Bill 124, Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019
Bill 124, an act to restrain wages, has received Royal Assent, enabling a mechanism for the Ontario government to set retroactive wage controls on the broader public sector. Nonprofits that received $1 million or more in 2018 from the Province are also subject to the legislation.
ONN wrote to the government this spring and again when Bill 124 was at the Standing Committee stage. ONN’s main recommendation was that the Ontario government manage any budget restrictions via overall funding envelopes, rather than through wage controls, as such controls negatively affect the ability of nonprofits to recruit and retain key staff. That way, provincially funded nonprofits could compete for talent on an even playing field with for-profits in areas such as home care, child care, and employment and training. It should be noted that the for-profit sector was explicitly exempted from this legislation.
The salaries of nonprofit workers are on average $42,500, or 29 per cent lower than the average for the Canadian workforce. As per the legislation, affected nonprofit workers will be subject to maximum wage gains of 1 per cent annually — a level that is approximately half the inflationary increase required to maintain an income level in relation to the cost of living. Unfortunately, ONN’s concerns were not addressed in the final version of the Bill.
Bill 138, Plan to Build Ontario Together Act
Bill 138 is an omnibus bill (with 40 schedules affecting 65 laws) that accompanied the 2019 Fall Economic Statement.
In our analysis of the Statement, we noted the centrepiece measures in Bill 138. As anticipated, a number of Budget 2019 measures were rolled back or delayed, including changes to municipal child care, public health, and the autism program.
A comparison: The last five years of Fall Economic Statements
Last fall, ONN looked at the “interim appropriations” in Bill 57, accompanying the 2018 Fall Economic Statement. This was the first indication of the spending plans of this new government.
We have now compared five years of data on what the Ontario government expected to spend on public service operations in its Fall Statements (this does not include capital investments nor operating the Legislature, but everything else). Keep in mind these Statements were under two different governments.
Here is an updated look at the fall appropriations, using the figures from Schedule 20 in Bill 138:
|Fall Statement/Budget Measures Bill
||Planned expenses (operational) for the following year
||% change from previous year
(not adjusted for inflation)
|Fall Statement 2015 (Bill 144), Schedule 11 - Interim Appropriation for 2016-2017 Act, 2015
|Fall Statement 2016 (Bill 70), Schedule 11 -
Interim Appropriation for 2017-2018 Act, 2016
|Fall Statement 2017 (Bill 177), Schedule 22 - Interim Appropriation for 2018-2019 Act, 2017
|Fall Statement 2018 (Bill 57), Schedule 22 -
Interim Appropriation for 2019-2020 Act, 2018
|Fall Statement 2019 (Bill 138), Schedule 20 - Interim Appropriation for 2020-2021 act, 2019
(+1% from Fall 2017)
These numbers suggest that the government has significantly changed course between one fall economic statement to the next. Indeed, Schedule 36 of Bill 138 shows that the government had to ask the Legislature for $29 billion in appropriations (spending) for public spending above and beyond what it anticipated when planning for fiscal year 2019-20 last fall.
This change is a testimony to the advocacy efforts of nonprofits, parents, workers, municipalities, and others who made the case for maintaining program spending that is essential to the well-being of their communities.
What else is in Bill 138 that nonprofits should be aware of?
- Schedule 5 amends the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 regarding provisions for police officers transporting children.
- Schedule 8 updates the Co-operative Corporations Act and is good news for the co-operative sector, eliminating the “50% rule” (requiring co-ops to do 50 per cent of their business with members) and bringing co-operators under the auspices of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (where nonprofits and for-profit corporations are already managed). Updates to audit rules will reduce administrative burdens on community-owned co-operatives and allow their income to fund increased services.
- Schedule 15 amends the Health Insurance Act, while Schedule 19 amends the Independent Health Facilities Act.
- Schedule 29 amends the Pension Benefits Act in a number of ways, affecting transfers from one plan to another. This includes enabling an employer that has a single employer pension plan – with both defined contribution benefits and defined benefits – to transfer assets to a jointly-sponsored pension plan.
- Schedule 30 amends the Personal Health Information Protection Act to tighten up privacy provisions around health information.
- Schedule 31 includes follow-up amendments to Bill 108 changes to the Planning Act in ways that affect “section 37” community benefits: This schedule creates a new process for enacting and giving notice of municipal by-laws regarding community benefits charges and any related appeals to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
- Schedule 37 enacts the Supply Chain Management Act (Government, Broader Public Sector and Health Sector Entities), a “Smart Initiative” announced on October 23 intended for the government to “use our collective public sector buying power to deliver projected savings of $1 billion annually, while also adopting leading supply chain processes and practices.”
