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Advocacy Update: March 9, 2020

Ontario Budget
Conservative Leadership Race
Ontario Liberal Leadership
Coronavirus Update

Ontario’s 2020 budget to be tabled March 25

The Ford government’s second budget will be tabled on March 25 by Finance Minister Rod Phillips. Phillips said Ontario remains on track to balance the budget by 2023.

Ontario has seen growth in the economy and growth in tax revenues that were higher than anticipated. In its third-quarter finances, the province announced revenue for this fiscal year is on track to be $3.1 billion higher than the 2019 budget projection, $2.5 billion of which is going toward higher-than-anticipated program spending with the lion’s share of that — $1.6 billion — going to higher-than-anticipated electricity bill subsidies.


Federal Conservative Leadership Race – Kenney endorses O’Toole

The Conservative leadership race getting more competitive. This week Alberta Premier Jason Kenney endorsed Ontario MP Erin O’Toole is a big one. Undoubtedly, it is the most influential endorsement yet awarded to anyone in this campaign. It gives O’Toole something he needs: credibility as a serious contender.

To date, the endorsements have not been particularly impressive for O’Toole. As of Friday morning, he had the endorsement of just eight MPs, two former MPs and one Ontario MPP. By comparison, Peter MacKay had racked up 27 MP endorsements, including a number from Conservatives with a long history of electoral success. He also has the backing of two senators, 10 former MPs, four Ontario MPPs, the leader of the Nova Scotia PCs and a number of former provincial legislators.

A recent Léger poll suggested the same thing. Among Conservative voters (not necessarily members, so the numbers can only say so much) MacKay had the support of 38 per cent, more than four times O’Toole’s score of nine per cent. This advantage appears to extend to fundraising. MacKay’s campaign announced this week it had raised $1 million, while O’Toole only became a “verified candidate” (which requires submitting $300,000 in entry fees and refundable deposits to the party) on Wednesday.


Ontario Liberals elect Steven Del Duca as leader

Steven Del Duca easily won the Ontario Liberal Party leadership on the first ballot. Del Duca won with just under 59 per cent of the vote on the first ballot, and beat out MPP Michael Coteau, former candidate Kate Graham, MPP Mitzie Hunter, former candidate Alvin Tedjo and political newcomer Brenda Hollingsworth. The former cabinet minister was supported by a majority of delegates on the first ballot at the party’s convention Saturday, winning a resounding victory in which his organizational and fundraising skills dominated the field.

The new Liberal leader was cheered by thousands of party faithful after his resounding win, as he celebrated onstage with his wife and two children. “We will accomplish a great deal together…on to victory,” he said in his unifying victory speech to the Grits, an effort to rally the troops beyond the leadership contest. He’ll attend question period on Monday, but will have to watch from the visitors’ benches for now.


Corona disease (COVID-19): Weekly Update

Up to date information – Public Health Agency of Canada – COVID-19 website

Canadian Chamber of Commerce – Pandemic Preparedness – Thanks to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce for putting together some information so you can stay alert about what is happening in your region, we’ve gathered some information sites from across the country that you can bookmark for this specific moment in time. They have created templates for your use: Crisis Communications Plan and a Business Continuity & Recovery Plan. We have also gathered other resources that you may find useful to help get you on your way.

Advocacy Update: March 2, 2020

2020 OCC Economic Report
Federal Carbon Pricing
Alberta Budget
CFA Franchise Awareness Day
Coronavirus Update

OCC releases 2020 Economic Report

On February 26, 2020, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) fourth annual Ontario Economic Report (OER) reveals opportunities where both business and government can focus to create an environment more conducive to small business success.

For 2020, the Small Business Friendliness Indicator (SBFI) score is -9, (on a scale of 100 to -100) indicating that the business environment poses some challenges for firms with fewer than 99 employees. However, investments in online services and support for regulatory compliance could improve that.

Other highlights from the Ontario Economic Report include:

• The confidence gap, which measures the difference between business’ confidence in themselves and in Ontario’s economic outlook, widened in 2020 to near historical levels. Although organizational confidence remains high, business confidence in the broader economy dropped seven percentage points in 2020, explained in part by lowered growth expectations nationally and globally. Beyond this, challenges related to the costs of doing business, the high cost of living, and the province’s debt continue to be top of mind for OCC members

• Infrastructure investment, such as transportation and broadband internet, topped the list of business priorities for government, followed by reducing regulatory burdens, lowering the cost of living, and reforming business taxes.

