Advocacy Update: December 9, 2019
FEDERAL THRONE SPEECH – WHAT IT SAID AND WHAT IT MEANS
On Thursday December 5, Governor General Julie Payette delivered the 43rd Parliament’s Speech from the Throne, laying out the policy priorities of Prime Minister Trudeau’s re-elected Liberal Government.
In a majority Parliament, Throne Speeches are a de facto formality. In this minority Parliament, the Throne Speech must gain the support of at least one of the opposition parties in order for the Liberal Party to stay in power. Soon after the Speech, the Government appeared to secure that necessary support, when Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet said that his party will vote in favour of the Speech.
The Throne Speech did not shy away from laying out a progressive policy agenda, continuing on the trajectory that the Liberals took during the prior term of Government and reflecting the content of the Party’s Election 2019 platform. Combating climate change, enacting an increase of the basic personal tax deduction to $15,000, working towards reconciliation with First Nations peoples, developing a Federal pharmacare program, and improving gun control were the major commitments made by the Speech. Those are all issues that the Liberals would have pursued in a majority government and they are policy priorities that are more likely to resonate with the progressive opposition parties when it comes to voting on specific legislation.
Given their vulnerability in a minority Parliament, the Liberals did take rhetorical steps to reach out to all of the other parties. The Throne Speech opened and closed with language about the importance of inter-party collaboration and presented the Government as open to policy proposals from the other parties. Specific references were made to policies that were championed by the opposition parties during Election 2019, including universal dentalcare from the NDP, making parental benefits tax free from the Conservatives, and compensating dairy farmers for market concessions made during the renegotiation of NAFTA from the Bloc Quebecois. Those references perhaps reveal the topics on which the opposition parties pushed for concessions from the Liberals during post-election negotiations.
The Throne Speech defined progressive action on social, economic, and environmental issues as the basis for the Liberal Party holding power. That approach indicates that the Liberals believe that their policy priorities will continue to resonate with most Canadians and offers clues that the Government will most often look to the progressive opposition parties – the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP – for support on confidence measures.
Opposition proposed amendments
Conservatives (121 seats) – Scheer introduced an amendment so the throne speech would include an acknowledgment that Canada is threatened by declining productivity and competitiveness, and that the rising cost of living and challenges to society requires a plan for tax relief for Canadians “with a path to a balanced budget.” He also requested the speech include plan to develop a “real” environment plan that tackles global climate change and strengthens competitiveness.
He has said a Conservative government would focus carbon policies on exporting Canada’s clean technology to countries that have higher carbon emissions, like China and India. Scheer has since called on the Liberal government to adopt policies to help countries with the highest emissions, rather than taxing Canadians for their carbon emissions.
As part of this, Scheer’s amendment included a request to recognize that the national unity crisis requires respecting provincial jurisdiction and scrapping the carbon tax.
Bloc Quebecois (32 seats) – BQ leader Yves-François Blanchet spoke to the media second and said that his party will vote in favour of the Speech. Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet subsequently introduced a subamendment on provincial jurisdiction, specifically requesting that the federal government refrain from authorizing projects that don’t respect the provinces’ environments. Blanchet’s request comes after a long history of disagreeing with the Liberals’ oil and pipeline policies. Last month, he said the Bloc will follow its “duty” to fight the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.
NDP (15 seats) – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the speech failed to include specific examples on how the government will implement its policies. For example, Singh said the government recommitted to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 but did not offer any specific targets or concrete ways of how they would achieve these targets. “They touched on health, they touched on pharmacare … but again, they just touched on it,” he said. Singh was unable to introduce a subamendment as the NDP is the fourth-biggest party in the House.
First confidence vote – Tuesday
The Trudeau minority government will face its first make-or-break confidence vote on Tuesday night, when it will formally ask MPs approve $4.9 billion dollars in add-on spending for veterans’ services, international climate change initiatives, etc. Tuesday’s vote — which involves the expenditure of public money – Is automatically considered a confidence question. The government is expected to survive this first test as the Bloc Quebecois has already made it clear that they have no intention of bringing down the government, at least for the moment, which would seem to all but guarantee that the estimates will get the green light.
ONTARIO MINISTRY OF LABOUR – PUBLIC HOLIDAY PAY CALCULATOR
For employers and employees: See how much you should pay or be paid for public holidays.
If a public holiday does not fall on a normal working day, employees should receive a substitute holiday instead.
Click to use the Ontario Public Holiday Pay Calculator Tool
US NEWS – NY AND NJ MOVING FORWARD WITH LEGISLATION THAT WILL HAVE SERIOUS IMPACTS ON FRANCHISING
New York and New Jersey are moving forward with changes to employment legislation that puts franchising in these states in peril. In both states the Legislatures are considering bills that would codify the Dynamex decision where the California court adopted a new test for determining whether a worker should be designated as an employee or independent contractor.
New York is set to become the next state to consider an AB-5 copycat bill after New Jersey recently introduced a bill similar to California’s AB-5. According to Bloomberg, a pair of influential state lawmakers plan to introduce a new gig-worker-rights bill shortly after the legislative season kicks off in January. It’s expected to make it harder to classify gig and other workers as contractors instead of employees, similar to the new AB-5 law in California.
On Thursday, December 5, New York State Assemblyman Marcus Crespo held a public hearing in the Legislative Office Building in Albany, New York.
New Jersey introduced legislation (SB 4204) to expand the ABC test in determining independent contractor status to “all state employment laws”. The legislation limits the application of the ABC test to “individuals who perform services for remuneration…” As introduced, the legislation closely mirrors California’s AB-5.
New Jersey Senate Labor Committee said that they will adopt amendments to the bill. The bill will still use the ABC test to determine worker classification but will restore language in the “B” part of the test so that employees working outside the places of the employers’ business will continue to qualify as independent contractors. They will also specify that, in meeting the existing “C” part of the test, the service an individual performs must be “of the same nature” of the business or enterprise in which they are normally engaged. New Jersey is currently in a ‘lame duck’ session till the end of the year.