- The provisions apply to the Ontario government, the broader public sector (schools, hospitals, municipalities, etc.) and certain provincially-funded nonprofits, including children’s aid societies, the community health sector, and others as prescribed by regulation (“any other persons or entities” may be prescribed — a very broad definition). The bill includes not only procurement provisions, but also the disposal of surplus assets and a range of other functions related to the procurement of goods and services.
- The bill enables the Ontario government to direct one entity (from the designated entities listed above) to provide or support supply chain management on behalf of any other in that list. Fees for this service may be set by the supply chain manager, subject to the Minister’s approval. The Ontario government may also, by regulation, create one or more new nonprofit(s) to perform this function. The level of detail set out in the “Corporate and financial matters” schedule suggests that this is imminent.
- Participation in this initiative is deemed to be a requirement of existing funding agreements.
- ONN will be following developments under this initiative in order to identify opportunities for social procurement and keeping public lands in community hands.
Note that not all of these schedules came into force on the day that Bill 138 received Royal Assent (December 10, 2019). Please see the individual schedules for their respective effective dates.
Bill 132, Better for People, Smarter for Business Act
Bill 132, the latest red-tape reduction legislation, was introduced by the Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction on October 28. Another piece of omnibus legislation, it contains 17 schedules affecting 79 acts. Hearings on the bill were held in November before it was fast-tracked to Third Reading in December. It passed and received Royal Assent on December 10, 2019.
Here are the pieces of Bill 132 nonprofits should be aware of:
- Schedule 3, the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre Repeal Act, 2019, dissolves the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre and repeals the Local Planning Appeal Support Centre Act, 2017. This schedule gets points for clarity and concision, but the Support Centre will be missed, as it was set up as a service to assist citizens by providing input to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
- The end of the Support Centres was the focus of a presentation to the Standing Committee by the Urban League of London.
- Schedule 4 amends a wide range of legislation relating to agriculture, fishing, and food safety, including amendments to governing legislation for agricultural associations, agricultural societies and horticultural societies.
- Schedule 7 repeals the Partnerships for Jobs and Growth Act, 2014, which was enabling legislation for the development of regional economic clusters.
- Schedule 8 amends the Mining Act and repeals Part II of the Northern Services Boards Act, which currently provides for the establishment of area services boards that deliver basic community services in municipally unincorporated areas of Northern Ontario.
- Schedule 9 amends a number of laws relating to environmental protection, including changes to the administrative penalties levied for violations. Amendments affect the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), as well as laws concerning water use, cosmetic pesticide use, the circular economy, and waste diversion.
- Administrative penalties are to be paid into the Ontario Community Environment Fund, a $250,000 fund available for (as per the EPA section 182.2) environmental compensation and remediation projects. The fund will now explicitly include activities related to environmental protection, conservation, and awareness-raising.
- Critics of changes to the Pesticides Act include Ontario Nature, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, Evidence for Democracy, Friends of the Earth Canada, Ontario Beekeepers Association, and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.
- Environmental Defence also notes that the bill reduces financial penalties for companies that violate the EPA and the Ontario Water Resources Act.
- It wouldn’t be an omnibus bill without changes to the Pension Benefits Act (no exaggeration: it has been amended 60 times since 2002). In addition to amending the Insurance Act (with respect to insurers and adjusters), Schedule 10 amends the Pension Benefits Act to update the communication requirements for pension plan administrators, the requirements for who may act as a plan administrator for a single employer jointly sponsored pension plan, the requirements for locating a former plan member, the transfer of pension assets from a single employer pension plan to a jointly sponsored pension plan, and the treatment under family law of pension assets that have been transferred from one plan to another.
- Schedule 14 amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act to eliminate the requirement (s. 34) to notify the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development before starting to manufacture, distribute, or supply a new biological or chemical agent outside of a research & development context.
- Schedule 15 removes the requirement for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to initiate a review of the energy and water conservation provisions of the Building Code every five years; it also dissolves the Building Code Conservation Advisory Council.
- Schedule 16 amends a number of acts related to conservation and natural resources, including for aggregate quarry development and forests on Crown lands. It also releases the Ontario Government from the Public Lands Act requirement to transmit to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) annually the list of public lands sold or leased to the private sector. Instead, the bill enables the Minister to transmit a list on a schedule determined by the Minister and MPAC.
- Schedule 17 simplifies billing for Highway 407 tolls and moves motor vehicle emissions from the Environmental Protection Act to the Highway Traffic Act.
A coalition of 39 environmental and conservation groups issued a letter with eight recommendations designed to mitigate the combined impact of the loosened environmental regulatory framework created by Bill 132. A number of organizations that testified in front of the Standing Committee, including the Canadian Environmental Law Association, also noted that the consultation period was too brief for such a large and complex bill.
The Ontario government’s broader agenda on red tape reduction is outlined in a backgrounder which included the regulatory measures already announced: reducing barriers for food banks and soup kitchens and allowing dogs on restaurant/brewery patios.