The Changing Workplaces Review and Agricultural Workers

The recent announcement that the minimum wage will increase to $14 by January 2018, then $15 by January 2019 was an exciting one for workers and advocates.

The announcement follows the final report of The Changing Workplaces Review.

The report features excellent analysis and puts forward many vital and timely recommendations. Read it at

Unfortunately, this new minimum wage will apply to almost all adult workers including caregivers but not farm workers.

Agricultural Workers

The Review looked at the Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA), 2002.  While most workers in Ontario are covered under the Labour Relations Act (LRA), the AEPA applies to most farm workers.  That is a problem for these workers and our province as a whole.  Here is why:

Just a Few of the Things Wrong with the AEPA According to the Changing Workplaces Reviewfarm workers

The Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA);

  1. doesn’t clearly state that employees have the right to join a trade union and participate in its lawful activities.
  2. doesn’t prohibit an employer or employers’ organization from participating in or contributing financial or other support to an employee association or trade union.
  3. doesn’t adequately protect employees against employer misconduct.
  1. contains no right to collective bargaining since there was no intention to create any right to collective bargaining when the bill was drafted.
  2. doesn’t require the employer to recognize the exclusive agency or bargaining authority of the union or employee association.
  3. neither prohibits nor provides a right for agricultural workers to strike nor provides for any alternate dispute resolution if discussions reach an impasse.
  4. makes no distinction between the family farm and agribusiness
  5. has no mandatory dispute resolution mechanism for enforcement of collective agreements so any negotiated collective agreement would be difficult if not impossible to enforce.

No collective agreements have been signed in the agricultural sector since this the legislation came into effect fifteen years ago. That is because the intent in passing the act was not to implement collective bargaining legislation.

Not surprisingly, then, The Changing Workplace Review concludes that the continued exclusion of agricultural workers from the Labour Relations Act is unjustified.

Migrant Workers

The Review had little to say on migrant Workers.  We and others have argued that migrant workers deserve the same rights as everyone else.

There should be no special rules and exemptions by occupation.  In fact, Labour Minister Flynn has said that, “Fairness and decency must continue to be the defining values of our workplaces.”

The province avoids dealing with the fundamental issue of fairness. It hides behind jurisdictional matters as migrant workers are primarily covered by federal regulations.

Find out what you can do at about this injustice at


Support Ontario’s Rental Fairness Act 


After years of pressure from tenant advocates the Ontario government is finally taking important steps to protect the rights of tenants.  These actions could go a long way in tackling the affordable housing crisis in our province.  The Rental Fairness Act (Bill 124) addresses issues that are vital to ensuring tenants’ right to safe, adequate and affordable housing.

Right now, Bill 124 is being considered by the Standing Committee on General Government.

The Advocacy Centre for Tenants of Ontario (ACTO) a community legal clinic funded by Legal Aid Ontario, told the Committee recently that there are good things in this proposed legislation that will be of benefit to tenants.acto

Four Reasons for Tenants to be Happy with Bill 124

  1. The 1991 exemption will be ended. That is the exemption that applied to properties occupied by tenants living in rental units that were first occupied for residential purposes after 1991.  These tenants will no longer be forced out by the landlord’s unlimited right to raise the rent at the end of each lease term.
  2. A new standard lease form will be introduced. The result will be that tenants will be protected from leases with illegal and misleading clauses.  As tenants know too well, these leases are routinely used by landlords to misinform tenants about their rights and obligations.
  3. Rules for evictions will be tightened up in the area of “landlord’s own use.”  These new rules are intended to discourage false claims of landlord’s own use.  They should end the punishment of good tenants who are often victims of no fault evictions & displacement from their communities.
  4. Above Guideline Rent Increases (AGIs) will be limited. This should keep housing affordable for more tenants.

Since tenants will pay for any increases in utility costs in the following year as they are included in the Consumer Price Index on which the annual guideline is based.

The legislation isn’t perfect. ACTO’s submission notes there is still work to be done, what they call “Missing Pieces.”  (You can read the submission at

On balance, though, this is legislation that should be supported.

Not surprisingly, landlords and property developers, who like to portray themselves as tenant allies, are fighting back on some of these proposed changes.  It is important, then, that tenants, advocates and others speak out. The legislation needs to pass so that we can move toward a province where rental housing is fairer and more affordable for all Ontarians.

You are encouraged to remind the government to keep its promises to pass Bill 124.

