, it is explicitly stated in the legislation that these requirements do not affect or limit an employer’s ability to use the information obtained through electronic monitoring of employees.

 

“As expected, there is nothing under Bill 88 which restricts an employer’s ability to monitor, or use the information obtained through monitoring, nor does it create a statutory “right to privacy” for employees,” says Hina. “There is no actual definition of ‘electronic monitoring’ under the legislation, although it is still early, and we could see clarification of this aspect of the law as we get closer to October 11, 2022.”

 

Tushar points out that the standard rules may not affect all employers the same way and pointed to the unique context of unionized workplaces.

 

“The ESA is only part of the picture. For many workplaces – notably unionized settings, a notable caveat applies where the parties to a collective agreement have negotiated language that permits or prohibits certain forms of electronic monitoring (in some cases referred to as a ‘surveillance’ clause),” he says.  “There is an extensive body of unionized case law that deals with the “reasonableness” of employee monitoring / surveillance – and that needs to be balanced with this new policy requirement.  We are actively assisting union sector employers with managing this issue.”

 

Finally, Hina notes that Bill 88 was just passed, and more is likely to be forthcoming from the province as we near October 11.

 

“We don’t have any codes of practice, guidelines or regulations (yet) on this new legislative requirement.  As with the ‘Disconnecting from Work’ policy compliance requirement, we may see the province publishing more on this issue over the coming months,” she says.

 

For the time being, Hina, Tushar and the rest of the team at Gowling WLG continue to diligently sift through the latest legislative changes. For further information, please feel free to contact Tushar at [email protected] and/or Hina at [email protected].

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The collective power of the Chamber movement to assist businesses succeed was front and centre at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s recent AGM and Convention.

 

Approximately 150 delegates, the majority representing Chambers and Board of Trades from across the province, gathered at the Pearson Convention Centre April 28-May 1 in Brampton to network, hear from Ontario political leaders, and debate policy issues to assist them in their advocacy work with government on behalf of businesses.

 

“Ensuring businesses have the legislative backing and supports they need to succeed and prosper plays an important role for all Chambers and Boards of Trade,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher, who led a strategy session on delivering Chamber services across a diverse membership base and was joined at the event by in-coming Chamber Board Chair Kristen Danson. “The conference is a great place to share new ideas and connect with other Chamber leaders from around the province.”

 

This was the first in-person AGM the OCC has held since the pandemic and featured appearances by the Ontario leaders of the Liberals (Steven Del Duca), NDP (Andrea Horwath) and Green (Mike Schreiner), as well as the Hon. Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board of Ontario. All four spoke about the strength and importance of the business community and what their parties can do to help our economy.

 

Also, Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty was on hand to offer an update on the Chamber network from a national perspective.

 

“It’s great for the Chamber network to hear from all sides of the political spectrum,” says Greg, noting potential policy resolutions are formulated from a wide range of issues and concerns.

 

This year, 34 resolutions were up for debate on a variety of topics ranging from improving supports to employers, to the creation of a construction strategy for tiny homes.

 

The Cambridge Chamber’s policy calling for the creation of a ‘backstop’ for the implementation of mandated workplace vaccination policies was among 32 that received approval from delegates. The approved policy calls for the Ministry of Labour to include elements within the articles of the Occupational Health & Safety Act to provide protection against discriminatory legal actions aimed at businesses that wish to implement such a policy.

 

“It’s important that businesses have the protections they need in order to operate in the manner which they feel works best for them,” says Greg.

 

The approved policies now become part of the OCC policy ‘playbook’ in its efforts to advocate for change with provincial and federal levels of government.

 

Besides adopting policies, the conference wrapped up with an awards ceremony to recognize the achievements of Chambers and Boards of Trades.

 

The Cambridge Chamber, in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, was presented with the Chair’s Award for Innovative Program or Service to recognize the success of their rapid screening kits program which has been adopted by Chambers provincewide. Since April of 2021, the program has resulted in the distribution of more than one million kits to more than 7,500 businesses throughout Waterloo Region.

 

“This program has made a huge difference to thousands of businesses in our region, and we couldn’t be more pleased,” says Greg.

 

For more information about the kits, visit https://chambercheck.ca.

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While the recent unveiling of a national child-care deal should come as welcome news to many business owners facing labour issues, child-care experts say there are still some important issues that will need to be addressed pertaining to the new plan.

