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2020 is likely to bring in some new laws and amendments that could affect everything from internships to a crackdown on parking spots and a possible reversal on pit bull ownership in Ontario.

1. New Protections for Federally Regulated Employees and Interns Are Expected

The Canadian government anticipates that a number of changes will be made that will affect employees who are federally regulated, such as banks, interprovincial transportation companies, and telecommunications companies. Generally, the changes to the law greatly benefit employees and are in addition to the changes to the Code that were discussed in an article we wrote earlier this year.

The Government of Canada anticipates that the changes to the Code will include a requirement that interns must be paid. The anticipated legislation will make an exception for interns whose internship is part of an educational program. That is, employers will not have to pay interns if the internship is part of a program through a university, college or other educational institution. Other entitlements for interns such as maximum hours of work, days of rest, and general holidays are also expected.

It is not only interns that can expect new entitlements, but employees also. For example, employees will no longer be required to work for a minimum amount of time before receiving holiday time off, maternity leave, and sick leave entitlements among others. There are also a number of enhanced entitlements for workers in precarious work situations (part-time staff, seasonal workers, or employees from staffing agencies). The anticipated laws will require employers to pay all employees the same in regards to wages and general workplace entitlements despite whether they are classified as part-time, seasonal, or temporary.

2. Ethical Real Estate Legislation May Be Introduced

Lawmakers in Ontario have introduced the Trust in Real Estate Services Act which will implement changes to the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, the primary legislation governing real estate agents and brokerages in Ontario.

The Act is intended to protect consumers by increasing ethical requirements for real estate agents and enhancing the information provided to their clients. The Act will also give the Real Estate Council of Ontario enhanced disciplinary measures against real estate agents who have failed to fulfill their professional obligations. These disciplinary powers may include suspending the agents’ license as well as monetary fines.

The expected changes to the Act will also provide for specialist certifications. This will allow you to determine if you are hiring a real estate agent with particular expertise for specialized property (e.g. farming, commercial etc.). The certification will ensure that the real estate agent has verified expertise in dealing with such properties. These changes are not yet in force.

3. Drivers May Receive Fines for Parking Non-Charging Vehicles in Electric Vehicle Spots

Many individuals believe that electric vehicles are the way of the future. But a common problem experienced by many owners of EV's is when non EV drivers park in a charging spot. This has been said to increase the aversion to electric vehicles as there may not be a reliable method of ensuring charging spots are available when needed.

The government is contemplating amending the Highway Traffic Act to create a $125 dollar fine for anyone parking a vehicle in a charging station that is not attached to the charging equipment. This means that owners of electric vehicles can also be fined if they are not actually using the spot to charge their vehicle. This amendment is not yet in force.

4. Increased Protections for Farmers

The Ontario government has introduced the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act. This Act is intended to provide greater protections for farmers who experience trespassers on property where farm animals are located. The Act empowers farmers (or someone on their behalf) to use reasonable force to arrest anyone in contravention of the Act. There is also a potential fine of $15,000 for first-time offenders under the Act. The new law will also create fines for anyone interfering with an animal transportation vehicle or a processing facility. It is believed that this statute was introduced in response to the presence of activists at farms, processing facilitates, and interference with transportation vehicles.

5. Ontario Considering Ending Ban on Pit Bulls

Many will remember that in 2005 the Ontario Government prohibited the ownership and acquisition of pit bulls in Ontario. There were certain exceptions for pit bulls that were in Ontario prior to the ban and pit bulls that were born shortly thereafter. Ontario has recently introduced legislation that will end this prohibition on pit bull ownership but will introduce a regime whereby courts can determine if a dog (of any breed) has seriously injured someone, or worse. If so, the dog can be put down and the owner may be prohibited from owning another dog for 10 years. However, this will only apply if the dog attack was “unprovoked.” These changes are not yet in effect.

6. Potential Change of Limitation Period for the Occupier’s Liability Act

Owners and occupiers of property are required to ensure that their property is free of ice and snow. If they fail to do so, they may be liable for any injuries someone at the property sustains from the ice or snow (a slip and fall for example). In Ontario, individuals have two years to sue someone from the date they discovered that they realized that there was a wrong, though there are exceptions. In most cases, this limitation period would start on the date of the slip and fall. Lawmakers have proposed legislation that will require individuals who sustain injuries due to ice or snow to provide the owner or occupier of the property with written notice within 10 days of their injury. The reason for this is that it may be very difficult for the owner/occupier to remember the conditions of the property (e.g. was it icy?) or remember who was present at the property at the time. The proposed rules give the owner/occupier the chance to collect evidence and recall the information surrounding the injury shortly after it happens instead of having to defend themselves much later.

The legislative debates reveal another reason for this proposed change. In order for many private snow removal contractors to obtain insurance, the insurer will often require the excessive use of salt to minimize the chances of a lawsuit. This has had negative environmental impacts. Shortening the limitation period to 10 days may reduce the excessive salt requirement which will positively impact the environment.