by Brent Royce
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
The recent introduction of Bill 47 – Making Ontario Open for Business Act in the Ontario legislature provides some regulatory relief for farmers, employers and small business owners. Bill 47 proposes to amend three legislative acts impacting employment in the province – the Employment Standards Act, Labour Relations Act and Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act. These acts all influence employment regulations for Ontario businesses, including farms.
If passed, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) believes Bill 47 signals the return of balance to Ontario workplaces. OFA is hopeful this new legislation will start the process of amending other regulations that are restricting the growth and ability to create new jobs for many of our province’s farms and small and medium sized businesses. Bill 148 and the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act is also facing changes with some of the more controversial sections, like minimum wage increases, being repealed or revised by the government.
Labour legislation is a challenge for government, for farms and agricultural employers because our workplaces are unique and don’t fit into a standard retail or manufacturing business model. OFA continues to advocate for realistic considerations for farmers under labour laws to account for the often risky and seasonal nature of operating a farm business. Farmers are faced with many factors that are out of their control, like weather, working with animals, product perishability and globally competitive markets that remove price predictability.
OFA’s position on labour supports the interests of Ontario’s farm businesses and employers while taking our obligations to farm workers seriously. OFA believes all farm workers, from Canada and abroad, should be treated with dignity and respect, and be provided with a safe, fair and rewarding work environment. OFA also advocates for the need for Ontario farms and agricultural business to be competitive and operate in a legislative environment that allows for growth.
OFA will continue working with the government to ensure the pending legislation and subsequent regulations find the right balance by considering the unique business environments of farms and agricultural employers.