A year of Bill 148: Not what the big business lobby predicted

January 15, 2019

A full year of big changes to labour law in Ontario has just passed. Newly released jobs numbers let us measure the impact of these changes, and gauge whether the nightmarish predictions of job losses and economic upheaval have come true.

Last January, Bill 148 ushered in a sweeping set of labour law reforms in the province. The legislation increased the minimum wage from $11.60 to $14 an hour, a 21% jump. This was the first phase of a two-phase increase to $15 an hour, which would have come into effect on January 1, 2019.

The legislation also gave every worker in the province access to ten job-protected Personal Emergency Leave (PEL) days, allowing an additional 1.6 million workers to use these days for emergencies such as sickness, family illness or bereavement. It mandated that the first two PEL days be paid while also barring employers from requiring a doctor’s’ note.

Ontario became the first Canadian province where all workers had access to paid sick days.

In April, Bill 148 implemented an equal-pay-for-equal-work provision, mandating that part-time, contract, casual, seasonal and temporary workers who do substantially the same work as their full-time coworkers be paid the same.

The legislation also brought in a number of rule changes that improved workers’ holiday pay and vacations, and made it easier to join and keep a union.

In the lead up to Bill 148 being passed, many in the big business community were warning that the changes it contained would lead to economic disaster and major job losses.

A study done in 2017 by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (commissioned by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce) claimed that 185,000 jobs would be lost over two years. A 2017 TD Bank study predicted that Bill 148 would result in 80,000 to 90,000 jobs lost. Even Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office predicted 50,000 jobs would be lost due to Bill 148.

Read more: A year of Bill 148: Not what the big business lobby predicted