 

“The intention is really good, but we just have to figure out what this will look like along the way,” says Jaime Jacomen, Leader of Operational Excellence at YMCA of Three Rivers, referring to the deal which aims to have $10-a-day childcare in place by September of 2025.

 

The plan, which affects licensed child-care centres and licensed home care providers only, was solidified at the end of March when the Ontario government became the last to sign on resulting in fees reduced up to 25% to a minimum of $12 a day starting April 1. 

 

Rebates are also to be issued to parents of children aged five and under starting in May retroactively to April 1 and further reductions are on tap leading to the 2025 ‘goal’. The federal government has also invested an additional $2.9 billion for a sixth year of the agreement.

 

“I see this $10-a-day plan as a good starting point in helping working parents, but is it enough?” asks Tina Kharian, owner of Gravity Hair Design in Cambridge. “It’s hard to say as we also need to ensure enough daycare spots are available and qualified providers for all families.”

 

The deal outlines the creation of 86,000 child-care spaces (including more than 15,000 spaces already in place since 2019), representing a mix of for-profit and not-for-profit.

While she welcomes the extra spaces, Jaime admits she wonders where they will be created.

 

“It’s a bigger process,” she says, noting increasing child-care access comes along with new school builds.

 

Also, Jaime says the wage plan set out in the deal – which will see minimum-wage floors for child-care workers of $18 an hour and $20 an hour for supervisors, plus an additional $1 an hour until the floor hits $25 an hour – won’t be enough.


“Many early childhood educators are making over that already, so that’s not any additional incentive,” she says. “The government seems to be wanting to address the affordability issue and access for families. But in order to have all of that access, you need to build that early childhood education workforce.”


However, Jaime remains optimistic and says the YMCA’s provincial body has been engaged with the Province about this issue for some time.


“We do think this is something that needs to happen,” she says.


Tina agrees and says a national child-care system is vital for our economy to fully recover.


“As business owners, we should be welcoming this because having affordable, quality daycare for all families will increase labour force participation, especially in our business (hair salon) since most stylists are women,” she says.


The Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 report The She-Covery Project: Confronting the Gendered Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario outlined a series of recommendations to offset both the immediate and longer-term challenges women face. Among these were calls for a short-term child-care strategy to weather the pandemic and longer-term reforms to improve accessibility and affordability.


“We risk turning back the clock on decades of progress if we do not take a hard look at the challenges facing women and plan for recovery with women at the table and a gender and diversity lens on strategies, programs and policies,” said Dr. Wendy Cukier, Diversity Institute Founder and Academic Director of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub in the report.

 

Here's what parents can expect in the coming months:

  • As of April 1, 2022, families with children five years old and younger in participating licensed childcare centres, including licensed home care, will see fees reduced up to 25 per cent to a minimum of $12 per day.
  • Rebates, retroactive to April 1, will be issued automatically starting in May. The rebate is in place to account for child-care operators that may need extra time to readjust their fees. 
  • In December 2022, fees will be reduced further to about 50% on average.

The deal outlines a plan to further slash rates in the coming years. Here's what the longer-term outlook includes:

  • In September 2024 fees will be reduced even further.
  • A final reduction in September 2025 will bring fees down to an average of $10 per day.
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Ontario’s economic outlook remains uncertain for businesses and households as labour shortages, high energy costs, supply chain disruptions, and inflation continue to hit home. Ontario's business community needs a clear and predictable path forward to support economic recovery and growth. 

 

In preparation of the budget’s release, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released the 2022 Ontario budget submission with recommendations to the Government of Ontario to ensure a strong and sustainable recovery. 

 

“In the upcoming budget, we would like to see the government direct sufficient resources towards the hardest-hit sectors, while laying the groundwork for a sustainable and inclusive economy,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “The submission notes that the crisis has created new problems and exacerbated pre-existing ones. Government must work to resolve these longstanding issues to ensure Ontario remains an attractive destination to start and grow businesses.”

 

OCC’s 2022 provincial budget submission provides recommendations to the Government of Ontario under the following categories: Economic Recovery; Resilient Communities; and Modernizing Regulation and Fiscal Policy.

