Legislature resumes amid two trials
Major labour law changes, including a $15 minimum wage, and marijuana will be on the front burner as Ontario’s legislature returns from its summer break today.
But the business of legislating also resumes at the same time as two Liberal trials get underway and are sure to dominate Ontario politics.
Both opposition parties will likely try to keep reminding people of the Election Act bribery charges trial in Sudbury related to a 2015 byelection and mischief and the breach of trust trial in Toronto related to the cancellation of two gas plants before the 2011 election.
Premier Kathleen Wynne is set to testify in the bribery trial in Sudbury on Wednesday.
“It’s a sad day for the people of Ontario that they will be seeing their premier as a witness on the stand in court on Wednesday,” Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said in a statement.
Wynne was asked last week if she was worried the trials would overshadow her agenda.
“I really don’t have control over that,” she said. “My job is to implement our plan to make sure that we do everything that we can to make this a fair place to live.”
Wynne and her team have been pushing the fairness theme hard over the past months. Expect that to continue through the fall and all the way to the June 2018 election.
A key part of that is the Liberal government’s labour bill that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2019 as well as give equal pay for parttime workers, increased vacation entitlements and expanded personal emergency leave.
Public hearings on the bill were held this summer and it will go back before the House with some tweaks for second reading, before being sent for a second round of committee hearings.
Though the minimum wage increase has proven popular in government polling, business groups have been campaigning hard against the phase-in period, saying the increase — it is currently set to rise to $11.60 in October — is too much to absorb that quickly.
The business groups say they’ll continue to press for amendments to the bill, but they’re also eager for the government to unveil a promised package of offsets to help businesses cope with increased costs the labour bill will bring.