• Insights

The Canadian federal election: what can employers expect from the main parties?

Written by
Mathews Dinsdale, Canada’s only national labour and employment law firm.
Canada’s federal election takes place 20 September and the three major parties are all proposing significant initiatives that would impact federal sector employers.

With the federal election taking place on 20 September 2021, the three major parties have made promises that will potentially have significant impacts on federal sector employers.

The Conservatives have announced a number of initiatives. These include requiring federally-regulated workers with more than 1,000 employees or CAD 100 million in annual revenue to include worker representation on boards of directors, amending the Canada Labour Code to make it easier for trade unions to organise large employers with a history of anti-union activity, and creating the Canada Job Surge Plan that would pay 50% of the salaries of net new hires for six months after the end of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. The Conservative platform also includes initiatives in support of workers in the gig economy.

The Liberals have responded with their own proposed reforms. These include legislating ten paid sick days within the first hundred days of re-election, amending the Canada Labour Code to ban replacement workers in the event of a lock out, and extending the Canada Recovery Hiring Program until 31 March 2022.

As for the NDP, their proposals include immediately legislating ten paid sick days for federally regulated workers, and increasing the federal minimum wage to CAD 15/hour before ultimately increasing to CAD 20/hour.

Now that three major parties have released their full platforms, there are a number of promises for federal sector employers to note. Set out below is a full list of the parties’ promises impacting federal sector employment.

Conservative promises

Harmonise the federal and provincial employer systems under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

Create the Canada Job Surge Plan, which would pay up to 50% of the salary of net new hires for six months following the end of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.

Require federally regulated employers with more than 1,000 employees or CAD 100 million in annual revenue to include worker representation on boards of directors.

Ban the application of non-disclosure agreements where an employee is disclosing information to a lawful authority or seeking medical assistance or legal advice.

Require federally-regulated corporations and federally-mandated organisations to have formal recruitment plans to fill senior leadership positions with qualified female candidates.

Apply the French Language Charter to all federally-regulated businesses operating in Quebec.

Invest CAD 250 million over two years to create the Canada Job Training Fund, which would provide grants to organisations that give laid-off workers immediate access to training, reach out to traditionally underrepresented groups, support the talent needs of small businesses, and otherwise help workers get the training they need, focusing on areas where there are shortages of skilled workers.

Amend the Canada Labour Code to remove barriers that prevent unions from organising large employers with a history of anti-labour activity.

Modernise the Canada Labour Code to provide more flexibility in working hours and working from home.

Introduce the Canada Mental Health Action Plan, which will offer a tax credit for 25% of the cost of additional mental health coverage for three years in order to encourage employers to add mental health coverage to their employee benefit plans.

Require gig economy companies to make contributions equivalent to Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) premiums into a new, portable Employee Savings Account every time they pay their workers.

Support the airline sector in getting back to work, which will be conditional on a number of factors, such as airlines agreeing to provide refunds to customers whose flights they cancelled, ending layoffs, restoring regional routes, allowing travel agents to maintain commissions collected for cancelled travel, and banning executive bonuses until the support is repaid.

Double the Canada Workers Benefit up to a maximum of CAD 2,800 for individuals or CAD 5,000 for families and pay it as a quarterly direct deposit rather than a tax refund at year-end.

Giving individuals making CAD 20,000 per year a CAD 1/hour raise.

Doubling the disability supplement from CAD 713 to CAD 1,500.

Launch a Super Employment Insurance that temporarily provides more generous benefits (75% of salary instead of 55%) when a province goes into recession. Once the recession ends (three months of job gains), EI will return to normal levels.

Increase EI sickness benefits to 52 weeks for those suffering from a serious illness.

Extend EI parental for at least eight weeks following the death of an infant.

Provide up to eight weeks of paid leave in the event of a child’s death or stillbirth.

Invest in trades training programs designed in partnership with the private sector, Indigenous organisations, and provincial/territorial governments to maximise opportunities for employment.

Give each of the territories their fair share of federal training funds and revive mine training in Nunavut, in partnership with mining companies, to increase employment of Inuit in mining.

Liberal promises

Legislate ten days of paid sick leave for all federally regulated workers within the first 100 of re-election.

Extend the Canada Recovery Hiring Program to 31 March 2022.

Will keep working with employers in Crown corporations and federally regulated workplaces to prioritise vaccinations for workers.

Add mental health as an element of occupational health and safety in the Canada Labour Code and require federally regulated employers to take preventative steps to address workplace stress and injury.

Give federally regulated employees who experience a miscarriage or still birth access to up to five new paid leave days.

Provide more support to women who need to be temporarily reassigned to other duties in the workplace during pregnancy and while breastfeeding by strengthening provisions of the Canada Labour Code.

Introduce legislation to prohibit the use of replacement workers when a union employer in a federally regulated industry has locked out employees.

Co-develop a new ‘right to disconnect’ policy with federally regulated employers and labour groups.

Double the Union Training and Innovation program to CAD 50 million per year.

Implement their plan to establish a new Apprenticeship Service which will connect 55,000 first-year apprentices in Red Seal trades with opportunities at small and medium-sized employers.

Adapt and apply the Canada Business Corporations Act diversity requirements to federally regulated financial institutions.

Provide free tampons and pads in federally regulated workplaces.

Build on Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot and work with employers and communities across Canada to welcome 2,000 skilled refugees to fill labour shortages in in-demand sectors.

Establish a Trusted Employer system to streamline the application process for Canadian companies hiring temporary foreign workers to fill labour shortages that cannot be filled by Canadian workers.

Requiring businesses supported through the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program to provide wraparound supports, such as providing computers, to make it easier for women and vulnerable groups to access training.

Develop a sector-specific Agricultural Labour Strategy with employers and unions to address persistent labour shortages.

Ensure workers employed by digital platforms are entitled to job protections under the Canada Labour Code.

Establish new provisions in the Income Tax Act to ensure work performed by employees of digital platforms counts towards EI and CPP, while also making sure the platforms pay associated contributions.

Establish an EI Career Insurance Benefit, which would be available to people who have worked continuously for the same employer for five or more years and are laid off when the business closes. The Benefit will start after EI ends, providing an additional 20% of insured earnings in the first year following the layoff, and an extra 10% in the second year, giving workers almost CAD 16,900 over two years.

Continue expanding the Canada Workers Benefit to support one million additional Canadians in low wage jobs, helping them return to work and increasing eligibility for benefits up to CAD 1,400 per year.

NDP promises

Immediately legislate ten paid sick days for federally regulated workers.

Ban the use of replacement workers in labour disputes.

Increase the federal minimum wage to CAD 15/hour, which will later rise to CAD 20/hour, indexed to the cost of living.

Ban unpaid internships outside of educational programmes.

Implement ten days of paid leave for employees dealing with family and domestic violence.

Strengthen labour laws and ensure diverse and equitable hiring within the federal public service and in federally regulated industries.

Introduce new leave allowing parents to take shorter parental leave at a higher replacement rate.

Require large employers to spend 1% of their payroll on training for employees annually.

Make EI available to people who quit their jobs to go back to school, to provide necessary childcare, or to protect their health or the health of immunocompromised family members.

Extend sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks.

Create a pilot project to allow workers with episodic illnesses and disabilities to access EI sickness benefits as they need them.

John D. R. Craig
Partner - Canada
Mathews Dinsdale