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.