Queen's ParkWith the election of a Liberal majority, Premier Wynne will select a new cabinet over the next few days. 

The Legislature will resume with a throne speech on July 2nd, followed within 20 days by the reintroduction of the May 1, 2014 budget, including signature initiatives on the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, and on transit and transportation infrastructure.

The Liberal win means that the core legislative priorities have been set for the next couple of years.  RCC will actively influence how these various issues are implemented, with the goal of ensuring that retail concerns are front and centre in the legislative solutions.  In addition to the above-mentioned signature initiatives, it can be anticipated the government will revive policy measures on waste reduction, a minimum wage pegged to CPI, and menu labelling, with the goal of passing initiatives on all of them within the first two years of the government’s mandate. 

The budget will cover the identical topics that were part of the original May 1 budget, including:

1. Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) – The budget announces a mandatory-contribution public pension plan patterned on the CPP, and scheduled for introduction in 2017.  Premiums would then be phased in over two years, requiring equal contributions from employers and employees to a maximum of 1.9% of incomes between $3,500 and $90,000.  The plan is intended to apply to part-time as well as full-time employees.  Most of the detail is still to be worked out, for example, whether to use the CPP threshold income level of $3,500.  The government has promised extensive consultation on the details of the plan.

The plan would be administered at arms’ length from government and is expected to achieve significant economies of scale.  Retailers with operations in other provinces should pay close attention, as PEI and Manitoba have joined an advisory body designing the program, while Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are in talks with Ontario about the proposal.

RCC will be asking a number of questions to clarify the impact on retailers with full-time and part-time labour force, union and non-union environments,  and the substitutability and portability of  various forms of existing benefit arrangements. We will also need to look at affordability and cost implications, and the impact on job creation going forward, etc.   A number of these issues will be addressed through government promised consultations over the next several months.  The answers to these questions will be crucial to determining RCC’s input into this process. 

2. Infrastructure – How will the government raise additional revenue to support infrastructure spending on transportation and transit projects?  To-date funds have been allocated internally by government to address short term challenges.  RCC’s input has been successful in averting retail specific measures such as parking stall levies.   RCC will continue to ensure that solutions are not put in place that would discriminate against the retail sector and work with government to maintain a level playing field approach.

In addition, other bills will be re-introduced:

Waste Reduction Act (revised  Bill 91) – a working group comprised of RCC, other associations, municipalities, stewards and the Ministry of Environment had achieved significant progress over the last few months to modify blue box funding criteria and defining programme conditions.  RCC will ensure these changes are included in the re-vised legislation that is tabled by working pro-actively with the Ministry on this issue.

Minimum Wage adjustments (old Bill 165) linked to CPI will be introduced and RCC will work with the Ministry of Labour to ensure that the Bill is passed. We anticipate a straightforward process as Bill 165 had all party support prior to the last provincial election.

Menu labelling legislation (old Bill 162), requiring restaurants and grocery stores to post calorie requirements on meals prepared for on-site or take home consumption.  RCC will work with the Ministry of Health to ensure that retail concerns are taken into consideration during drafting of the detailed regulations which will provide administrative details to ensure ease of compliance.

RCC will work with the newly elected Ministers and staff to assist the government in implementing legislation in the new majority environment which will include retail sector specific input.

If you have any comments about issues addressed in this note, contact Gary Rygus at 1-888-373-8245, ext. 225 or [email protected].