Starting the new decade means anticipating a slew of updated laws for Canadians across the country. These new laws, announced through a series of acts and amendments, will address some big but familiar issues this year.

For Ontario, this includes rules around cannabis regulation, sustainable living, minimum wage rates, animal rights and more. 2019 already proved a milestone year that marked the legalization of cannabis, a carbon tax hike, and not to mention harsher driving penalties.

Last year was an eventful period in Canadian politics, which began with the Prime Minister’s SNC Lavalin scandal and ended with the resignation of Andrew Scheer as leader of the Conservative Party. The 2019 Federal election had also produced numerous headlines that captivated Canadians during the highly reported race to the polls.

While there are new regulations affecting residents in most provinces, people living and working in Ontario should keep in mind some key changes coming to the province:

Smoking, vaping, and cannabis

The 2017 Smoke-Free Ontario Act came into effect to protect harmful exposure of second-hand smoke within enclosed spaces such as workplaces, university and college campuses, and all public enclosed places.

The Act also makes it harder for young people to purchase tobacco products, limiting smoking in many outdoor public places. By the end of 2018, the province banned smoking cannabis and vaping in places where smoking is prohibited.

More recently, Ontario announced regulations against the promotion of vaping products inside gas stations and convenience stores in the fall. Vaping ads have been pulled from Ontario convenience stores and gas stations, effective on January 1, 2020.

Now, vape product promotion is only permitted in specialty vape and cannabis retail stores, open to people 19 years or older.

At the end of 2019, Ontario legalized the purchase of edibles.

Minimum wage

The Ontario government has halted the minimum wage increase to $15, as legislated by the previous Liberal government’s labour reform plans.

Initially, the minimum wage increase from $11.60 to $14.00 hit businesses hard. This prompted the current government to implement tax break measures.

Through the Ontario Open for Business Act, the current $14 minimum wage will instead be adjusted to the rate of inflation.

Workplace diversity goes beyond gender

The Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA) regulates Canadian business corporations under federal or provincial law. Through this law, Canada has become the first jurisdiction globally requiring that public corporations report the diversity of some key staff.

The Act requires federally incorporated corporations to share information with shareholders on their policies related to the diversity of their senior management board of directors. This includes the number and percentage of Indigenous board members, women, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities. 

Experts believe that Canada is the first jurisdiction worldwide which has mandated a diversity disclosure containing specific personal characteristics other than gender.

Animal abuse

Through the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act, the province will enforce stricter penalties for animal abuse. The January 2020 law combats activities like neglect and dogfighting through new expanded measures.

Potential animal abuse fines in Ontario include up to two years in jail and $130,000 for first-time offenders. Corporations would face fines of half a million for first-time offences, and upwards of $1 million the second time.

This new act means Ontario now has the strongest punishment and highest fines against people who violate animal welfare laws.

Currently, animal activists in 2020 can also face harsher penalties if trespassing on private farms or interfering with the transportation of animals.

Simpler phone contracts

Ten of Canada’s largest internet service providers must abide by new rules surrounding customer-friendly contracts, clear pricing, and policies. 

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is the public agency that regulates broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada. The agency is also responsible for regulating telecommunications carriers, like Bell and Rogers.

Internet service providers will be required to abide by the CRTC code of conduct by January 31. This includes making internet and phone contracts, policies, and pricing easier to understand.

The rule also allows customers to cancel their internet contract within 45 days without accumulating cancellation fees.

Carbon and corporate taxes

Residents in Ontario are now eligible for carbon tax rebates, which must be claimed through 2019 income taxes. A single adult or first adult in a couple will get $224 back in rebates. For a family of four, the baseline amount is $448.

Small businesses in Ontario will save approximately $1,500 annually after a recent tax reduction for this entity. To encourage entrepreneurs starting businesses in the province, the government has also reduced corporate income tax by 8.7 per cent for small businesses.

Health care while travelling

Students and staff who rely on travel insurance, or those wishing to purchase travel insurance, should review OHIP’s 2020 cuts to its travel insurance coverage.

The People’s Health Care Act, or Bill 74, was passed in February 2019 to create a patient-centric integrated public health care delivery system.

Under the bill, OHIP has limited out-of-country health care coverage for emergencies. This can include up to $400 per day for emergency in-patient services, and $50 per day for emergency outpatient services.

These cuts apply to Ontarians travelling outside of Canada. The overall impact of these cuts would heavily depend on the travelling country. For example, $400 per day emergency coverage would not be helpful in the United States, where hospital stay costs range in the thousands.

For more information, you can go to the government of Ontario’s newsroom where new laws and amendments for 2020 are listed.

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