Report of the committee

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to table its

THIRTIETH REPORT

Your committee, which was authorized to examine the subject matter of those elements contained in Divisions 8, 15, 16 and 21 of Part 4 of Bill C-86, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Wednesday, November 7, 2018, examined the said subject-matter and now reports as follows:

On November 20, 21, 22 and 28, 2018, your committee heard witnesses on the subject matter of Divisions 8, 15, 16 and 21 of Part 4 of the bill. Division 8 seeks to amend the Employment Insurance Act to allow an extension of five or eight weeks of parental benefits (depending on the option chosen under the legislation) when the benefit is shared by both parents. It also seeks to amend the Canada Labour Code to allow for the extension of parental leave. Witnesses who spoke to this division were generally supportive of the proposed measures. However, while employers suggested that additional parental leave could result in more difficulty in finding replacement employees, your committee also heard that uptake of the expanded benefit would be improved if the proposals included higher wage replacement rates. Your committee supports the intent of Division 8 and applauds the effort to address gender equality with respect to parental rights.

Division 15, which seeks to make substantial amendments to the Canada Labour Code, was presented to your committee as the first significant update to the Code in over 50 years. Your committee agrees with all witnesses who testified about this division that the update to labour standards is needed. Specifically, that the proposed amendments are necessary to address the work-life balance concerns of employees as well as employers. Employee representatives welcomed the proposals but also indicated that there are more issues to address, such as zero-hour contracts and discrimination based on date-of-hire. The concerns raised by employers addressed the issue of cost. In particular, employer representatives noted that, as a result of recent legislative reforms, they have implemented a number of measures with respect to employee benefits, which have in turn resulted in added cost to employers. Employer representatives as well as officials from Employment and Social Development Canada noted that the provinces are likely to introduce measures similar to those proposed for the Code. As such, the committee heard that small to medium size business owners are concerned about the costs associated with implementing additional measures at this time. While your committee supports this division, it would like to suggest that the government consider conducting a review in the five years following the implementation of these measures to determine the impact on businesses and table the report in Parliament.

Division 16 seeks to amend the Wage Earner Protection Program Act to increase the maximum amount that can be paid to individuals eligible for compensation under this program. All witnesses who spoke to this division were supportive of the intent although a concern was expressed that “eligible wages” should include all “wage entitlements” which would include pensions. Your committee supports this division.

Division 21 seeks to implement the Poverty Reduction Act, which would include two targets; reduce poverty by 20% below the 2015 level by 2020, and by 50% below the 2015 level by 2030. Your committee supports this division, but questions why no costing or program information is included.

Respectfully submitted,

CHANTAL PETITCLERC

Chair