March 2020

Welcome to COCA's monthly Newsletter. Unless noted otherwise, all articles written by COCA President, Ian Cunningham.

Minister of Labour Asks Feds to Double Skilled Immigrant Allocation  

Ontario’s Minister of Labour Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton, has called upon the federal government to allow Ontario to nominate more immigrants with the skills and experience that the province needs to grow its economy and create jobs.   

The Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development recently assumed responsibility for the Immigrant Nominee Program. Minister McNaughton believes appropriately skilled immigrants are the immediate solution to fill the gaps in Ontario’s labour force, especially in the technology and construction sectors.

Ontario’s allocation of economic immigrants is approximately 15% while no other province’s allocation is below 40%.
McNaughton asked the federal government to double the province’s current annual allocation over the next two years, from 2020 to 2022, to 13,300. 

Good work Minister McNaughton! 

Minister McNaughton Launches Workforce Training and Development Review  
Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development recently announced the Workforce Development and Training Review. Here are some details: 

  • The review will include consultations with industry, employers and other partners who play a role in hiring, training and retraining workers.
  • The review will study how to improve existing skills training programs, including the Second Career and the Canada-Ontario Job Grant, as well as other workforce development system features, like local workforce planning. 
  • The review will also provide the foundation for the province's first workforce development and training action plan, which will provide a roadmap for ensuring Ontario workers have the skills to find good, high-quality jobs in a changing economy.
  • This approach follows other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world, who have responded to technological advancement and workforce changes by developing comprehensive workforce development strategies. 
More Changes at Labour - Another Deputy Minister Shuffle  
David Corbett was appointed Deputy Minister of Labour Training and Skills Development less than seven months ago.  Prior to joining the Ministry and the Ontario Public Service, Corbett served as Chair of the Workplace Safety and Appeals Tribunal and prior to that was a senior employment and labour lawyer in a large global law firm. Effective April 6th Corbett will become Deputy Attorney General in the Ministry of the Attorney General.   
Transferring in to fill the hole left by Corbett at Labour Training and Skills Development on April 6th will be Greg Meredith. Meredith has served as Deputy Minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs since December 2016 and since September 2019 has also been in the role of Deputy Minister Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. A career public servant, prior to joining the Ontario Public Service, Meredith had a long career in the federal government bureaucracy including stints in Agriculture, Corrections, Global Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Trade and CSIS. 

We look forward to meeting with Greg and working collaboratively with him.   
Ford Cuts Must Be Sustainable – FAO Says  

On Wednesday, March 11th the Financial Accountability Office released its long term budget outlook, 2020 to 2050. The key high level take-aways are as follows:  
  • the success of the government’s current reforms to its core programs – health, education and social services – will have a significant impact on Ontario’s long-term fiscal position. If the government successfully transforms public services and achieves significant and permanent cost savings, Ontario’s fiscal position would steadily improve, with the debt burden lower in 2050 than it is today.  
  • If the government fails to find permanent savings and instead relies on temporary cost reductions, the province’s future finances would be challenging because the debt burden would be much higher. This would likely prompt the need for significant future policy changes.  

Here are the highlights of the FAO’s analysis: 

  • Consistent with other forecasters, the FAO expects that demographic change will contribute to slower economic growth in Ontario over the next three decades. This happens largely because population aging will slow the growth in the labour force. 
  • More moderate economic growth means that Ontario’s revenue gains will also be slower. At the same time, on-going population growth and a rising number of seniors will put upward pressure on program spending.  
  • In the medium term, the government has committed to balancing Ontario’s budget by limiting the growth in spending through efficiency gains and transforming the way public services are delivered.  
  • The FAO’s baseline projection assumes the government successfully transforms public service delivery, achieving permanent cost savings. Given this assumption, Ontario’s fiscal position improves with net debt as a share of GDP reaching 35 per cent by 2050, down from about 40 per cent today.  
  • However, improvements in the delivery of public services, resulting in lasting cost reductions are difficult to achieve. Historically, governments have often relied upon temporary cost-cutting measures that lead to a period of higher “catch-up” spending.  
  • For this reason, the FAO developed an alternative scenario that assumes the government is unable to achieve lasting cost savings and spending rebounds to address built-up demand for public services. In this case, Ontario’s future fiscal position would be challenging, with the debt burden rising to almost 66 per cent by 2050.  
  • Under these circumstances the province’s deteriorating fiscal position would likely require future governments to respond by increasing taxes or cutting 
Del Duca Elected New Ontario Liberal Party Leader  