• Challenges related to accessing financial capital, attracting and retaining talent and burdensome regulations continue to compromise the ability of many of Ontario’s community to compete effectively with other jurisdictions.

• Despite these challenges, Ontario’s principal economic indicators remain sound, albeit subdued, heading into 2020, but economic growth is expected to vary greatly across the province. The forecasts show employment and population growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe and Ottawa surpassing other parts of Ontario, reinforcing a decade-long trend of imbalanced economic growth across the province.


Federal carbon pricing law unconstitutional, Alberta Court of Appeal rules

The federal government’s carbon tax has been ruled unconstitutional by the Court of Appeal of Alberta, on the grounds that it intrudes on provincial jurisdiction. The 4-1 decision, released last week, rejects Ottawa’s argument that regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is an issue of national concern, citing the division of powers in the constitution that gives the provinces responsibility for non-renewable resources. While the Alberta Court of Appeal ruling found the federal legislation to be unconstitutional, it’s not clear the federal government is obligated to suspend the tax pending a Supreme Court decision.

The Alberta Court of Appeal is the first provincial appeal court to rule against the legislation. Appeal courts in Saskatchewan and Ontario upheld the law in split decisions.


2020 Alberta Budget

Finance Minister Travis Toews tabled the 2020 budget. The government is forecasting $49.98 billion in revenue against $56.04 billion in expenses.

• Personal income tax revenue: $12.57 billion, up 6.3 per cent from prior year
• Corporate income tax revenue: $4.54 billion, up 6.9 per cent
• Resource revenue: $5.09 billion, down 24 per cent
• Investment income: $2.63 billion, down 25 per cent
• GDP forecasted to grow 2.5 per cent, up from 0.3 per cent last year
• Price of oil projected at $58 USD a barrel (WTI)

Alberta’s deficit will decrease by $200 million this year, bringing it to $6.8 billion. Projected total debt is expected to climb to nearly $88 billion by 2023. However, that is down from the $93 billion that was projected in the fall.

Alberta’s estimated revenue for the 2020-21 fiscal year will essentially hold steady at 2019-20 levels, before growing by about 7.8 per cent over each of the next two years, eventually climbing to $58 billion by 2022-23.

Those projections are driven in part by an anticipated 38 per cent increase in energy royalties as both oil production and pipeline capacity expand.

Income taxes are also expected to improve with the overall economy; the UCP government estimates 2.5 per cent GDP growth after an increase of just 0.3 per cent in 2019. As the province continues to advocate for a “fair deal” from its federal counterparts, it believes transfers from Ottawa will help lift the Alberta economy.

For more information


Mark your calendars – CFA Ontario Advocacy Day – November 2, 2020 

The CFA’s 2020 advocacy day will be held on Monday November 2, 2020 at the Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park.

More details will follow in the coming months about the day and how to register to join us to speak with your elected representatives.


Corona disease (COVID-19): Weekly Update

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has assessed the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low for Canada. Public health risk is continually reassessed as new information becomes available.

The risk to Canadian travellers abroad is generally low but will vary depending on the destination. The Public Health Agency of Canada is closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in other countries. Please consult the destination page on travel.gc.ca for the latest travel advice.

Public Health Canada – Outbreak update
COVID 19 Myth Busting from the World Health Organizations

Advocacy Update: February 18, 2020

Ontario Legislature Returns
BC Budget
Newfoundland Premier Steps Down
Franchise Rescission Law

Ontario Legislature returns today

Today, the Ontario legislature reconvenes following the winter break. Here’s the Globe and Mail’s take on the upcoming session.


B.C. NDP government set to unveil 3rd straight balanced budget under ‘challenging’ circumstances 

Finance Minister Carole James is expected to introduce a balanced budget on Tuesday but it won’t have a lot of new spending. This is expected to be the NDP government’s third straight balanced budget. But James said keeping the province’s books in the black was more “challenging” than the last two years.

The CFA will review the budget after it is tabled and update members as appropriate on how the budget may impact franchised businesses operating in BC.


Dwight Ball stepping down as Newfoundland and Labrador Premier 

Dwight Ball is stepping down as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador after five years leading the province. He made the announcement in a pre-recorded video statement sent to media late Monday afternoon.

Ball’s government has been engulfed in a number of scandals and waning caucus support.


Has the Law of Franchise Rescission Changed since Raibex? An Ontario Court Provides a Partial Answer 

The recent decision in 2483038 Ontario Inc. v. 2082100 Ontario Inc., confirms a narrow point of franchise law, namely that an unsigned certificate in a Franchise Disclosure Document continues to constitute a “fatal flaw”, despite the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Raibex Canada Ltd. v. ASWR Franchising Corp. The decision also clarifies the liability of “franchisor’s associates”.