Basic Income Pilot Project (OBIP)  – They Said it

Most readers will be aware that the   Ontario Government selected Hamilton (with Brantford and Brant County), Thunder Bay and Lindsay as the three municipalities for the provincial basic income pilot.  The announcement was made on April 24th. The pilot will run for three years and involve four thousand people selected in the three locations.

Details on the program can be found at

Some Random Comments and Questions on OBIP

We have gathered some comments from around the province.  Feel free to add yours.

  • The project will explore the effectiveness of providing a basic income to people who are currently living on low incomes, whether they are working or not. People participating in our pilot communities will receive a minimum amount of income each year — a basic income, no matter what.  – Premier Kathleen Wynnebasic income announcement
  • This is going to help many people get a hand up and help them to get ahead and also the spinoffs of this project will be great across our area in terms of building the local economy. – Mike Perry Executive Director – City of Kawartha Lakes Family Health Team told CHEX TV.
  • So the first takeaway is that regardless of what happens in the next provincial election, all parties need to pledge allegiance to OBIP’s full three years. History tells us that the rigorous research and evaluation experts promised by the Wynne government had better be the best in their field for this will be key to a robust scientific outcome. The third-party research consortium that will evaluate the study has yet to be announced. – Jennifer Wells, columnist Toronto Star
  • We are certain a basic income pilot project will reinforce the need for income adequacy for all people in Ontario- especially for those on provincial social assistance programs who experience the deepest poverty in society – John Mills, a member of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and a basic-income proponent.
  • Can you assure us that in this one, it’s a three-year pilot, that the evaluation will be ongoing and in the event it proves what we all think it will prove, that an announcement will be made prior to the end of the three years of not only the continuation for those people who are part of the pilot, but as well as expansion? Iain Angus – Mayor of Thunder Bay asked premier Wynne as reported by the Thunder Bay Newswatch.
  • While news of the pilot project is positive, the Roundtable stresses the need for more information and a comprehensive consent process to ensure participants understand the ramifications of signing up for the pilot.  Nobody should be worse off by participating in the pilot. – Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction
  • So does that mean people living next door to each other, one person’s still only going to get $700 and their neighbour’s going to get $1400 a month? It seems profoundly unfair. Sally Colquhoun, Coordinator of Legal Services at Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic told the CBC.
  • For the people who are languishing on a single income for Ontario Works, can you please make a commitment to still do something more about those folks that this ‘basic income’ maybe won’t work for or they won’t get on? – Deirdre Pike asked the Premier at the announcement.
  • This is a parallel track. We have not forgotten that – Premier Wynne in response to Deirdre Pike’s question.


Hamilton Legal Clinic Shares Reconciliation Report – “An Historic Moment”

“This is an historic moment,” noted Constance McKnight, Executive Director of De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre, speaking at a community event at Hamilton City Hall last month.

‘For a mainstream organization to take this leadership and initiative is an important step in the spirit of reconciliation.”

Ms. McKnight was referring to a report from the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic called A Journey to ReconciliAction – Calls to Action Report.

The report contains sixteen recommendations. These recommendations address 14 Calls to Action that apply to the clinic’s work which are contained within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) report released in 2015. It is available on the clinic’s website ( as a Word document.

“In the spirit of Indigenous principles of sharing knowledge and wisdom we are passing on the report to our Community Partners and others in the community,” said Lyndon George Indigenous Justice Coordinator at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.

One organization accepting the report was the City of Hamilton. Shylo Elmayan (pictured shylo-elmayanbelow) is the new staff person facilitating the development of the city’s first Urban Indigenous Strategy.

Ms. Elmayan noted that while it is not common practice to share a report in this manner, this sharing helps all to understand that we have a lot to learn from the work of the TRC. (Here is a report from TVO on Hamilton’s strategy

Other organizations and community groups will be able to use the report as they see fit and take responsibility for the Calls to Action that impacts them.

The 16 recommendations include a call to support Indigenous clients and staff of the clinic using their traditional names to identify themselves. Another recommendation states that the Clinic’s public legal education initiatives for Indigenous peoples must be culturally sensitive and safe. All the recommendations align themselves with the TRC Calls to Action and/or the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Clinic Executive Director Hugh Tye pointed to Recommendation #2 in the Clinic’s document as being of particular importance.

“Recommendation #2 calls for us to honour Indigenous laws, traditions, principles , customs and applications as an influential guide for the development/revision of our polices practices and procedures. We’ll be working towards that,” says Tye.fred and sandi #2

The Clinic already took a bold step when it closed its offices on June 21, 2016 to celebrate National Aboriginal Day (NAD).