On Saturday, March 7th Steven Del Duca was elected leader of the Ontario by a wide margin (58% of the votes cast versus 17% by his next closest rival) at a delegated convention held in Toronto. So, who is Steven Del Duca, you ask. Here’s the 101: 

  • Steven Del Duca is age 46, married, father of two, lives in Woodbridge 
  • He is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School but he was never called to the bar and has never practised law 
  • He has been an active Liberal since age 15 in a variety of positions with ever increasing responsibilities  
  • He was first elected to the Ontario Legislature in a by election in 2012 called following the retirement of long-time senior Liberal Greg Sorbara 
  • As a backbencher, Del Duca actively sponsored Bill 69, the second Private Members prompt payment Bill which proved to set the ground work for the Reynolds-Vogel Review and the new Construction Act with its prompt payment and adjudication provisions 
  • He was re-elected in the 2014 general election and was appointed Minister of Transportation by Premier Kathleen Wynne 
  • He was defeated by PC Michael Tibollo in the June 2018 general election 
  • Del Duca is an experienced organizer, an effective fundraiser and has a network of connections across the political spectrum 
  • His resounding first ballot win gives Del Duca undisputed leadership control of the party, no splinter groups plotting to over throw the new leader  
  • Without a seat in the Legislature currently, Del Duca is expected to spend most of his time travelling across the province, visiting every riding, meeting with the grass roots to better understand their issues and concerns, raising money, recruiting candidates and introducing himself to Ontarians 
  • Unless a seat opens up through a natural retirement (possibly Kathleen Wynne) or other reasons, it’s believed that Del Duca will not ask a sitting Liberal MPP to step aside for him to seek a place in the Legislature in a by election   
  • Del Duca is little known by the average Ontario voter 
  • He is considered to be a centrist on the political spectrum 

One of Del Duca’s challenges will be to distance himself from the much maligned government of Kathleen Wynne that he was a part of.

Some pundits believe that being on the floor of the Legislature if the best training ground for party leaders while others simply point to Doug Ford who never set foot in the chamber before he was elected. 
Province-Wide Consultations on Small Business  

The provincial government recently announced province-wide consultations with Ontarians to determine how the government can help small businesses grow compete and succeed.   

The consultations will focus on five key pillars: 
  1. Lowering costs - reducing red tape and streamlining government interactions for small businesses so they can spend less time filling out government forms and more time focused on serving their customers and growing their business. 
  2. Increasing exports - helping small businesses across the province access domestic and international markets. 
  3. New technologies - helping small businesses across the province build an online presence, as well as develop, adopt, and commercialize new technology.  
  4. Talent development - ensuring small businesses in all regions and sectors can access and retain the talent they need to help start and grow their businesses. 
  5. Succession planning and supporting entrepreneurship - helping retiring business owners across the province plan and support the next generation of business leaders, and helping to address the unique challenges facing specific entrepreneurs, such as women, minorities and people with disabilities. 

In the coming months, the government will be holding a series of provincewide small business roundtables — with participants ranging from manufacturers, agribusiness and professional service-providers, to tech and local community businesses.  
The government is also welcoming feedback from businesses online. Business owners can fill out an  online survey ( )  and send in an email submission by September 1, 2020.