Read more at lexology.com

Advocacy Update: February 11, 2020

CFA Presentation to Ontario Minister of Finance
BC Accessibility
Corona Virus Update

CFA Presents to the Ontario Minister of Finance Pre-Budget Consultation in Mississauga

On Tuesday February 4, the CFA’s Director of Government Relations and Public Policy made a presentation to Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips at the governments pre-budget consultation in Mississauga.

Thank you for this opportunity. My name is David Black. I’m the Director of Government Relations and Public Policy at the Canadian Franchise Association.

Franchising is the most ubiquitous form of business in Canada.

Every single day Ontarians from every single corner of this province are interacting with franchised businesses. From getting their morning coffee, to dropping their kids off at day care or at a learning centre, to buying gas, to getting their houses cleaned, to having lunch, to picking up their dry cleaning, to buying food for dinner, to going to a restaurant with friends, to stay¬ing at a hotel while on vacation or during a business trip, the franchise model is an important part of their day-to-day lives.

Franchising is not a business itself, but a way of doing business.

It’s a business relationship that is at is heart a contractual relationship between the franchisor and the franchise.

Franchising is a lot like a political party.

You have a franchisor, the central party providing support, branding, advertising, IT, etc. and you have the riding associations, the franchisees, using the tools but also working so they succeed in their part of the province. They work together to achieve something greater.

Economic Stats

The Canadian Franchise Association (CFA) is a national, not-for-profit association representing the 12th largest sector of the Canadian economy.

Franchising contributes over $100 billion per year to the Canadian economy and create jobs for over 1.9 million Canadians.

Franchising employs 772,000 Ontarians in 37,000 establishments adding $50.6 billion to Ontario’s GDP.

We speak for a business sector that represents every industry and touches the lives of every Canadian, in every community across the country. Our purpose is to help everyday Canadians realize the dream of building their own business through the power and opportunity of franchising.

Our Asks
Protect the Independent Nature of the Franchisor-Franchisee Relationship

The franchisor/franchisee relationship is, at its heart, a contractual relationship. Franchisors and franchisees sign a legal contract (a Franchise Agreement) which lays out, in great detail, the roles and responsibilities of the franchisor and the franchisees along with the term of the agreement.

Unfortunately, there is a catch-22 between employment law and the franchisor protecting the intellectual property and enforcing standards so that the product or service meets the customers’ expectations everywhere.

Employment law can penalize franchisors for establishing control mechanisms to protect their marks because some enterprising litigators are trying to argue that by clarifying licensing trademarks and controlling or exercising control over those trademarks the franchisor has created an employment relationship with the franchisee and the franchisees employees. This is simply not the case.

We need government address this catch-22 by adopt a four-factor test that will determine if a joint employer relationship exists or not. Does the franchisor…

1. hire or fire the employee;
2. supervise and control the employee’s work schedules or conditions of employment;
3. determine the employee’s rate and method of payment; and
4. maintain the employee’s employment records.

Increase the Small Business Deduction Threshold

We do appreciate that Ontario has reduced the tax rates on small businesses in an effort to keep them competitive. My members applaud the government for this step.

We are concerned however that even with these rate reductions the tax expenses for small businesses is increasing at a fast rate than inflation which means there is less money for salaries and capital investments.

One of the big challenges facing small business is bracket creep. The current small business threshold has been kept at $500,000 for a decade.

We believe that threshold is too low and needs to be raised to $600,000 to be in line with CPI over the same period. The bracket creep has been addressed for personal tax rates however corporate tax payers are still being penalized.

We urge the government of Ontario to increase the small business threshold to $600,000 and index the threshold to the CPI.

Reform the property tax system to protect businesses from unsustainable property tax hikes

Many businesses across Canada are facing an existential threat in the form of unsustainably high property tax bills. This problem is directly caused by the rapid appreciation of property in a large number of Canada’s major cities due to Assessment Authorities (BC Assessment, MCAP, etc) valuing property based on its “highest and best use”, not strictly on the current use.

As a result, businesses, whether property owners themselves or through their leases, are being taxed on the future development potential of their sites with little regard for the current use of the property or the cash-flow or profitability of the current business. These high property tax bills can threaten the survival of many small and medium-sized businesses, and risk hollowing out local economies as businesses are forced to either relocate or close altogether due simply to the skyrocketing cost of their property tax bills.

