Government and business not keeping up with speed of technology

By David Hodges

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ A new report suggests the speed of technological advances has become so rapid that it’s outpacing the rate at which large Canadian businesses and government institutions can adapt, with the number of jobs threatened by automation ranging from 35 to 42 per cent.

The co-authored report, by Deloitte and the Human Resources Professionals Association, calls upon policy-makers and business leaders to prepare Canadian workers for the disruption that artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technologies are having on the economy.

“The changes we are seeing are nothing less than historic and governments and educators need to take a skills-first, not a job-first approach,” said Scott Allinson, vice-president of public affairs at the HRPA.

“Technology just seems to be outpacing the current business model,” added Allinson, pointing to last week’s announcement by Sears Canada that the retailer was shutting down its 130 remaining stores, leaving about 12,000 employees without a job.

“We’ve seen with the brick-and-mortar stores that they’re not keeping up with the change of what people are looking for, thanks to technology.”

Reforming education to ensure Canadians enter the workforce with the future-proofed skills they need to succeed in a digital world are among the key recommendations in the joint report.

It says this would require re-examining how schools are organized, with greater emphasis placed on interdisciplinary work, mental agility, critical thinking, teamwork, relationship management, and the capacity to learn itself “in other words, coaching the integrated capabilities needed for the future instead of teaching individual subjects.”

With workers today needing to upgrade their capabilities constantly, the report also calls upon businesses to take a leadership role in promoting “future-proofed capabilities” by replacing static learning and development programs with dynamic, continuous learning opportunities.

Among the ways this could be achieved would include making learning available on-demand, 24/7 to all employees on any digital platform: computer, tablet or smartphone. Employers that don’t offer these off-site, virtual learning opportunities will find it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain top talent, the report says.

Another key recommendation is modernizing provincial labour laws and the social safety net to reflect the realities of the “gig economy” _ which has turned the traditional one job/one employee/one employer model on its head, with pioneers like Uber and Airbnb doing away with large, hierarchical organizational structures altogether.

The report says that since 1997, Canada’s contingent workforce has grown from 4.8 million to 6.1 million and now accounts for about one-third of all jobs and is likely to keep growing.

While Ontario has been debating reforms to raise the minimum wage and improve the labour market, Allinson says that policy-makers across the country need to design solutions that reflect both the opportunities and the challenges facing gig-economy workers as well as free-agent employees in traditional companies. This includes significant reform to the way Canadian public policy approaches retirement planning, income taxes and unemployment insurance.

“We need to get down to the urgent work of assessing not just how work will change in Canada but how Canadian workers should prepare,” said Allinson.

The Dope On Marijuana At Work: Canada

Article by Claire E. Milton

On July 1, 2018, the possession of marijuana, referred to as cannabis in the legislation will become legal in Canada. Not a day goes by without a news story about how the provinces are scrambling to decide how to best implement a distribution system for the lawful sale and use of cannabis products.

Employers should fully understand laws applicable to both medical and recreational cannabis, and should more than likely be reviewing and modifying internal policies to address the changing landscape. If you do not already have an internal policy in place that addresses the use of both prescribed and recreational drugs in the workplace, then the legalization of recreational cannabis is an opportunity for you to put something in place.

The Law

There is much confusion about what is legal in Canada when it comes to cannabis. Canadians are saturated with news from the United States, most of which has no application to Canadians and their employers. So, let’s start with understanding what is legal today, and what will change on July 1, 2018.

Prescribed medical marijuana is already legal in Canada. Individuals who have a medical need and the authorization of their health-care practitioner can access cannabis in three ways: (i) registering to grow their own medical marijuana, (ii) designating a registered grower, or (iii) buying from a Health Canada-approved licensed producer. In each case, the production and distribution of medical cannabis are strictly regulated. This regime and ongoing access to medical cannabis will not change under the new legislation.

