Ford will stiff most vul­ner­a­ble work­ers

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The On­tario Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives will “get rid of ” a big pack­age of labour re­forms the Lib­er­als passed less than a year ago that were meant to smooth the rougher edges of the gig econ­omy, Pre­mier Doug Ford an­nounced in the leg­is­la­ture Tues­day morn­ing.He said it in pass­ing, an­swer­ing a ques­tion from Lib­eral MPP Michael Coteau that asked him to com­mit to the three hours of pay the Lib­er­als’ Bill 148 re­quires em­ploy­ers to give their work­ers when their shifts are can­celled on short no­tice. No, Ford said, we’re elim­i­nat­ing the whole thing.For one party to sys­tem­at­i­cally re­peal ev­ery­thing a pre­vi­ous party did that it didn’t like, with­out hav­ing made an ex­plicit prom­ise to do it, is bad gov­ern­ment. It’s cer­tainly un-con­ser­va­tive. Un­less a law or pol­icy is truly toxic, in which case an op­po­si­tion party run­ning to knock off a gov­ern­ment will be ea­ger to say so dur­ing a cam­paign, we should be able to ex­pect that laws duly passed by ma­jor­ity votes will stick around for a while.Bill 148 is of­fi­cially the Fair Work­places, Bet­ter Jobs Act. Be­sides rais­ing the min­i­mum wage first to $14 and then $15 an hour, it did a lot to try to up­date On­tario labour stan­dards for a world in which part-time and ca­sual work are nor­mal for years, and pos­si­bly a whole work­ing life­time, rather than tem­po­rary con­di­tions on the way to per­ma­nent full-time work.Em­ploy­ers could no longer pay part-timers less per hour than they pay full-timers for the same work, for in­stance. Man­agers who keep work­ers on call but don’t call them in would have to pay them some­thing (that’s one pro­vi­sion yet to take ef­fect). Every em­ployee be­came en­ti­tled to 10 sick days a year, two of them paid.The gist was to ex­tend some of the or­di­nary hu­mane work­ing con­di­tions that full-time per­ma­nent em­ploy­ees take for granted to the grow­ing class of work­ers with­out job se­cu­rity or even pre­dictable hours.The law also got rid of “shel­tered work­shops” that let op­er­a­tors pay peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties pit­tances for work on the grounds they were get­ting job train­ing.“When I trav­elled across this prov­ince and talked to thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple, I found out very, very quickly the No. 1 is­sue was hy­dro,” Ford said.“No. 2 was Bill 148, that your party de­stroyed this prov­ince, that put us in more debt than we’ve ever had, the largest sub­na­tional debt in the en­tire world — the en­tire world, thanks to the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment.“We’re go­ing to make sure we tell the world On­tario is open for busi­ness.“We’re go­ing to make sure we’re com­pet­i­tive around the world. We’re get­ting rid of Bill 148. We’re go­ing to make sure we pro­tect the front-line work­ers, be­cause 60,000 peo­ple lost their jobs un­der Bill 148.”What 60,000 jobs he’s talk­ing about isn’t clear. Be­tween Novem­ber 2017, when the leg­is­la­ture passed the law, and last Au­gust, On­tario’s gone from 8.2 mil­lion jobs of all kinds to 8.4 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Statis­tics Canada.Au­gust was a bit of a come­down from July, when we peaked at 8.5 mil­lion jobs, but there’s noth­ing from Bill 148 that kicked in then that’s plau­si­bly to blame.Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jim Wil­son has been trav­el­ling the prov­ince talk­ing to busi­ness lead­ers and they say they don’t like the law. He walked back Ford’s prom­ise to get rid of the bill af­ter ques­tion pe­riod, say­ing the law is be­ing re­viewed, but it’s clear the di­rec­tion we’re headed.For the Lib­er­als, the law was one re­sponse to On­tar­i­ans’ wor­ries that in­evitable eco­nomic changes could knock them out of the mid­dle class for good.Part-time and ca­sual work wouldn’t have to be un­der­class work.Busi­ness groups like the Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­ness and the On­tario Cham­ber of Com­merce hated it; the Lib­er­als’ de­ci­sion to com­pen­sate smaller busi­nesses for some of their ex­tra costs by cut­ting their taxes didn’t change their minds.Led by for­mer Tory can­di­date Rocco Rossi, the cham­ber of com­merce has been es­pe­cially ve­he­ment about how Bill 148 stops em­ploy­ers from man­ag­ing their work­forces the way they’d like and called at the end of Au­gust for the law to be re­pealed.“Pre­mier Ford pledged to make On­tario ‘Open for Busi­ness’ by im­ple­ment­ing poli­cies that make it easier to in­vest, start and grow a busi­ness in the prov­ince as well as build an econ­omy that con­nects work­ers to jobs. This be­gins with the re­ver­sal of Bill 148,” Rossi said then.You won’t find re­peal­ing the re­forms in the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives’ prom­ise list from last spring’s elec­tion cam­paign, ex­cept maybe obliquely in a pledge to “Cut red tape and sti­fling reg­u­la­tions that are crip­pling job cre­ation and growth.”The Tories did pledge to undo the Lib­er­als’ cap-and-trade sys­tem for re­duc­ing green­house­gas emis­sions, for in­stance; On­tar­i­ans who voted for them knew what they were get­ting.Stop­ping the min­i­mum-wage in­crease at $14 an hour was some­thing they promised, too. But get­ting rid of Bill 148 wasn’t part of the pack­age.We’re go­ing to make sure we tell the world On­tario is open for busi­ness. We’re go­ing to make sure we’re com­pet­i­tive around the world.

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