We urge Ontario to have MPAC develop policies that would address this challenge to ensure property tax rates for small businesses remain affordable.

Reduce red tape – Governments should accept internationally recognized accounting standards in franchise disclosure

The Arthur Wishart Act requires a franchisor to disclose to a prospective franchisee information about the business, the royalties, past performance, future expected performance etc. Basically, everything that a prospective buyer would need to make an informed decision about how to invest their hard-earned money.

Unfortunately, there is some unnecessary red tape that wastes time and money. Almost every franchisor coming to Ontario uses financial statements prepared according to Canadian standards instead of allowing international standards which are just as rigorous.

The CFA recommends that Ontario update the Arthur Wishart Act and accompanying regulations to deem the following accounting standards as acceptable under franchise disclosure legislation.

• International Financial Reporting Standards – Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (IFRS-GAAP)
• United States – Generally Accepted Accounting (US-GAAP)

Thank you for this opportunity to present to you today.


BC report shows support for developing accessibility legislation

Last week the BC government released the accessibility consultation summary report which showed strong support for government to develop legislation to make B.C. more inclusive and accessible. The report was done following a public consultation that ran from Sept. 16 to Nov. 29, 2019. The Province heard that people support developing accessibility legislation as outlined in the Framework for Accessibility Legislation.

The BC government will continue to engage with persons with disabilities, local governments, Indigenous peoples and key stakeholder groups and organizations in developing future standards and regulations. The CFA will follow the issue and get involved where appropriate.

The federal government, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba have accessibility legislation in place. To read the Summary Consultation Report


2019 novel coronavirus: Outbreak update

For the most up to date information on the Coronavirus please see the Public Health Canada website.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has assessed the public health risk associated with 2019-nCoV as low for Canada. Public health risk is continually reassessed as new information becomes available. As of February 8, 2020, 7 cases of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been confirmed in Canada.

Advocacy Update: January 27, 2020

HEADLINES
NAFTA
Conservative Leadership
Corona Virus
Joint Employer
AB-5 Copycat Leglislation in New York 

 

The House of Commons returns to tackle NAFTA, and other issues

Today the House of Commons returned from its Christmas break. The first priority for the new minority parliament is passage of the new NAFTA deal (CUSMA/USMCA). For more information please see the attached article.


Conservative Leadership
Peter MacKay officially launches bid for Conservative leadership

Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay formally launched his bid to replace Andrew Scheer on Saturday in his home province of Nova Scotia, where he first began his political career more than 20 years ago.

MacKay made the announcement in his former riding of Central Nova at the province’s Museum of Industry.

“Over four years ago I stood in this very room with family and friends, including Prime Minister Harper and many of you who are here again today, and announced that I would be leaving politics,” MacKay told supporters. “It was a tough decision.”

For more information please see the CBC article


Erin O’Toole launches Conservative leadership bid, promises to be the ‘true blue’ candidate

Ontario MP Erin O’Toole confirmed Monday he is joining the race to lead Canada’s Conservatives, promising to bring “true blue leadership” to the party as it looks for a successor to Andrew Scheer.

This is O’Toole’s second run for the leadership — he placed third behind Scheer and Maxime Bernier in the 2017 contest, with about 20 per cent of the vote on the final ballot.

O’Toole, who serves as Conservative foreign affairs critic, released a slickly produced campaign launch video highlighting his time as a tactical navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

For more information please see the CBC article


2019 Novel Coronavirus infection (Wuhan, China): Outbreak Update

There is a lot of misinformation in the public about the recent Coronavirus outbreak. For factually correct up to date information on the outbreak please refer to the Canada Public Health Agency website. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html


US News –Major Win for Franchises as Department of Labor Issues Final Joint Employer Rule!

In a major win for America’s franchises, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued its final joint employer rule to update the regulations interpreting joint employer status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

This major rulemaking is the culmination of years of advocacy from the IFA and its members and allies.

“The changes in this final rule break down barriers that keep companies from constructively overseeing, guiding and helping their business partners,” said Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton. “For small business owners, and the employees working in those businesses, the relationship and the guidance coming from franchisors and other contracting companies can greatly improve the workplace and help them create jobs.”

US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia and Acting Chief of Staff to the President Mick Mulvaney, penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal noting how the new rule will provide much need clarity to franchises: “The new rule also gives companies in traditional contracting and franchising relationships confidence that they can demand certain basic standards from suppliers or franchisees—like effective antiharassment policies and compliance with employment laws—without themselves being deemed the employer of the other company’s workers. That will help companies promote fair working conditions without facing unwarranted regulatory costs.”

