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            February 23, 2017                                                                                                  

As the Ontario legislature reconvenes, what the nonprofit sector needs to know

The Ontario Legislature resumes sitting this week. The current session is scheduled to last until June 1. At that point we’re one year away from a provincial election!

Share your work: Is your nonprofit watching or advocating for/about legislation that affects the sector? Tell us about it! Tweet us at @o_n_n or email sarah@theonn.ca.  

Let’s recap what happened (or didn’t) in the fall session

that affects the nonprofit sector:


The Premier prorogued the Legislature and started a new session in September 2016 with a Throne Speech. This was swiftly followed by new Ministerial mandate letters and, in December, Parliamentary Assistant mandate letters (see analysis below).

Bill 41, the Patients First Act, was fast-tracked and received Royal Assent. ONN was concerned this bill could set precedents beyond the health sector in terms of government oversight of community-governed nonprofits that receive provincial funding (and intervention by a “supervisor” to take over the programs and assets). Bill 41 also left the door open to increased for-profit home and community care delivery that could also set precedents throughout the sector. Despite interventions from numerous community nonprofits, Bill 41 passed without the two key amendments we sought. We have been informed, however, that the Ontario government will try to remedy our concerns in regulations. There have now been two regulatory updates posted under Patients First. One of them promises to “grandparent in” the for-profit contracts that Community Care Access Centres have in place, while ensuring all new service delivery contracts are with nonprofit providers. ONN will monitor the regulatory postings for news on the “supervisor” issue.

Bill 2, the Election Finances Act, was also fast-tracked and received Royal Assent, in time to change the fundraising and political advertising rules for the 2018 election campaign. ONN will be developing a toolkit to help nonprofits understand the advocacy role they can play during election campaigns, including rules about registering as “third-party advertisers” if their election spending goes over a certain limit.

Bill 7, the Promoting Affordable Housing Act, received Royal Assent. Here’s how others in the sector have reacted to the news and the Act:

Bill 13, the Ontario Rebate for Electricity Consumers Act, received Royal Assent. See the joint submission from ONN and YMCA of Greater Toronto to the Minister of Energy on how energy policy affects nonprofits and what the government can do about it.

There was no movement on proclamation of the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, nor any on developing regulations to address fees and timelines for police records checks under the Police Record Checks Reform Act, passed in 2015. ONN is in regular contact with the relevant ministries to remind them that these are priorities for the sector.

What can we expect in the spring session of the Legislature?


Budget 2017: The big news will be this year’s budget, to be tabled in the spring (no date has been announced but it will come soon after the federal budget). Expect more electricity bill relief, especially for rural communities. Having reached a federal-provincial agreement on the Canada Pension Plan expansion and announced changes to post-secondary tuition, the Ontario government will likely focus a large part of its 2017 budget on continued investment in physical infrastructure (clearly transit and transportation - but will there be much new social infrastructure?), “more inclusive growth,” and the transition to a low-carbon economy. And we’re waiting on more details about the 2016 commitment to introduce a basic income pilot by April 2017 in one Ontario municipality. All this, of course, while balancing the budget and laying the foundation for a fast-approaching election campaign in spring 2018.

Read ONN’s 2017 Ontario Budget submission and submissions from others in the sector.

The provincial government has opened up voting on crowd-sourced ideas for the 2017 Budget. Follow the link to have your say!

And after the Budget?

Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA): In addition to seeing the nonprofit sector’s concerns and aspirations reflected in the budget, ONN’s top priority for the spring session is to have the ONCA implementation bill reintroduced. The former Bill 85 died on the order paper in 2014. The Act helped plant the roots of ONN when nonprofits started organizing around ONCA in 2007-08. We don’t want to celebrate ten years of nonprofit advocacy on a bill that has not yet taken effect!

Police record checks: We’re also following the progress of MPP Sylvia Jones’ private member’s bill, the Helping Volunteers Give Back Act, which addresses the cost of police record checks for volunteers. While there may be issues with using the same vulnerable sector check (the third level of police record check) for different volunteer jobs, we support the bill in principle and we thank MPP Jones for drawing attention to barriers to volunteering.

Crowdfunding: Our interest is piqued to see whether MPP Randy Hillier’s private member’s bill, the Kickstarting Public Participation Act, gets momentum. The bill would require the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport to maintain a website to facilitate the funding of projects that benefit local communities through the use of crowdfunding.

What ONN is hoping for this spring


ONN has invited the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development to partner with the sector to develop better Labour Market Information (LMI) for nonprofits. Since Minister Matthews’ mandate letter has committed her to developing an LMI strategy for the province, we’re hoping to see movement soon.

We’re also looking for progress on regulations and policy under the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act and watching for a new Long-Term Infrastructure Plan to see how government will animate the principle of community benefits enshrined in the Act.

While we won’t see new employment standards legislation introduced until fall 2017, we are keenly awaiting the spring release of the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review by the Ministry of Labour. You can read ONN’s letter to the Special Advisors and you can check out our Decent Work in the Nonprofit Sector.

Updates from Ontario’s opposition parties

The Ontario PCs have recently shuffled their critics and will focus on affordability issues, Ontario’s competitiveness, frontline service, and accountability to the public this spring.

The Ontario NDP has announced it will continue to focus on the affordability of electricity and other household expenses in the spring session.

The Green Party of Ontario will focus on reducing electricity price increases, reforming business support programs to “prioritize small business grants over corporate welfare,” add a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend, and permanently protect water and farmland.

Parliamentary Assistant mandate letters

The mandate letters, released in December 2016, contain little new information relevant to our sector as a whole, although some initiatives are further elaborated on sub-sector issues (e.g., child care, housing, and the culture sector’s workforce). Taken together, the mandate letters reiterate the Ontario government’s top priorities: economic growth and good jobs delivered via infrastructure investments, “real benefits,” and more inclusive growth. Aside from these key themes, there are frequent references to government modernization, digital government, open government, and online services.

A few items that ONN will monitor:

  • The Parliamentary Assistant for Digital Government, Yvan Baker, will undertake four “signature projects,” one of which is to help create new modes of public engagement and advance open government projects as part of Ontario’s role in the Open Government Partnership. He’ll also be releasing Ontario’s first Digital Government Action Plan. Check out ONN’s work on a data strategy for the Ontario nonprofit sector and our guide for governments on consulting with the nonprofit sector.

  • Along with the Minister Responsible for Accessibility, the Parliamentary Assistant for Advanced Education and Skills Development, Han Dong, will support a provincial strategy for people with disabilities. See ONN’s EnAbling a Culture of Accessibility in the Nonprofit Sector.

  • The Parliamentary Assistant for Economic Development and Growth, Cristina Martins, will lead efforts with social enterprises and co-ops to ensure their contributions to the economy are adequately measured and that they have the support and expertise they need to grow and prosper. See ONN’s Blueprint for Strengthening Social Enterprise in Ontario.

  • The Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Labour, Peter Milczyn, will develop a Ministry of Labour Accreditation and Employer Recognition Program for health and safety, starting with consultation with labour unions, employee advocates, and employer stakeholders. Check out our recent guest blog post by Ayumi Bailly on recent changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act that affect nonprofits.

    Stay tuned for updates - we’ll send our sector analysis when

    Ontario Budget 2017 is released!

    Did we miss anything you think is relevant to Ontario’s nonprofit sector? Let us know! @o_n_n      |    sarah@theonn.ca

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