Feedback received through the consultations will help shape the development of Ontario's Small Business Success Strategy. 
Coroner Announces Inquest into Christmas Eve 2009 Swing Stage Fatalities  

On March 11th, Chief Regional Supervising Coroner for Inquests, Dr. David Cameron, announced that the inquest into the deaths of Favzullo Fazilov, Alexsandrs Bondarev, Vladimir Korostin and Aleksey Blumberg will begin at 9:30 am on Monday, May 4, 2020 at 25 Morton Shulman Avenue in Toronto and will last 14 days. The four men aged 31, 24, 40 and 38 died on December 24, 2009 as a result of falls from a swing stage. Dr. John Carlisle will preside and Rebecca Edward and Amal Chaudry will be counsel to the coroner.   
Digital Billboards On Metrolinx Properties  

One day Premier Ford publicly contemplates erecting billboards along provincial highways to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the provincial coffers and the next day Metrolinx posts a solicitation for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the design, build and maintenance of digital billboards on the MERX procurement website.   
  • 66 sites in Toronto, the 905 region and Hamilton are listed in the request for EOIs, some in station properties and others within the rail corridors on Metrolinx owned lands 
  • The request for EOIs is for the construction, management and maintenance of digital sign structures 
  • Proponents can submit proposals for one or more of the listed sites 
  • The deadline for submissions is April 16, 2020 
  • No costs associated with this procurement will be incurred by Metrolinx 
  • None of the sites is along a provincial highway as contemplated by Premier Ford; that could be next 
  • Receiving municipal approvals for the construction of these digital billboards could be challenging; local resident push back is almost guaranteed 
  • Critics have suggested that brightly lit signboards in locations close to major roadways such as the QEW will be an additional distraction for drivers as advertising is first and foremost designed to attract eyeballs 
Campaign Research’s February Ontario Poll Highlights  

Campaign Research’s February poll of 1,003 Ontario adults, conducted using the Maru/Blu online panel for accuracy and analytical capabilities, produced the following results regarding political preferences: 

  • 32% of respondents supported the PCs, 29% supported the Liberals and 28% supported the NDP 
  • PCs got 40% support in Halton/Peel and 37% in York/Simcoe and in eastern Ontario; NPD had 44% support in Hamilton and 37% support in northern Ontario; Liberals got 37% support in Toronto and 36% support in Ottawa 
  • Doug Ford’s approval rating has improved from minus 50 two months ago to minus 32 in the February survey; Andrea Horwath’s approval rating has remained steady at +15; Liberal leader Steven Del Duca’s approval rating in the February poll (before he was elected as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party) was at +2 with 60% of respondents saying they have no opinion 
  • Very generally the PCs score best with older and middle-aged men and not so well with women; the Libs and the NDP appeal to much the same demographics with the Libs winning 54% of the older women category and the NDP winning support from both men and women in the younger age category  

The same study delved into public sentiment in regard to the ongoing labour negotiations between the Ontario government and the teachers’ unions. Here’s what it revealed: 

  • 65% of respondents were aware of the teachers’ average salary of $93,000 
  • 82% were aware of the up to $60 per strike day childcare subsidies that are available to parents  
  • Respondents were largely aware of the four main issues, average class size, e-learning, amount of the salary increase, merit-based hiring versus seniority-based hiring of supply teachers 
  • Except for merit hire versus seniority hire for supply teachers, the majority of respondents was aware of the government new proposals: an average class size of 23, voluntary e-learning, stick with the 1% salary increase and stick with merit-based hiring of supply teachers 
  • More than 60% of respondents in every case either strongly supported or somewhat supported each of the government’s new proposals 
  • 57% think the teachers should except the government’s new proposals 
  • 51% are more likely to support or somewhat more likely to support the government if the teachers don’t quickly accept the government’s new proposals 
  • 60% were very concerned or somewhat concerned that the school year could be in jeopardy 
  • 45% believe the teachers should be legislated back to work while 37% say no 
  • When told that legislating teachers back to work would likely result in the teachers winning more than 1% salary increase in the courts, 60% said the government should continue to negotiate 
  • 55% believe that the government should designate education as an essential service 