The new test is based on determining if both businesses meet the following factors:

  • has the power to hire or fire the employee?
  • supervises and controls the employee’s work schedule or conditions?
  • determines the employee’s pay rate and method of payment?
  • maintains the worker’s employment records?

The final rule publishes in the federal register on January 16 and takes effect March 16.

In June, IFA had submitted comprehensive comments to the DOL arguing the importance of a revised joint employer rule that would restore its traditional interpretation of determining joint employment. IFA noted that under a similar law, the expanded joint employer standard had cost the American economy $33.3 billion per year, led to 376,000 fewer job opportunities, and resulted in a 93% increase in lawsuits against franchise businesses.

Additionally, in Fall 2018, IFA helped organize a Senate letter (led by former Sen. Johnny Isakson) signed by 26 senators and a bipartisan House letter (led by Rep. Bradley Byrne) signed by 84 House members to the DOL in Fall 2018 urging the development of a joint employer rulemaking under the FLSA. Among the letters’ signatories were Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) and Majority Whip Thune (R-SD), and Democratic Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX).

“On behalf of IFA, I applaud the DOL for today’s decision to return to a simple, clear, and thoughtful joint employer standard,” said Robert Cresanti, IFA’s President and CEO. “This resolution provides much-needed clarity for the 733,000 franchise establishments across America, and returns to the traditional standard of business that has fundamentally supported and encouraged franchise entrepreneurship for decades.” Read IFA’s full press release here.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Prepares to Introduce AB-5 Copycat Legislation

On January 8, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a book of proposals for the 2020 legislative session during his State of the State address. During his remarks, Cuomo said that making reforms to worker classifications in the gig economy will be among the top priorities.

In September, Cuomo had said that New York will likely follow California’s lead in reclassifying independent contractors.

Uber and Postmates have already responded to similar legislation in California, by filing a lawsuit challenging California’s AB-5 in federal court. The lawsuit argues that AB-5 violates individuals’ constitutional rights and unfairly discriminates against technology platforms and those who make a living through them.

AB-5 works to codify the California Court decision in the Dynamex case which says Employers may only classify a worker as an independent contractor if the hiring entity satisfies all three conditions of the test:

  1. that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
  2. that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  3. that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

Last month, members of the New York Assembly & Senate charged with drafting a bill, voiced concerns over the legal challenges and exemptions in AB-5, while acknowledging they still planned to move forward with legislation in 2020.

The CFA is working with the IFA to ensure that the principles of the ABC test do not make their way into Canadian public policy.

Advocacy Update: January 13, 2020

HEADLINES
Federal Tax Changes
Ontario Reduces Taxes for Small Businesses
StatsCanada – Unemployment Rate Drops
Employment Gains in Service-producing Sector

 

Federal Tax Changes

The basic amount most Canadians can earn tax-free is going up on Jan. 1, 2020 to $13,229.  The increase is being phased in over four years until it reaches $15,000 in 2023.

For Canadians in the lower income brackets, the changes could result in tax savings of up to $140 in 2020.  For those earning more than $150,473 annually, those savings will be clawed back or not offered at all.

Also starting on Jan. 1, the employment insurance premiums for individual workers and employees will slightly decrease. The maximum annual EI contribution for a worker will fall by $3.86 to $856.36 and employers’ maximum contribution will fall from $5.41 to $1,198.90 per employee.

CRA Payroll Calculator Is available to help Franchisors and Franchisees ensure their payroll calculations are correct.

Ontario Reduces Taxes for Small Businesses

Effective January 1, 2020, Ontario reduced the small business Corporate Income Tax (CIT) rate by 8.7 per cent by reducing the rate to 3.2 per cent.

According to the Ontario government, this move will deliver up to $1,500 in annual savings to more than 275,000 businesses – from family-owned shops to innovative start-ups.

Small businesses also benefit from accelerated write-offs of capital investments as well as the government’s decision to not parallel a federal measure that would have increased taxes on some small businesses earning passive investment income.

These tax measures, along with the small business CIT rate cut, would deliver a total of $255 million in Ontario income tax relief to small businesses in 2020.

StatsCanada – Unemployment Rate Drops to 5.6%

On Friday, Statistics Canada released its update Labour Market Survey Results which showed Employment increased by 35,000 (+0.2%) in December, and the unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points to 5.6%. In the 12 months to December, employment increased by 320,000 (+1.7%), the result of gains in full-time work (+283,000 or +1.9%). Over the same period, the number of hours worked was little changed.