 

Some key highlights include proposals to:  

  • Support entrepreneurship and small business growth with targeted business supports and access to public sector procurement.
  • Strengthen Ontario’s workforce by boosting immigration and training programs.
  • Make housing more affordable through increased supply and regulatory reforms.
  • Advance regional transportation and broadband infrastructure projects.
  • Bolster our health care system and address major backlogs in diagnostics and cancer screenings. 
  • Seize Ontario’s opportunity to lead in the global green economy. 
  • Remove barriers to interprovincial trade and labour mobility.

 

“The pandemic has made it clear that we cannot have a strong business community without a resilient health care system. Budget 2022 needs to focus on immediate measures that support business predictability and competitiveness while building health care capacity to withstand current and future challenges,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

 

The recommendations outlined in the OCC’s budget submission were developed together with businesses, associations, post-secondary institutions, and the Ontario Chamber Network.   

 

Read the submission: https://bit.ly/3usBZa9

 

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Canada is facing a competitiveness problem. Inflation, supply chain constraints, and labour shortages risk undermining a swift and robust economic recovery. Meanwhile, recent domestic and international events have renewed the spotlight on energy security and affordability.  

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has released the 2022 Federal Budget Submission focused on public policies that increase Canada’s economic resilience to ongoing and future threats. 

 

“Businesses across Waterloo Region are continuing to feel the effect of the pandemic,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.  “Budget 2022 must lay the groundwork for a strong, inclusive recovery with policies that support the sectors and demographics hardest hit by the pandemic, building the infrastructure and workforce of the future, and modernizing regulation to ensure Canada can attract investment and nurture entrepreneurship.” 

 

Some key highlights from the budget submission include recommendations for the Government of Canada to: 

  • Promote Canada’s energy sector on the global stage and recognize nuclear power as a clean and necessary energy resource in the fight against climate change. 
  • Expand immigration and express entry of skilled workers to address labour shortages.  
  • Increase the Canada Health Transfer Payment to meet the current and future pressures facing Ontario’s health-care system.
  • Modernize transportation infrastructure to address bottlenecks along supply chains and facilitate the decarbonization of the transportation sector.
  • Reform the federal tax system to attract foreign direct investment, drive domestic business growth and innovation. 
  • Develop a sustainable path to reduce the federal debt-to-GDP ratio and wind down other pandemic-related supports to ensure long-term fiscal balance and the capacity to address future economic shocks. 

The OCC’s 2022 Ontario Economic Report found that a staggering 62% of sectors face labour shortages in Ontario and expect to continue facing them over the next year. Together with supply chain disruptions, these shortages impact the cost of living, service delivery, and product availability. 

 

“As the indispensable partner of business, we call on the government to resolve long-standing structural issues, including barriers to interprovincial trade and skilled labour shortages, to drive entrepreneurship, investment and long-term economic growth,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC. 

 

The recommendations outlined in the budget submission were developed together with businesses, associations, post-secondary institutions, chambers of commerce, and boards of trade from across the province.  

 

See budget recommendations: http://bit.ly/3uRp9Bl

 

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The next Ontario election maybe three months away, but it’s more than clear political leaders have already begun to jockey for position as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift and numerous announcements pertaining to proposed legislative changes surface.

 

Whether it is promising more money for transit projects or getting rid of licence plate sticker fees, these types of political announcements says Darrell Kennedy, a political science instructor at Conestoga College’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies, are part of our democratic process.

 

“They (politicians) are vying for our votes,” he says, adding this type of tactic is often framed in a negative way. “I tell my students we should be more concerned about holding them to their promises as opposed to why they are making promises.”

 

When it comes to the politics leading up to the June 2 election, Darrell says the key issues surrounding the campaign may hold a few surprises.

 

“I think there is a lot of noise surrounding this election and I think much of that noise involves COVID-19,” he says. “However, we underestimate how forward-thinking people are. They are tired of talking about COVID-19, and they want a way out.”

 

Darrell says despite varying opinions regarding how Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives approached the pandemic, the electorate – as well as those in businesses impacted by it – have already made up their minds over the course of the last two years regarding this issue.

 

“I don’t think this election is going to be swayed either way on what your opinion is of how Doug Ford handled COVID-19,” he says, noting he expects it will still be used as a ‘weapon’ by the other parties. “I think it is going to be a war of attrition and as we approach June, we are going to see the Ford government use Ontario’s opening up as a way to take away votes from the other parties.”