As of July 1, 2018, adults who are at least 18 years of age will be able to possess up to 30 grams of dry or fresh cannabis, share that amount with other adults, and buy dry cannabis or cannabis oil from a provincially regulated retailer. Adults will also be permitted to grow up to four plants per residence for personal use. This law encompasses strict rules around selling to minors and driving while impaired. Much like they do with the sale of alcoholic beverages, individual provinces, territories, and municipalities will be able to set higher minimum ages and individual laws regarding distribution and retail sales rules.

Employer Policies

What does this mean for employers? If your workplace does not already have an internal policy on drug and alcohol use, it is time to put one in place. Recreational marijuana usage at work should be treated like any other controlled substance, such as alcohol. If you already have a policy, it should be clarified to ensure that employees understand that the legalization of recreational marijuana does not change anything when it comes to the workplace. Employers are responsible for the safety of employees, and they have a right to enforce a zero-tolerance policy against intoxication or impairment at work.

A good policy establishes:

  • the priority of a safe workplace;
  • the shared responsibility for acceptable conduct;
  • the consequences of non-compliance;
  • the communication protocol for employees needing information or answers to questions.

Employers can outline disciplinary actions and grounds for termination in cases where employees violate the policy.

The use of medical cannabis must be accommodated by employers if the employee demonstrates that he or she is compliant with the laws applicable to its use, and if the accommodation can be implemented without causing either undue hardship or untenable safety issues. Accommodation of an underlying disability for which cannabis has been prescribed must be managed just like any other medical need or disability. This could mean allowing employees to take breaks to vaporize their medicine or a change in their responsibilities to accommodate the medical condition.

Your policy should, therefore, include a specific section on medicinal cannabis, outlining what medical proof will be required and what conditions may be applicable to accommodation. Employers who have not accommodated medical cannabis have already found themselves before the law.

In the case of Wilson vs. Transparent Glazing Systems, glazier Gregory Wilson held a cannabis prescription for back pain and migraines but was fired after someone complained about him being impaired on the job. Wilson alleged discrimination based on disability and his use of medication. The company countered that he was incompetent and fired for poor performance.

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal agreed with the company’s assessment of his work but sided with Wilson. The Tribunal criticized Transparent Glazing for not dealing properly with Wilson’s poor performance and noted that the company only acted once they received a complaint about Wilson’s impairment. At no point did Transparent Glazing discuss Wilson’s performance issues or the effect his disability might have had on those issues with him, which made the termination discriminatory.

Although it is a U.S. case, in a July 2017 decision from the top court in Massachusetts, a woman who was fired for testing positive for marijuana obtained with a legal prescription was allowed to sue her former employer for disability discrimination.

Conclusions

Different industries, demographics of your workforce and your workplace culture will mean that there is no standard template for an effective policy. The different challenges and individual cultures need to be addressed in a policy that is crafted specifically for your workplace. However, this summary provides basic ideas that should be incorporated into any policy.

As Canadians become accustomed to a society that accepts recreational marijuana, employers will no longer be able to ignore the issue. As with many other circumstances, employers who deal with marijuana at work in an open and informed manner will be better prepared for the questions and situations that will inevitably arise.

Addendum

Since writing this article, the following decision was issued by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Guidance from the highest court in the land for employers managing addiction issues in safety sensitive workplaces

On June 15, 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada issued an important judgment that will help employers balance their obligations under human rights law to not discriminate and under occupational health and safety law to keep everyone safe in the workplace.

Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp., 2017 SCC 30 is a must read for employers. This case has been working its way to the top of our judicial system, beginning with a decision of the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, which held that Stewart was terminated for breaching his employer’s policy that required him to disclose any drug dependence or addiction issues before any drug-related incident occurred. If an employee disclosed, they would be offered treatment assistance. If they failed to disclose and were involved in an incident and tested positive for drugs, they would be terminated – a policy dubbed the “no free accident” rule. Stewart was a cocaine user. He used only on days off but did not tell his employer that he was using drugs. His loader was involved in an accident; he tested positive for drugs and then Stewart disclosed that he was addicted to cocaine.