“The decision by the Clinic’s Board to make NAD an annual holiday for staff is a reflection of the Clinic’s organizational values and demonstrates a commitment to ReconciliACTION,” says Board President Sandi Bell (pictured sharing report with Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger).

“Raise the Rates” Minister Told

Provincial consultations on the proposed Basic Income Pilot Project are running during January across Ontario. Here is a report on the Thunder Bay consultation from Mike Balkwill of Put Food in the Budget.



“I remember MP’s staying in the house 14 hours to pass their own raise – so they can get things done when they want to”  

This is how Eugene introduced the emergency resolution to raise the rates in Thunder Bay on Thursday night.

Eugene called for an immediate billion dollar investment to raise the rates. Eugene’s point is if politicians can ‘raise the rates’ for themselves, then surely they can raise them for people living in poverty so deep they can’t put food in their budget.

People from labour unions, Indigenous people’s organizations, anti-poverty groups, injured workers groups and others demonstrated outside the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay before the Basic Income consultation and then brought their demands into the meeting.


Three Ministers – Chris Ballard, Michael Gravelle and Bill Mauro – heard repeated calls to raise the rates now!

Steve Mantis of Thunder Bay Injured Workers told Minister Ballard

“People right now don’t have enough money to pay rent and food. Let’s raise those rates for social assistance now to the level they’re proposing in their consultation and then we’ll see right away benefit for all the community

The public demands in Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, on consecutive nights, clearly put Minister Chris Ballard on the defensive – and he finally admitted that more needed to be done to raise the rates.

In the last two months participants at ten community consultations have overwhelmingly endorsed the demand to raise the rates now!

There are only three consultations left – Ottawa, Windsor and London – and we expect the support to continue and to grow.

thunder-bayEndorse the resolution here

Please share this link to the resolution in your networks.

Put Food in the Budget

Getting Rid of “Stupid Rules”

For years, advocates have been calling on the Ontario government to take real action on social assistance reform.

The Ontario budget is currently in the pre-consultation phase. This will be the last fully implementable budget before the 2018 election.queens-park

That is why, according to the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC), “now is the time to take action on inadequate social assistance incomes and counter-productive program rules.”

 ISAC has produced a typically excellent, detailed report that echoes the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition’s recent call for government to invest $1 billion in social assistance rates and rule changes.

You can read the report at

Those Stupid Rules

 Many readers will remember Deb Matthews 2004 report on social assistance. Twelve years ago Ms. Matthews said that the system was relying “far too much on sanctions and prohibitions as its guiding principles.” The term “stupid rules” was applied to the 800 plus regulations and rules that were part of the social assistance system in Ontario.


A lot of those stupid rules are still in place. The ISAC report suggests some changes.  We’ve done a short summary below.

Please make community members aware of ISAC’s report. It is in the form of a submission to the pre-budget consultations.  Consider contacting any of Minister Jaczek, Finance Minister Sousa, the Standing Committee on Finance and/or your own MPP to support improvements for those of us who rely on OW and ODSP.

ISAC has more information and a template letter at

Some Recommended Changes to “Stupid” Social Assistance Rules*

Stupid Rule Current Situation Change Called for
Spouse in the House People on OW/ODSP treated differently from others. Change the definition of “spouse” in OW and ODSP to align with family law.
Double Disabled Cap Penalizes 2 disabled people who would like to become partners. Eliminate the ODSP “double-disabled cap.
Earnings are treated as a disincentive to work.


In both OW and ODSP, income from all sources is usually deducted from the amount of benefits a person or family would otherwise receive. Benefits from Employment Insurance (Regular and Sickness) and CPP-Disability are currently deducted dollar-for-dollar.

-Income exemptions should help reduce poverty. Treat EI and CPP-D benefits like earned income in OW and ODSP.


-Increase the flat-rate earned income exemption in ODSP from $200 to $500.

People with disabilities have additional costs to travel to medical appointments/ treatments that are not covered. A Divisional Court recently ruled that ODSP recipients are entitled to the cost of both owning and operating a car. Increase the ODSP medical transportation mileage rate to cover real costs from the current 18 cents

to at least 40¢ per kilometre.

People with disabilities on ODSP living in board and lodging situations are treated differently than others. Boarders and lodgers currently get up to $260 per month less than those who are “renters” or who live in homes that they own. The “board and lodging” category should be eliminated so that everyone with a disability on ODSP is given access to the same benefit amounts.


Adults on OW are only eligible for emergency dental care or care that supports getting to work, with no provisions for regular, basic dental services. Care is provided on a discretionary basis. While limited exam and x-rays, filling and extractions are the best treatments available, a very typical response to dental pain for people on OW is dental extractions. Create an extended medical benefit for all low-income Ontarians. Immediately, give people on OW at least the same dental coverage provided to adults on ODSP.