 

Darrell says the opposition parties could almost be classified as ‘victims’ of their government position during the last two years because they have an obligation to oppose the government and have done just that – referring to COVID-19 as a political ‘hot potato’. 

 

“I think the stars of have kind of aligned for the PCs in that when this election occurs in the next three months, they are going to be able to offer things to voters,” he says. “I think the other parties right now only have a few tools in their toolbox they can use to attack Doug Ford and a lot of it is in the past.”

 

Darrell says there are many issues political contenders could be focusing on, noting that housing is a key concern for his students – most aged 18 to 25 - as opposed to COVID-19 or even the environment.

 

“They grew up with it,” he says, referring to concerns surrounding climate change. “A lot of the younger generation have a fear about not being able to own a house or even having adequate shelter.”

 

The Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force, which recently outlined more than 50 recommendations in a report, says housing prices have nearly tripled in the last decade in Ontario. According to the report, the average house price in this province at the end of 2021 was $923,000 compared to $329,000 10 years ago. The task force has called for the construction of 1.5 million homes in the next 10 years.

 

“I hope housing is the issue people latch on to because it affects business as well,” says Darrell. “If you can’t afford the house you are living in you can’t afford to spend money in the community you are living in.”

 

To be successful in the election, he recommends Ontario’s political leaders focus on housing and childcare and other ‘regular’ issues that may have been brushed aside during the pandemic but are very important to young families.

 

But just as important, Darrell says the party that does not spend the campaign ‘demonizing’ the others in the media could be very successful.

 

“I think people are starting to get a little bit more wary of how the media portrays different groups and we all have a sense of which parties they may lean towards,” he says. “I think we kind of underestimate the electorates’ knowledge of the difference between the parties.”

 

Darrell says forward thinking is the best tactic for a successful political leader to use.

 

“Ontario has a lot of things it needs to do better and solve,” he says. “But I think the party that focuses more on those sorts of things as opposed to how COVID-19 was handled is going to turn out to be the winner.”

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Proposed provincial legislation requiring employers to tell their employees if, and how, they are being electronically monitored may prove to be both challenging and beneficial for business owners, say local legal experts Hina Ghaus and Tushar Anandasagar, of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP.

 

The proposed legislation – announced February 28, 2022 – would require employers with 25 or more employees, as of January 1 of any given year, to implement a written ‘Electronic Monitoring Policy’ for their employees. Assuming the legislation is passed in its current form, the policy would require an employer to disclose whether it electronically monitors its employees.  If so, the employer would then have to outline how it monitors employees, the purpose(s) of such monitoring, and how the information may be used.

 

“Whether you are a delivery person being followed by GPS, a construction worker using a company phone, or an office worker logging in from home, you deserve to know if and how you are being tracked,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development in a press release. 

 

If approved, Ontario will be the first province to implement this type of policy requirement. The legislation has passed first reading and is currently in front of the Standing Committee on Social Policy as of March 7, 2022.

 

“The draft legislation is built around privacy best practices,” says Hina. 

 

While initial responses to the draft legislation suggested that the proposed laws were decidedly “pro-employee”, Hina says the legislature’s intention appears to be more balanced.

 

“This seems to be about transparency – meeting this policy compliance requirement can help employers with modernizing their privacy best practices,” she says.

 

There are many unanswered questions about the scope of the draft legislation, including types of monitoring strategies or devices that may be affected.

 

For instance, Hina says: “There is ambiguity for employers − the proposed legislation is so broad and does not define the extent of electronic monitoring.  For instance, based on Minister McNaughton’s announcement, it is assumed that cellphone, GPS and computer tracking software will be included – but until the legislation is finalized, we don’t know this for sure.” 

 

 “We also do not know if, and how, the draft legislation will apply to collaboration toolsm,” she says. “Tools such as Slack, Teams and other similar programs, may not be ‘actively’ monitored, but create audit trails that may be accessible to the employer retroactively.  Will these strategies be captured by the proposed legislation?  Does the monitoring need to be ‘active’ rather than ‘passive’?  These are just a handful of the many questions that remain unanswered at this early stage.”

 

Because of these issues, Hina suggests waiting for the legislation to pass before formal first steps are taken.

 

“Employers should look at what systems they may already have in place.  You need to know what practices exist in your workplace before you start developing a policy,” she says.

 

Despite the potential for challenges, both Hina and Tushar agree that this proposed legislation is necessary, particularly in the context of a pandemic when scores of employees have moved to partial, or permanent, WFH. 