The employer fired him, and through his union representative, Stewart argued that he was terminated due to his addiction, which was discriminatory under the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act. The Tribunal’s decision in favour of the employer was affirmed first by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, then by the Alberta Court of Appeal, and now by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The workplace in this case was a mine, a dangerous work site. The policy requiring disclosure of drug dependence or addiction issues was based on the primary objective of maintaining a safe environment by encouraging employees with substance abuse problems to come forward and obtain treatment before their problems compromised safety. The Tribunal concluded that Stewart had the capacity to comply with the policy and that he would have been fired for non-disclosure, whether he was an addict with a disability or a “casual user”. The Supreme Court therefore agreed that there was no discrimination, and that the decision to terminate was not based on the addiction, but on the failure to disclose in accordance with the policy. This decision should give employers operating safety sensitive workplaces assurance that they can take a firm stand on zero-tolerance for substance abuse.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Source: Mondaq

Tax changes to make system fair not stifle business growth: Trudeau

By Mia Rabson

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government has no intention of stifling growth for small businesses and start-ups with its upcoming changes to the tax code.

Trudeau said Monday he has listened to the feedback and agrees with some of it, and that the government is now looking at balancing the need to make the tax code more fair without hurting investment.

“We need to make sure we are encouraging entrepreneurs, encouraging risk takers, encouraging success in the start-ups,” Trudeau told reporters at an event in Toronto.

The consultation period on the proposals ends next week and anxiety is high for business owners awaiting their fate and for politicians getting an earful from them.

That anxiety may continue at least until after Thanksgiving as it is expected to take the government at least a week to figure out its next step.

There are three main facets to the Liberal tax changes, some of which Trudeau campaigned on.

The first affects business owners, including professionals such as doctors and lawyers, who have incorporated, and have effectively reduced their income tax burden by “sprinkling” their income among adult family members who may not be doing any work for the business in return. The government’s proposal is to create a test to ensure any income paid to family members is fair compensation for work actually provided.

The second aspect affects how corporations make investments that may be intended to benefit the owner rather than business but using income that is taxed at lower business rates than individual rates.

The third is about imposing new limits on converting business income into capital gains where it is taxed at lower amounts.

The changes were circulated in a discussion paper by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in July, with the Liberals always saying they were meant just for discussion.

“If the Liberals were listening to Canadians, they would hear that raising taxes will keep local businesses from creating jobs, employing Canadians, and investing in their communities,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Monday as the Opposition continued its attack on the ideas.

Conservatives and other critics say business owners take risks others don’t and don’t always have access to benefits such as employment insurance.

The Conservatives also say these changes will affect middle-class business owners, who fall into the same category of middle-class Canadians the Trudeau government claims to be working to help the most.

The Liberals have countered saying their changes are intended to only go after the most wealthy using their incorporated status to pay less tax than Canadians who earn less money.

Two new reports released this week on the issue provide fodder for both sides.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation notes people who make more than $100,000 account for just 8.4 per cent of taxpayers but pay 52 per cent of the total tax bill. This study also says the top one-per cent of tax filers pay more than one-fifth of all personal income taxes.

On the other hand, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says just 0.7 per cent of Canadian families are going to be impacted by the government proposal to not allow businesses to sprinkle income to other family members.

The CCPA also hit back against accusations the policies may affect women more than men. Their numbers say out of the 117,000 small business families who will receive any net benefit from income sprinkling, 98 per cent are headed by a man.

How much per gram? Provinces, feds to start debating price tag on legal pot

By Andy Blatchford

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA _ Governments from across the country will meet next month to debate a key question about Canada’s eventual recreational-marijuana market how much should users pay for their
pot?

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Monday that cannabis taxation will be on the agenda when he meets with his provincial and territorial counterparts.

Morneau said the Trudeau government has begun designing a taxation regime  but he insisted the top concerns for Ottawa remain getting weed out of the hands of young Canadians and dealers on the street.

“Taxation will follow those principles, so we will be thinking about how we can ensure that the taxation doesn’t generate a black market,” Morneau said.