People are punished for borrowing small amounts to help make ends meet. OW/ODSP recipients borrowing small amounts see the loan treated as income and deducted 100% from benefits. Such borrowing should not be treated as income and deducted from benefits.



People can’t save. In 2013, the government increased the amount of “liquid assets” allowed saying the asset limit increase was “an initial step” towards aligning asset limits in OW and ODSP. Increase the liquid asset limits as promised in 2013.


*Adapted from ISAC Report Pre-Budget Submission on Social Assistance in Ontario to the Ontario Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs and the Ontario Minister of Finance, December 2016

Basic Income – Good Idea or Bad?

(The following is a slightly edited version of a story originally published at

The province is running consultations on a proposed Basic Income pilot project.  One was held in Hamilton in November and a total of 14 stops are planned before the end of January.

Kevin Werner reported on the Hamilton event.  See

Werner’s story cited Hamilton resident Ursula Samuel’s comments:

“We need action.  We know what we really need.  We face it every day,” said Ms. Samuels.

Her comments are bang on, of course.  Unfortunately the province has decided to go ahead with a basic income pilot project that will impact a few citizens in the short term and, maybe, others some years down the line.

Experts disagree on whether basic income is a good thing. To look at the issue the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) had Trish Hennessy and Alex Himelfarb put a paper of opinions together. You can read Basic Income: Rethinking Social Policy in full at

Some Comments

We have gathered a few comments from the report.  (Please note: The term “guaranteed income” is often used in place of “basic income.”)

**Basic income and social assistance are opposites and based on a different value system.  We have forms of basic income, the Canada child Benefit is one example that have been working well. “The issue for Canada is not whether a good basic income is possible but who is left out.  And how can we fix that?” – Sheila Regehr

**The basic income trial in Dauphin Manitoba (where an earlier pilot was tried the 70’s) showed a reduction in hospitalizations of 8.5%.  Such a reduction Canada wide could result in savings of $5.4 billion annually. – Ryan Meili and Danielle Martindauphin

**A substantial number of all Canadian jobs are seasonal.  Seafood processing and agricultural work are examples.    “Seasonal fluctuations in employment are not a problem of individual motivation. A Basic income promises to come to terms with our economy and job market as they actually exist…Without a gigantic structure full of people whose job it is to make sure other people are being honest about their job searches.” – Karen Foster

**“While guaranteed income cannot and should not be seen as a replacement of investment in social housing and health care…….A guaranteed annual income however, has the potential to prevent or end homelessness of thousand of Canadians.” – Tim Richter

**“What many other criticisms of guaranteed income have in common is concern about the intentions of government”……..government may use the existence of the basic income program  “as a reason to diminish other social benefits….” – Dan Wilson

**We should use this moment to experiment with designs that can tell us if we’re better off when we have more income, or needless of it.” Armin Yalnizyan

*Spending more to eliminate poverty and provide services rather than providing a basic income has proponents.   “We should use this moment to experiment with the designs that can tell us if we’re better off when we have more  income, or need less of it.….We should not neglect other labour policies, that focus on things like employment  standards.”–  Margot Young

**Some argue that basic income is not really an “income” at all.”“By calling it an income, we are obscuring the nature of the program which is to deliver social assistance to those in need.  So – make existing programs more efficient and generous.” – Louis -Philippe Rochon

**”A basic income should not act as a subsidy for employers who pay low wages, nor should it be an excuse for reducing employment.” Anita Khanna

**“Basic income as a concept sounds great.  But as always, the devil is in the details.” – Jennefer Laidley

Find out More

The above is a quick sampling, really only a snapshot, of opinion.  We encourage you to talk look at the full report from the CCPA.

Also, the Income Security and Advocacy Centre (ISAC) has resource material on its website at

And, finally, the province is reporting on comments from the consultation meetings at


The Election of Donald Trump – Implications for our Social Justice Work

­­What will the election of Donald Trump mean to those involved in social justice work in Canada? Here is a random sampling of six insights recently found in print and social media.donald-tump-1

1.  On Social Justice 

“Time for deep breaths and thoughtful reaction. Important to reach out to American friends and allies in our common struggle for justice.” – Maude Barlow Chairperson of the Council of Canadians

