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Higher drunk driving fines, static minimum wages: These are the changes that apply in Ontario in 2019



Fines for drunk driving will begin on New Year's Day while minimum wages remain at $ 14 and politicians will once again be allowed to attend their fundraising events under Ontario law.

Other changes took effect January 1 under the Conservative Progressive Premier Doug Ford's government including tax credits for low-income families, higher political contribution limits, and new rules for collection agencies.

New requirements for unpaid leave days under Ontario Premier government Doug Ford, which revoked the mandatory leave days paid by the previous Liberal government, also took effect January 1.
New requirements for unpaid leave days under Ontario Premier government Doug Ford, which revoked the mandatory leave days paid by the previous Liberal government, also took effect January 1. (Graham Hughes / CANADA PRESSURE FILE)

Drivers with disabilities with alcohol concentrations in the "warning range" between 0.05 percent and 0.08 percent will now face a $ 250 fine for the first offense, $ 350 for the second violation and $ 450 for the third and subsequent violations.

The same penalty applies to failing the road calmness test or violating the "zero tolerance" rule for new and commercial drivers.

The police will also be able to issue a $ 580 fine for drivers who refuse to take drugs or alcohol tests, whose blood alcohol reaches 0.08 percent or which is determined to be harmed by officers trained as evaluators of drug recognition.

While the government said in a statement these steps would "ensure roads in Ontario are safe for everyone," Andrew Murrie, president of the lobby group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told Star that increasing fines is not a barrier.

He asked the Ford government to pass a law that vehicles were confiscated for three days if the driver was caught with alcoholic alcohol levels in the warning range, as did several other provinces.

"That makes a tremendous difference in driver behavior," Murrie said. "People don't want to lose their cars on the roadside."

BC, for example, saw drunk driving deaths split in two and Saskatchewan dropped 40 percent, he added.

With the minimum wage, Ford kept its campaign pledge to keep it at $ 14, offsetting the previous Liberal government's plan to increase $ 1 to $ 15.

The move, which received wide acceptance from business groups and criticized by supporters of anti-poverty, came with other steps to suppress reform of Liberal labor law which, according to Ford, would harm too many employers and harm job creation.

"When businesses succeed, workers succeed, families succeed, communities succeed," he said. This decline heralded the strategy of "open for business".

Compulsory paid leave has been revoked and replaced with the requirement that the employer allow at least three days not to be paid for personal illness, two days of unpaid mourning and three days of unpaid leave for family emergencies.

The minimum wage will be frozen until 2020 and then increase with the annual inflation rate, which means the level of $ 15 will not be achieved in four or five years.

To offset the impact of static minimum wages, PCs carry a new tax credit called LIFT – short for individuals and low income families.

"This will provide low-income workers and minimum wages of up to $ 850 in Ontario for personal income and spouse tax breaks of up to $ 1,700 when they submit their 2019 tax returns," the government said in a year-end statement.

Critics say low-income workers will be better off with a minimum wage increase because money comes immediately in their payments – rather than waiting another year to submit their 2019 tax return – and that many low-level workers do not pay tax revenues.

When Ontario political parties recovered from the expenses incurred in last spring's election campaign, donations were allowed to be increased to match the federal maximum of $ 1,600.

The previous Liberal government ban on MPP and candidates who attended fundraising was being revoked, raising the specter of "cash for access" events where donors could lobby politicians.

Donors no longer have to declare their contributions made from their own funds – a step that has been criticized as a "back door" way for trade unions and companies to finance political parties.

In actions aimed at preventing collection agencies from using irreverent tactics in returning funds, agents who employ more than 10 people will be asked to record all telephone calls and maintain them for one year.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter who covers Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @ robferguson1


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