Canada: A Look Ahead to a Challenging 2017

As we start the new year, let’s look ahead to what may come down the pike in 2017. No crystal ball is necessary to predict that the complex issue of marijuana within the workplace (and everywhere else) will continue to take centre stage.

On December 13, 2016, a publication of the Final Report of the appointed Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation made headlines for the government’s seemingly bold, yet relatively bureaucratic plan, to legalize and regulate marijuana use.

The report raises a variety of questions and issues about the unwritten rules, such as; who is allowed to produce cannabis? where will cannabis be sold, and to whom? and what health messaging will accompany the legalization of cannabis in Canada?

Notwithstanding the details of this anticipated regulation, we should anticipate that Canadian employers will be faced with the problems associated with marijuana under numerous scenarios:

  • accommodating staff with legal permission to consume marijuana for medicinal purposes;
  • coping with personnel who are impaired by marijuana at work;
  • updating policies and procedures on impairment testing;
  • being asked to pay for marijuana under health plans; and
  • persisted confusion about the present criminal status of marijuana for non-medical use.

Another issue of concern for Ontario employers in 2017 is the outcome of the Changing Workplaces Review. On February 28, 2017, the Review’s Special Advisors are expected to deliver a final report containing recommendations for amending the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and certain aspects of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 (“LRA”).

The media coverage to date has focused on “precarious” work, and whether changes should be made to standards on overtime, hours of work, exemptions and exclusions, and temporary help agency arrangements.

However, as set out in the Interim Report, the Special Advisors are considering a wider range of plausible amendments to the ESA and the LRA, all of which might have a weighty impact on employment in Ontario.

Finally, we should expect that the Canadian economy will be affected by a combination of political happenings that no one predicted: such as the Donald Trump presidency in the U.S., an NDP government in Alberta, and Brexit.

Shifts in employment metrics, notably in Alberta and Ontario, will likely occur if major policy changes from the U.S. and England are realized.


Supporting Article Research Sources: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Mondaq