2. On Discrimination and Racism

“We’re very close to the U.S. and I can see it coming to Canada. “We’re not immune. We stand with them and we’re not going to take this lying down if it does happen here.” – Miral El-Hussein. El-Hussein was prompted to organize a large Toronto protest after a man at a bar on election night asked her where she was from. When she responded that she was from Lebanon, he told her that she would be ‘going home soon.’ As reported by CTV Toronto. )

3.  On the Economy

The Trump Plan to stimulate the U.S. economy is going to raise debt, raise inflation and it is going to raise interest rates……He is going to be creating a recession (according to most economists) with what he is doing.”  – Armine Yalnizyan (pictured to the left)armine  


4.  On Climate Change and our Environment

I think this is a real warning to us that we need something deeper that can protect us against the fluctuations that come with political change. That’s why we’re saying we need a change in our charter of rights and freedoms.” – David Suzuki to the Canadian Press as reported by the Globe and Mail.     

5.  On Peace and Economic Justice.

 “…we must urgently confront and battle racism and misogyny in our culture, in our movements, and in ourselves. This cannot be an afterthought, it cannot be an add-on. It is central to how someone like Trump can rise to power.

Neither can we tell ourselves that when we fight for peace and economic justice, it will benefit black people and Indigenous people the most because they are the most victimized in our current system of economic inequality, state repression, and climate change. There is too long and too painful a track record of left and liberal movements leaving workers of color and Indigenous people and women and their labor out in the cold. To build a truly inclusive movement, there needs to be a truly inclusive vision that starts with, and is led by, the most brutalized and excluded.” –Naomi Klein  

6.  On Organizing between Elections

“Civic engagement is one way to engage democracy, and our lives don’t revolve around election cycles. We are obliged to earn the trust of future generations — to defend economic, social and political power for all people. We are confident that we have the commitment, the people power and the vision to organize our country into a safe place for black people — one that leads with inclusivity and a commitment to justice, not intimidation and fear.”Black Lives Matter

National Housing Day of Action

Food, water and shelter are some of the most fundamental human rights, yet Canada is facing an affordable housing and homelessness crisis.

Everything begins with housing – without it, no one can truly live life with dignity.

Take the people’s pledge and join our National Housing Day of Action – take to the streets and march for the right to housing!

Fri, 18 November 2016

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM EST

Queen’s Park (outside front steps)

111 Wellesley St W, Toronto


Our message to the government is simple:

“This is Canada’s moment to make history. The federal and provincial governments have made the commitment to provide adequate housing to all. We, the people, are here to make a pledge that we will hold the government accountable to their promise.

  • No one shall ever feel a loss of their dignity because they don’t have a home.
  • No one shall ever have to choose between adequate food and housing.
  • No one shall ever have to live on our streets and sidewalks, or worry they may end up there.
  • No one shall ever have to pass on life’s opportunities because they don’t have a place to call home.

This is our pledge to everyone in Canada. Join our movement. Make your voice heard. Together let’s make a commitment that we will hold the government accountable.”

We encourage you to bring noise makers – pots, pants, cans, shakers, drums, etc. and join the drummers as we march!

If you have any questions, please contact Bahar Shadpour at

Help Make Meaningful Changes to Ensure Justice and Dignity for Migrant Workers

 The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) is working with Migrants Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) to ensure that new employment laws are put in place to address barriers to workplace safety and fairness. You can get involved by visiting your Member of Provincial Parliament. Here is how.


Visiting MPPs:migrant-workers-for-change

Migrants Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) is organizing Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) visits for constituency week Nov 4th– 10th 2016.

The issues:

There is an opportunity right now to push the Ontario governments to make meaningful changes that are needed to ensure justice and dignity for migrant workers.

The Changing Workplace Review is making recommendations to ensure that laws about employment and unionization meet the needs of all workers, especially those in the most precarious jobs. We need to make sure that the laws that are introduced address the particular barriers to workplace safety and fairness faced by migrant workers, including regulating recruiters and ending the exclusions from minimum work standards and collective bargaining.

Our ask of you:

Visit your local Member of Provincial Parliament!

Register to visit your local MPP below.

We want to make sure that a delegation meets with MPPs across Ontario during the next constituency week: November 4 – 10.

Once you have registered, please contact your MPP and request an appointment on November 4th, or November 7th to the 10th.

We have lots of supports to offer you:

  • MPP Lobby kits:
  • An in-depth training 2pm – 4pm, Monday, October 24th to help you with how to organize the meeting, who should attend and what to say. We will come right to your computer! Register below.
  • Social media tips and tools
  • Telephone and email support

Sign up to meet your MPP here:

(You can contact Jackie Esmonde and Liz Walker at the Income Security Advocacy Centre with any questions).