The latest moves in Doug Ford's plan to make Ontario "open-for-business"

The PC government of Ontario, being led by Doug Ford, promised to find billions of dollars in “efficiencies” in the provincial budget to remove. He’s continuously spewed out this line time after time, accusing the previous government of not being interested in and not allowing for businesses to operate in the province — which seems illogical and doesn’t make much sense.

Over the last month the province has announced numerous new changes to legislation, impacting everything from worker’s rights to child care laws, environmental protections and rent control. These new and altered laws are meant to make the province “open-for-business” so here’s a quick breakdown of the most recent announcements and how they’ll impact Ontarians.

Ending environmental protections

The PC government has introduced new legislation which will result in the rollback of various environmental protections, letting municipalities pass “open-for-business” bylaws that won’t have to comply with major sections of the Greenbelt Act, Clean Water Act and the Great Lakes Protection Act.

On their website, the Canadian Environmental Law Association responded to the changes:

Bill 66 represents an unprecedented and unacceptable attack on legislative provisions which currently safeguard environmental quality and public health and safety throughout Ontario.

Besides Bill 66 there have been other laws revoked, including Bill 4, Bill 34 and Bill 57. The first bill was the framework for the province’s cap-and-trade program, while the second repealed the Green Energy Act which was put into law to encourage energy conservation and efficiency and the last changed the Environmental Bill of Rights to dissolve the Office of the Environmental Commissioner. When passed, these laws will allow commercial development to ignore previous environmental protections, which might lead to something as bad as the Walkerton tragedy, in which seven people died because of a lazy and inadequate workers and policies.

Last week, the government tabled a new piece of legislation, Bill 66, that, if passed, would allow commercial development to bypass several long-standing laws meant to protect the natural environment and the health of residents, including the Clean Water Act that was put in place following the Walkerton tragedy.

Cut regulations for businesses

New legislation was tabled on December 6 which is supposed to reduce the regulations businesses are required to comply with — Doug Ford has boasted it as cutting red tape and making sure Ontario is “open-for-business”.

The proposed laws will be debated at Queen’s Park in 2019 and were proposed because there are 380,000 regulations in the province, which is hindering businesses, Ford claims. Finance Minister Vic Fedeli announced the government’s plans to reduce the total amount of regulations by 25 percent for 2022.

Scraping worker protections and benefits

Then in November, the government passed sweeping labour reform that rolled back changes brought in by the previous Liberal party — including axing the wage increase to $15 a hour, cutting paid personal days for workers and more. Promising that the changes would encourage job growth in the province, the government stated that the previous changes put significant burden on businesses.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath responded to the cuts, explaining that they’ll hurt workers:

We just saw workers’ rights be torn out from under them, we just saw the lowest income workers lose $2,000 in increased pay because of the decisions that the government made today in passing legislation.

Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act freezes the minimum wage at $14 until October 2020, when it will increase by inflation, brings person leave days down from 10 to eight (three for personal illness, two for bereavement and three for family responsibilities) and eliminates the guaranteed minimum of three hours pay if a shift is cancelled within 48 hours of starting.

The PC’s have exempt those earning up to $30,000 from provincial income tax to offset the cuts, but there’s a lot talk that the plan saves employees less money than they would’ve otherwise received from a wage increase.

Changed election fundraising laws

Ford announced several weeks ago his plan to raise the maximum annual donation to a political party from $1,200 to $1,600 before 2020, and to eliminate a law banning MPPs from going to fundraisers.

Reduced restrictions on child care

A cap on the amount of provincial funding for private child care centres was scrapped last month, along with $22.7 million meant to go to low-income families to help with fees. The limit was introduced by the Liberals in 2017 to help add 100,000 new spaces with a focus on the non-profit sector — but with the limit removed, there will be more space available in smaller communities where only for-profit centres are operating.

During the election campaign the PC’s promised to create a tax rebate that would cover up to 75 percent of the cost, depending on family income, but has yet to explain how it will be funded.

Scaled back rent control

Rent control was ended for all new units in Ontario — a stark and upsetting reversal of a promise made in May by Ford:

I have criss-crossed the province, and from one corner to the other, the people of Ontario have told me they are struggling. I have listened to the people, and I won’t take rent control away from anyone. Period. When it comes to rent control, we’re going to maintain the status quo.

The change was announced in the PC government’s fall economic statement, which will apply to newly built and newly converted units, while current units will remain under rules that link rent increases to the rate of inflation. This change is explained in the lengthy document:

To address these challenges, the government will enact policies to increase the supply of housing across Ontario. Part of this initiative will be the reintroduction of the rent control exemption that will apply to new rental units first occupied after today. This will help create market‐based incentives for supply growth that will encourage an increase in housing supply to meet the needs of the people of Ontario.

However, to encourage the building of new and affordable apartments, the province needs to make it easier for tenants to be evicted when they don’t pay rent, CBC reports. Condos are being focused on because they’re meant for wealthier clientele who aren’t known to skip out on rent and can be charged at much higher rates than apartments in the ‘burbs.