Poverty News Roundup – Changes for 2018

01-10-18

The first day of 2018 brought the start of a new year – and with it, the implementation of a number of new laws and policies across provinces in Canada that will impact workers, families, businesses, and people living in low-income.

From a new minimum wage in the most populous province to new paid and unpaid leave opportunities out west, 2018 is bringing some progress on labour and income inequality. Here’s your news roundup:

Ontario’s New Minimum Wage and Labour Legislation

The biggest splash on January 1st was made by the implementation of Ontario’s new labour reform, which include the first phase of a minimum wage increase from $11.60 to $14 per hour. Along with the wage increase, workers in Ontario now have access to personal emergency leave, domestic or sexual violence leave, and increased family medical leave.

The minimum wage increase produced a spate of editorials and discussions, and much controversy centred on the Tim Horton’s franchisees who announced the elimination of paid breaks for their employees, along with other changes that would financially impact employees. At the same time, many small businesses around the province have applauded the move in the direction of a “living wage”. With the new legislation in place, much of the momentum shifts now to ensuring workers are able to access their leave and are receiving the new wage rate; the Ottawa District Labour Council rolled out a hotline for employees who are experiencing problems or violations at work because of the $14 wage.

January also brought new social protections outside of labour reform; the Government of Ontario implemented OHIP+, a new pharmacare programme that provides free coverage of prescriptions for people under the age of 25.

New Brunswick’s Pay Day Transparency

The Government of New Brunswick implemented new rules for payday loan lenders in the province this month, including requiring lenders to obtain licenses and setting maximum rates on and fees that can be charged to consumers. Under the new regulations, lenders will also be prohibited from lending more than 30% of a consumer’s net pay and from issuing more than one loan to the same customer, and the amount payday lenders can charge will be capped at $15 per $100 borrowed – a rate among the lowest in the country.

Historically, payday loan programmes in Canada have resulted in predatory practices the disproportionately impacted people living in low-income through sky-high interest rates that contribute to a cycle of poverty. Critics have called these regulations a step in the right direction, but are asking for stronger practices from the provincial government around repeat and concurrent borrowing.

Alberta Brings in New Workplace Leave Schemes

Albertans rang in the new year with new workplace protections centred on job security and unpaid leave. Under the new legislation, workers in the province have access to up to five days of job-protected unpaid sick leave, three days of bereavement leave, and up to 16 weeks for long-term illness or injury, as well as unpaid leave for care of a sick family member and leave for people experiencing family violence.

The labour legislation also strengthens employee overtime schemes, mandating it at time-and-a-half unless otherwise contracted. Later this year, changes to worker’s compensation schemes will come into effect, and in October, the province will again have the highest provincial minimum wage with an increase to $15 per hour.

New Fees, Tax Breaks in Québec

Residents of Québec will see an increase in fees for certain public services in 2018, including the province’s well-known childcare programme, where fees will increase from a base rate of $7.75 per day to $8.05, with those in the highest income bracket – households earning over $165,000 – seeing an increase from $13.90 to $21.95 per day.

In November, the income tax rate for the lowest bracket – the first $42,705 of income – dropped from 16% to 15%; in January, source deductions were also updated so workers in the province will see a bit more each month in their paycheques. At the same time, parents of school-aged children can receive $100 for each child to help pay for school supplies.

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