Government Continues Putting Friends Ahead of Ontario Workers: FOrster

Ms. Cindy Forster: My question is to the Premier.

Last month, a regulation was quietly introduced that will change how much unpaid leave is available to workers in this province. It’s interesting, the change only impacts one small part of one sector: the non-unionized auto sector. The change affects the amount of unpaid personal leave a non-union worker can take, and it limits bereavement leave for these workers to three days.

The very next week, the Premier was off to a trade mission in Japan and Korea where she met with auto industry executives.

My question is why was this change made? Why was it made in this way so quietly? And why now?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, I know that the Minister of Economic Development and Growth is going to want to comment on this, but I will just say that the mission that I led to Korea and to Japan was largely to meet with companies in the auto sector, companies that are investing in Ontario, companies that are expanding their footprint in Ontario, creating jobs and really fuelling part of that economic growth that we are seeing in Ontario that is leading the way in the country. It was a very worthwhile mission. It was very worthwhile to enhance those partnerships.

Mr. Speaker, I will just say, in general, that we are working to find ways to help businesses—to remove regulatory burden where it is getting in the way of businesses, and at the same time, make sure that workers are kept safe and that they have decent working conditions. That balance is what we strive for.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Ms. Cindy Forster: How progressive is actually supporting recessionary issues like this for workers in this province? It’s funny, this government has been asked whether it will commit to make progressive changes that New Democrats have called for, like a $15 minimum wage and making it easier to join and stay in a union, and the answer has been, “We can’t commit now. The Changing Workplaces Review is under way.”

I can tell you the Changing Workplaces Review authors have been clear: Employers didn’t engage in the review process. Not an auto manufacturer made a submission on changing unpaid leave or bereavement leave for workers. It isn’t even anywhere near close to the top of the list.

So why was this made, Speaker? And why, when faced with doing the right thing for hard-working Ontarians and what’s best for the powerful friends of the Liberal Party, why does this government has a choice whether to actually choose workers or choose their powerful friends, why does the government continue to choose their friends over the people and the workers in this province?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Labour.

 

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: The Changing Workplaces Review now has been underway for some time. We’ve had engagement from labour, we’ve had engagement from advocates, we’ve had engagement now from the business community. Everybody is bringing their best to the table. They’re bringing their best ideas. When you look at personal emergency leave in the province of Ontario, it’s been around for some time. It’s used by employees the way that it should be used.

What was suggested was that we might want to do a pilot project; we might want to see if we can bring in personal emergency leave that works in a different way but provides the same services to those people that are employed in that industry. We made this decision based on good advice. We asked the advisers to bring forward their recommendations. We asked if they’d bring it forward first. And I would outline, and I want to be very, very clear that this is a pilot project, to see if it works in this particular industry.