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Ontario legislature resumes amid two Liberal trials; focus on labour and pot

Members of the Liberal government look toward some newly uncovered details on the ceiling of the Ontario Legislature following the speech from the throne, opening the second session of the 41st Parliament of Ontario, in Toronto on Monday Sept. 12, 2016. Major labour law changes, including a $15 minimum wage, and marijuana will be on the front burner as Ontario's legislature returns from its summer break on Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
September 10, 2017 - 7:09 AM

TORONTO - Major labour law changes, including a $15 minimum wage, and marijuana will be on the front burner as Ontario's legislature returns from its summer break on Monday.

But the business of legislating also resumes at the same time as two Liberal trials get underway and are sure to dominate Ontario politics.

Both opposition parties will likely try to keep reminding people of the Election Act bribery charges trial in Sudbury related to a 2015 byelection and mischief and the breach of trust trial in Toronto related to the cancellation of two gas plants before the 2011 election.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is set to testify in the bribery trial in Sudbury on Wednesday.

"It's a sad day for the people of Ontario that they will be seeing their premier as a witness on the stand in court on Wednesday," Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said in a statement.

Wynne was asked last week if she was worried the trials would overshadow her agenda.

"I really don't have control over that," she said. "My job is to implement our plan to make sure that we do everything that we can to make this a fair place to live."

Wynne and her team have been pushing the fairness theme hard over the past months. Expect that to continue through the fall and all the way to the June 2018 election.

A key part of that is the Liberal government's labour bill that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2019 as well as give equal pay for part-time workers, increased vacation entitlements and expanded personal emergency leave.

Public hearings on the bill were held this summer and it will go back before the House with some tweaks for second reading, before being sent for a second round of committee hearings.

Though the minimum wage increase has proven popular in government polling, business groups have been campaigning hard against the phase-in period, saying the increase — it is currently set to rise to $11.60 in October — is too much to absorb that quickly.

The business groups say they'll continue to press for amendments to the bill, but they're also eager for the government to unveil a promised package of offsets to help businesses cope with increased costs the labour bill will bring.

That is set to be announced in the fall and Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid has said a break for small businesses will come "likely on the tax side."

The NDP will continue to push for more changes to the labour bill, including more vacation days and paid sick days. Party Leader Andrea Horwath also indicated in a statement she would turn part of her attention to Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown — who is leading in the polls.

"Patrick Brown won't tell us what his plans are, but after years of standing with Conservatives who cut like Stephen Harper, Mike Harris and Tim Hudak, we can expect his priorities to be conservative cuts and conservative privatization," she wrote.

Legislation to control the sale of recreational marijuana is set to be tabled this fall, after the Liberal government on Friday announced its plan to sell pot to people 19 and older in as many as 150 standalone stores run by the province's liquor control board.

Opposition parties and cannabis activists slammed the plan and are expected to continue to be vocal as the legislation is crafted and goes to public hearings.

Other policies the government has previously said will come this fall include:

— The next long-term energy plan

— Police oversight legislation

— Legislation to create two new northern ridings

— An updated Police Services Act

— Ticket sales and resales legislation

— Legislation to create safe zones around abortion clinics

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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