01:55:00 pm on
Tuesday 18 Jan 2022

Heavy on the Fluff
David Simmonds


source: https://ontariopc.ca/

Next 2 June 2022 Ontario will have a provincial election and already Doug Ford and his Conservatives are pawing at the ground. There is a limit on the amount of money a political party can spend in the six months before a campaign begins. The Conservatives are flush with cash; ergo they’ve been spending recently on advertisements that offer a peek at the carnage to come.

Does Ford speak with a forked tongue?

The Conservatives have a positive message ready. "We're the party saying yes,” says Ford. "Yes, to building highways you can drive on so you don't sit in gridlock. Yes, to building homes more families can afford. …We're the only party looking to the future and we're ready to build."

The Ontario Conservatives have a negative message, too. Liberal leader Steven Del Duca is criticized for being the right hand of former premier Kathleen Wynne. NDP leader Andrea Horvath is accused of saying one thing and doing another.

There is another sign an election is near. That’s when the government starts enacting legislation calculated to appeal to popular sentiment, that is, heavy on the fluff, without time costing much money, that is, light on the treasury. We have it here. The legislation is Bill 27, the Working for Workers Act, 2021 (WFW Act), which has passed first reading and gone to committee.

The WFW Act will impose a requirement that every employer with 25 or more employees develop a policy for “disconnecting from work,” which is defined as “not engaging in work-related [messaging], including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so workers are free from the performance of work.” The legislation aims to establish expectations regarding response time for emails and to permit employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working.

According to a government press release, “this proposed legislation would make Ontario the first jurisdiction in Canada to make it easier for people to relax and spend quality time with their loved ones .… Ontario is prioritizing workers’ mental health and family time.” Who could be against that? Ebenezer Scrooge? Jeff Bezos? Neither one of them is an Ontario voter. Who would not want to spend this quality family time driving on the new Bradford bypass and highway 413 projects, which Ford announced just a few days ago? 

Is it a real or empty promises?

Might the government just as well have tabled the Be Kind to Puppies Act or the Helping Little Old Ladies Across the Street Act? The WFW Act won’t work well in many businesses. Ford always seems pro business, let's see if he can get this through.

I used to work in a large law firm and when a client needed work done by a certain time, by golly you did it however many extra hours it took you. Serving the client was always top priority. How will Ford reconcile this need with the WFW Act?

Employers that need the staff to work the extra hours can usually find a way to reward those who are prepared to so and not reward those who just put in their shifts. I can foresee more litigation arising over the ‘right to refuse’ off-hour demands and the ‘right to dismiss’ employees who won’t play ball. I can also see problems for firms with not many more than 25 employees finding enough to staff to cover the overtime foregone by disconnecting employees.

On a more positive note, perhaps, this legislation will make those firms that develop worker-friendly disconnection policies more attractive to employees, leaving service-intensive firms to fight that much harder to recruit and retain. The requirement to create, promote and update a written disconnection from work policy will only serve to empower employees, which is a good thing. Whether they use it to their advantage will be up to them. 

The WFW Act would also outlaw non-competition clauses, in employment agreements and policies, to provide job seekers greater career mobility. It would prevent a company like McDonalds from stipulating that a hamburger flipper could not defect to Harveys to do the same job. It would also theoretically apply at a higher up level, say to Rogers when it fires its CEO, as it regularly does; the government says that more narrowly drafted intellectual property preservation clauses could be legitimately included in the event a big fish wants to sign up with a competitor. 

Can Ford follow through?

Despite the pre-election considerations that undoubtedly influenced its timing and content, I say thumbs up to the WFW Act, even if it is a bit heavy on the fluff. It's time workers got the front end of the stick. Let's see if Ford can follow through.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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