Now that 2019 is in full swing, here’s a breakdown of the largest legal changes taking effect in Ontario starting today.
Impaired driving fines increase
Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05, failing a roadside sobriety test, or violating zero tolerance rules for young, novice, and commercial drivers will get you a $250 fine the first time, $350 fine the second time, and $450 fine from then on out.
A new $550 penalty has also been implemented for refusing to take a drug or alcohol test if you register a blood alcohol concentration over 0.08 or if a drug recognition evaluator determines impairment.
Distracted driving fines increase
The current fine for distracted driving and using a handheld device will more than double, bringing it up to $1,000. The fine will also include a three-day licence suspension and three demerit points.
For a second conviction within five years, the maximum fine rises to $2,000 plus a seven-day driver’s licence suspension and six demerit points.
Subsequent convictions within the five-year period will have drivers hit with a $3,000 fine plus a 30-day suspension and six demerit points.
Even just holding a phone while you drive is against the law, regardless if you’re in motion or at a stop light. The only acceptable forms of using a device (like a phone or GPS) in the car is if its in hands-free mode or securely mounted.
Tax credit for those with low incomes
Individuals will receive up to $850 and up to $1700 for couples through the Ontario government’s new Low-income Individuals and Families Tax (LIFT) credit. This is being done to offset the minimum wage increase that was supposed to rise today but instead will stay at $14 an hour.
With the LIFT credit, an individual working full-time, making minimum wage and earning nearly $30,000 would pay no Ontario Personal Income Tax.
Personal emergency leave
Through Bill 47, two paid sick days have been removed. Now, employees have a total of 8 unpaid leave days: sick leave (3 days), family responsibility leave (3 days), and bereavement leave (2 days).
Employers are also now allowed to ask for a doctor’s or qualified health professional’s note.
Equal pay for equal work
Bill 47 also repealed Bill 148’s equal pay for equal work where employers were prohibited from paying individuals different rates as a result of differences in employment status. That is, employers no longer have to pay part timers the same rate as full timers for the same work.
Green Energy Act
Repeal of the 2009 Green Energy Act will include some new provisions from the old 1998 Electricity Act. Municipalities, educational institutions, and large building owners will need to report their energy use with minimums for energy and water efficiency thresholds in place.
New used tire regulation
The Used Tires Program and Ontario Tire Stewardship are being replaced by a new framework from the Tires Regulation which will make collecting and managing tires at the end of their life the responsibility of tire producers.
Hunting and fishing
A single Outdoors Card and licence document will now be in place, streamlining licences for both hunting and fishing.
To be implemented later in 2019
Food safety regulations
Consolidated food safety regulations ensuring food on grocery shelves are safer to eat will partially come into effect January 15th.
Businesses that import food or prepare food for export across provincial and territorial borders will need to have licences and preventive controls to ensure food safety, most of whom will also be required to keep traceability records.
‘Use-it-or-lose-it’ extended parental leave
Parents, including same-sex and adoptive parents, with children born or placed for adoption on or after March 17th will be eligible to receive an additional five weeks of Employment Insurance parental benefits when both parents agree to share them to take time off work.
For those who choose the extended parental leave of 18 months, an additional eight weeks of EI benefits will be available to couples who share the time off.
Cannabis and edible products
Starting April 1st, 25 independent brick-and-mortar stores will be licensed to sell cannabis to the public.
The production and sale of edible cannabis, cannabis extracts, and cannabis topicals will be legal by October 17th.
What are your thoughts on all this new legislation? Let us know in the comments below!