  • In December, employment increased in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island, while a decline was recorded in Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • There were more employees in the private sector (+57,000 or +0.5%) in December, offsetting a decline of a similar size in November.
  • Employment increased in accommodation and food services and in construction, while it was little changed in the other industries.

Employment Gains in Services-producing Sector Led by Ontario

In the 12 months to December, employment growth in Canada was driven by the services-producing sector (+367,000 or +2.5%), while there was a decline in the goods-producing sector (-47,000 or -1.2%). The number of employees in both the private and public sectors increased in 2019, while self-employment was little changed.

In the services-producing sector, there were notable increases in professional, scientific and technical services (+86,000), wholesale and retail trade (+77,000), health care and social assistance (+75,000) and finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (+75,000). Most of the growth in the services sector was in Ontario (+245,000).

Employment fell in the goods-producing sector, reflecting declines in manufacturing (-40,000), natural resources (-29,000) and utilities (-15,000) which were tempered by an increase in construction (+29,000). From December 2018 to December 2019, employment in manufacturing declined in Ontario and British Columbia, while employment in natural resources declined in five provinces, most notably Alberta and British Columbia.

For more information please check the Statistics Canada website.

ADVOCACY UPDATER: Parliament Resumes on Dec. 5

— Updated December 6 —

Earlier in the week, we mentioned that the Parliament will reconvene for the first time on Thursday following the election. Here is an update!

Things to know about yesterday’s federal Throne Speech

By Scott Munnoch and David Black

Yesterday, Governor General Julie Payette delivered the 43rd Parliament’s Speech from the Throne, formally launching the legislative agenda for the Liberal minority government. The Throne Speech primarily focused on three policy areas: climate change, the economy, and reconciliation.

  1. Climate Change – The speech identified climate change as “the defining challenge of the time”, and the Government promised new, ambitious action on the issue. Expect the Liberals to stand by the Federal price on pollution, implement a Federal Clean Fuel Standard, and take new and strengthened measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. The Economy – The Government will continue its thematic focus on the middle class. The speech indicated that the first act of the new Parliament will be to enact a middle-class tax cut – specifically raising the basic personal tax deduction to $15,000 (a Liberal election promise).
  3. ReconciliationThe speech identifies reconciliation with First Nations peoples as a core priority of the Government. Amongst a suite of measures to realize that goal they will continue working to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories on reserves by 2021.

The speech highlighted pharmacare, gun control as issues that this Parliament will prioritize. The speech also acknowledged regional tensions and the government said that it is open to considering and enacting good ideas from all Parties and any Parliamentarian.

To pass its first confidence vote on the Speech from the Throne the Liberals will need at least 170 MPs to vote in favour of the speech. Based on the initial reactions from the Party Leaders the Trudeau government should survive its first confidence vote.

Opposition Reaction

Conservatives (121 seats) – following the speech Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said that he was “extremely disappointed” by the Speech and that his party would be moving an amendment to the document during the coming debate. Scheer argued that the Government did nothing to unite the country – a likely reference to the fact that natural resources development was not mentioned in the Speech.

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.

NDP (15 seats) – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke to the media third and characterized the Speech as “full of empty promises and little action”. By the time Singh spoke to the media it appeared as through the government had enough support to pass the speech which allowed him to be much more critical than he might have been if the speech was going to be defeated.

ADVOCACY UPDATER: Vancouver council approves single use plastics ban

On November 27, Vancouver City Council approved a ban on single-use plastics. The vote came after a staff report was presented to council recommending new rules for single-use items, including cups and utensils.

After the plastic bag ban is enabled, businesses will be allowed to offer paper bags for 15 cents each for the first year, before it increases to 25 cents a bag. There will also be a 25-cent charge for disposable coffee cups.

A couple of exemptions have been built into the plastic straw ban:

  • Businesses must provide bendable straws upon request, to accommodate people with disabilities.
  • There is a one-year exemption for wider straws served with bubble tea to allow businesses time to find alternatives.
  • Come April, businesses will also be required to only provide single-use utensils when requested.

The Retail Council of Canada has argued publicly that the ban “by-laws are not harmonized with other jurisdictions and are more complex than any other jurisdiction to-date: this is despite words in the staff report that emphasize the importance of harmonization and simplicity to the business community.  RCC will advocate against key aspects of the by-law at Vancouver City Council.”

Detailed information on the City’s proposals can be found here.

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