bill 66 ontario

Toronto outraged after Ontario government moves to scrap environmental protections

New legislation meant to make things easier for businesses to operate in Ontario is being condemned this week by environmental, labour and consumer protection groups for its potentially deadly impacts on everyday citizens.

Bill 66, or the "Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act", scraps numerous regulations brought in by the previous Liberal government meant to protect people against everything from workplace injuries to inflated cellphone bills.

If passed, the act would result in more than 30 regulatory changes, including the repeal of 2009's Toxics Reductions Act, 2013's Wireless Services Agreements Act, and multiple subsections of the Child Care and Early Years Act, which was created four years ago in response to a rash of baby deaths at home daycare facilities.

"Ontario's Government for the People is taking action to create jobs by eliminating red tape and burdensome regulations so businesses can grow, create and protect good jobs," reads a press release issued by Doug Ford's PC government on Thursday.

But at what cost?

Environmental Defence issued a statement in response to the proposed changes yesterday, pointing out that they would not only remove protection from toxic chemicals for Ontario residents but threaten our drinking water supply.

The Ontario Federation of Labour warns similarly that bill would relax hiring laws for construction workers at hospitals, universities, schools, municipalities and other entities deemed as "public" in the bill.

Allowing companies to hire cheap, unregulated labourers instead of skilled unionized workers could put the safety of both workers and the public at risk.

"By reducing safety standards to satisfy big business, the government is playing with the lives of Ontarians," says OFL President Chris Buckley. "With this Bill the government that claims to be 'for the people' is once again putting the almighty dollar ahead of the lives of Ontarians."

And not just our lives, but our livelihoods. Changes under the bill would free employers from the burden of posting employment standards information in their workplaces and let them order employees to work excess hours without needing the Ministry of Labour's approval. 

Increasing the number of children allowed per provider in private daycares could also prove disastrous, according to experts, 

And remember those new rules about cellphone contracts that came into effect about five years ago? The rules that let consumers out of wireless contracts after 2 years instead of three and capped cancelation fees for a fixed-term agreement to $50?

Yeah, that would be gone too.

The first reading of the bill was carried yesterday, but it still has a ways to go before everything is set in stone. Concerned citizens can share their comments on the proposal with Ontario's government until a mandatory consultation period closes on January 20, 2019.

Lead photo by Simon Yau

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