“We will constantly be looking at how we can ensure that we get criminals out of the market and protect youth in the market. That’s our goal.”

He’s been adamant that maximizing federal revenues will not be the priority when it comes to pot and he’s suggested the feds favour keeping prices competitive in order to wipe out illegal activity.

A recent C.D. Howe Institute report found 90 per cent of the black market would disappear if pot cost $9 per gram, projecting $675 million a year in federal and provincial revenues if governments only applied existing sales taxes.

Last fall, the parliamentary budget officer projected 2018 sales tax revenue for Ottawa and the provinces combined to be as low as $356 million and as high as $959 million.

Provinces and territories have been busy since the Trudeau government tabled legislation last month to legalize and regulate recreational pot use. Ottawa’s goal is to make it happen by July 2018.

Quebec Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois said in an interview last week that the province is looking at its taxation options, but that it needs more information from Ottawa.

“We’ve got to see what the federal (government is) going to do,” said Charlebois, who added the cost of legal pot must be competitive with street prices.

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said in a statement earlier this month that she has asked Ottawa for more information on the tax regimes for recreational pot because the federal legislation did not include details.

“The end goal must be to limit the black market as much as possible and taxation cannot drive the price of the product too high if we are to achieve this goal,” Ganley said.

 

Ontario government to set up new regulator for home builders, replacing Tarion

By Michelle McQuigge

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ The Ontario government will be setting up a stand-alone regulator to oversee the province’s home builders.

Minister of Government and Consumer Services Tracy MacCharles says the move will mean removing responsibilities from the Tarion Warrant Corp., which has overseen nearly all facets of the home building sector for the past 40 years.

MacCharles says Tarion has been responsible both for regulating builders and administering the province’s new home warranties, but the system lends itself to the perception of a conflict of interest.

She says Tarion will effectively be split in half, maintaining administration of the warranty program while the government establishes a new regulator.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Tarion says the firm has “serious concerns” with the move.

Legislation to establish the new regulator is expected to be introduced in the fall.

MacCharles says the change is designed to improve accountability and transparency for home buyers.

“Tarion is too far removed from government; its unique structure doesn’t give my ministry the same oversight tools that it has for our other administrative authorities,” MacCharles said in a prepared remarks to Toronto’s Empire club on Tuesday. “We believe that consumers can be better protected by giving government the lead in making rules and setting standards.”

In November 2015, the government appointed Douglas Cunningham, the former associate chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court, to lead a review into consumer protections for new home owners.

In MacCharles’ remarks, she acknowledged that Cunningham had found fault with Tarion’s complex structure and over-arching mandate, adding the retired judge had heard that both builders and homeowners questioned Tarion’s objectivity.

In a statement sent to The Canadian Press on Tuesday, Tarion spokeswoman Laurie Stephens took issue with Cunningham’s recommendations.

“We worry that the recommendations will have the effect of seriously weakening consumer protection; increasing costs for the administration and regulation of the warranty, new costs that ultimately new home buyers will have to pay; and creating barriers to entry for builders that could further impact a marketplace already struggling to keep pace with consumer demand,” said Stephens.

Years earlier, the province’s ombudsman had slammed the private company in a report and described it as a “puppet of the building industry.”

“if we were doing this in 2017, would we give an organization all these multiple roles? The short answer is no,” MacCharles said. “Why? Well, as Justice Cunningham noted in his final report, Tarion’s multiple roles and responsibilities can give rise to a perception of conflict of interest, and could result in actual conflicts of interest.”

The Residential Construction Council of Ontario said it is pleased to see that the report calls for dismantling Tarion’s monopoly over new-home warranty service and moving to a multi-provider insurance system.

“Competition will give new-home buyers more options,” president Richard Lyall said in a statement.

“Justice Cunningham’s report encourages the Ontario government to enable new private-sector warranty-surety providers to enter the marketplace, just like British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta,” Lyall said. “This recommendation aligns home builders with consumer advocates.”

Tax agency calls mandatory fingerprinting ‘a powerful deterrent’

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