The study is considered accurate +/- 3.1% 19 times out of 20. The full results can be found at  
CIBC Economist - Impact of COVID19 -Canada’s Aging Population-Monetary of Fiscal Policy 

The Ontario Construction Secretariat’s 20th State of the Industry and Outlook Conference on March 5th at The Toronto Congress Centre was an outstanding event that featured excellent presentations and superior networking. One of the most interesting, insightful and provocative presentations was the one by Benjamin Tal who is the Deputy Chief Economist with CIBA World Markets. Here are some of the points he raised: 

  • COVID19 has created significant uncertainty, we don’t know what will happen but we know the virus cannot be stopped 
  • China is connected to everywhere; 60% of what China produces and 90% of what South Korea produces lands in North America 
  • Canada may already be in a recession or close to tipping into a recession; the US could follow 
  • We are currently in the longest period of economic expansion ever but also the weakest or most muted period of economic expansion ever 
  • The rate of economic growth is plateauing largely as a result of demographics; Trump can’t make America young again 
  • Unemployment is low BUT wages are not increasing 
  • The fastest growing segment of the labour market is the segment aged 55+: people are choosing to work beyond the traditional retirement age; people who are in this 55+ age segment do not push for wage increases the way younger people do 
  • Today, people are staying with the same employer longer than they did in the 1950s 
  • The wage mechanism is broken because of demographics 
  • Canada suffers from a significant labour market mismatch; there are people without jobs and jobs without people 
  • Canada is the most educated country in the OECD but Canada also has more educated people living in poverty than any other OECD country 
  • The labour market is changing at the speed of light but our education system is acting as if nothing happened 
  • In Germany, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in plumbing and history which makes for a better plumber 
  • More than 30% of global debt today is negative yielding; negative interest rates produce savings NOT consumption 
  • Many Canadians alive today have never experienced high interest rates; high interest rates are an economy killer 
  • The number one public policy approach should be fiscal policy NOT monetary policy 
  • Trump believes that fog and confusion are the best things for the US economy 
  • There could be logic behind the madness of Trump’s trade policy which is based on one-on-one meetings and confusion 
  • China’s goal is “Made in China 2025” and Trump’s trade policy is designed to slow that down 
  • Our dependence on China could be reduced with a supply chain closer to home; for example, we can’t have 80% of our antibiotics produced in China 
  • COVID19 could have precipitated a modification to globalization, possibly the start of deglobalization or an economic cold war; this deglobalization cannot be stopped even with the election of a Democratic government in the US in November 2020  
  • Canada currently has trade agreements with 41 countries but our dependence on the US has remained the same for decades 
  • Canada is in a strong position debt-wise and so the federal government is likely to increase spending on infrastructure; relative to other industries, construction should do well 
  • Canada has an aging population so we need more younger immigrants 
Sherrard Kuzz Logo
Accommodation Update: New and Important Decisions in Human Rights Law

Date: June 10, 2020 @ 7:30 am - 9:30 am
Venue: Mississauga Convention Centre – 75 Derry Road West, Mississauga
Cost: Complimentary
RSVP: May 25, 2020

Workplace accommodation can be a challenge for even the most seasoned HR professional.

Join us as we discuss recent human rights decisions and how they might impact your workplace.
Topics include:
Disability Accommodation
  • Must an employer accommodate an employee’s commute-related restrictions?
  • Is an employee entitled to his/her preferred accommodation?

Family Status Discrimination
  • Must an employer accommodate an employee’s child care preferences?
  • Does an employer “set a precedent” by agreeing to a flexible start time?

Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace
  • Can an employee be terminated for failing to participate in a drug or alcohol test?
  • Recent case law on accommodation of a substance use disorder

For more information, visit the Sherrard Kuzz events webpage.
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