Bill 47 – Making Ontario open for business or just sticking it to workers?
Bill 47 will wipe out many of Bill 148’s protections for workers
In 2015, Ontario’s Minister of Labour appointed two Special Advisors, C. Michael Mitchell and John C. Murray, to conduct a comprehensive review of Ontario’s labour and employment laws to ensure they reflected the changing nature of the modern workplace.
Over the course of the next two years, the two Special Advisors commissioned numerous expert research reports and conducted extensive consultations. Their work culminated in the 419-page Final Report of the Changing Workplaces Review. The report made numerous recommendations to government, including urging a significant overhaul of Ontario’s labour and employment legislation.
In response, the government tabled Bill 148, the largest set of amendments to Ontario’s labour and employment laws since the 1990s. In the months that followed, the Legislative Assembly engaged in lengthy debates and further consultations, including taking the extraordinary step of conducting committee hearings across the province after both first and second reading of the bill. Bill 148 passed into law in November 2017.
Bill 148 introduced important new protections for Ontario’s working people, particularly those in precarious employment. The amendments included paid sick leave, equal pay for part-time and casual workers, rules designed to give workers more certainty in their work schedules, enhanced vacation rights for long-service workers, and greater protections for workers engaged in unionizing efforts or on strike. While Bill 148 left out significant improvements advocated by organized labour and workers’ rights organizations, it remained a significant step forward for Ontario’s working people.
Following the election of the Progressive Conservative government under Premier Doug Ford, it quickly became apparent that the new government was set on rolling back many of the advancements gained through Bill 148.
On October 23, 2018, the Ford government tabled Bill 47, the so-called Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018, which rolls back almost all of Bill 148’s reforms. As compared with the sustained, extensive consultations and expert research which preceded Bill 148, Bill 47 appears to be a hastily drafted piece of legislation that strips important protections from workers – particularly for the least well-off workers – for the benefit of wealthy business interests with close connections to the government.