 

 “Yes, assuming this legislation passes, companies will have to audit their systems, and this will create work,” says Tushar. “But they may very well discover gaps or vulnerabilities in their security protocols.  I view this as a significant opportunity − knowing about security and privacy vulnerabilities is a critical first step towards avoiding potential ransomware or privacy breach issues.  You can’t mitigate risks that you are not aware of.”

 

 “This is going to be a hot button employee relations issue, and employees will be looking for honesty, transparency and accountability from management,” says Hina. 

 

Hina, Tushar and the rest of the team at Gowling WLG continue to diligently sift through the latest legislative changes. For further information or specific questions, please contact Tushar at [email protected] and/or Hina at [email protected].

 

 

 

 

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A decision by the Government of Ontario to lift vaccine passport requirements on March 1, 2022 came as much-needed relief to many and a positive signal to businesses that better times may finally be ahead.

 

But it’s a move that may be fraught with questions and concerns since Ontario’s current Roadmap to Reopen Plan indicates that certain high-risk settings are required to have vaccination policies, or proof of vaccination requirements, in place.  Further, under the current rules, other settings, can “opt in” and choose to continue to require proof of vaccination, even though they are no longer legally obligated to do so. 

 

We discussed these changes, and related issues, with Tushar Anandasagar, of Gowling WLG’s Employment, Labour and Equalities Group.

 

Mandatory Workplace Vaccination Policies (Employees)

 

On February 17, 2022, the province announced that it was considering the elimination of mandatory workplace vaccination policy requirements that are currently in place in various high-risk sectors. When these requirements were first introduced, the province stipulated that policies would meet the compliance requirements under law if they allowed employees to choose between proof of vaccination and/or proof of a medical exemption, or submitting to an education campaign and undergoing regular Rapid Antigen Testing.

 

According to Tushar, a business that complied with provincial proof of vaccination requirements is unlikely to face legal consequences. “If the employer implemented a bare minimum statutory compliance policy that gave the employees all the options stipulated by the Province - like saying the speed limit is 100 and go do the speed limit - I don’t think an employer is going to be penalized for having done the speed limit."

 

However, if the province eliminates mandatory vaccination policy requirements after March 1, businesses could face additional legal exposure, particularly if the business implemented a policy that went beyond the provincial requirements for employees.  “If the provincial requirements fall away, businesses in the high-risk sector that choose to maintain their policies could face additional legal consequences because they will be exceeding the provincial requirements.”

 

Proof of vaccination issues (Customers / Patrons)

 

The province eliminated proof of vaccination requirements that were previously in place for restaurants and similar settings, earlier this month.  However, the current rules provide certain businesses that were previously subject to vaccine passport requirements with the ability to “opt in” to require proof of vaccination on a day-by-day basis, if certain requirements are met.

 

“At this stage, it is unclear whether the province’s announcement will affect the current ‘opt-in’ rules beyond March 1, 2022,” says Tushar.  “On a purely theoretical basis, I don’t think the province will completely eliminate the proof of vaccination system that was developed at great expense just a few months ago – even though the (COVID-19) numbers are dropping.”  Tushar adds, “rather than eliminating this option, we could see an expansion of the current Stage 3 opt-in rules, which could make this protocol available to businesses outside of the limited sectors noted in Regulation 364/20.”

 

Even though there is currently an opt-in protocol for certain businesses, those that choose to opt in could face legal challenges from customers.  “Ontario has a free and open court system – so there is always an element of ‘use at your own risk’,” Tushar says.  He adds, “However, I think a plaintiff would face an uphill battle based on the current rules, since there is currently a legislative provision that allows for this, assuming the business is eligible and meets all of the province’s opt-in requirements.”

 

Tushar says the more expected risk for businesses who decide to keep proof of vaccination requirements in place will likely relate to managing public relations, including negative feedback popping up on social media. “That has been an ongoing concern that businesses have been dealing with since Day 1 of the pandemic,” he says.

 

Tushar and his team at Gowling WLG continue to diligently sift through the latest legislative changes as restrictions around the pandemic in Ontario ease.  We will be working with the legal team at Gowling WLG to bring you updates on a variety of issues over the coming weeks. 

 

For further information or specific questions about the recent changes to Ontario’s Reopen Plan, please contact Tushar directly at [email protected].

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