Bill 132: Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act

On March 8, 2016, the Ontario Legislature enacted Bill 132: Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which amends several statutes to provide support to survivors of sexual violence and to eliminate sexual harassment.  Specifically, important changes were made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 come to affect on September 8, 2016.

Occupational Health and Safety Act

Employers are now required to develop a written policy that addresses workplace harassment including workplace sexual harassment. Employers must also inform the employees of this policy. If the employer or a supervisor is accused of harassment by the employee, the policy must have a method for workers to report the harassment to a person other than the employer or supervisor.

When workplace harassment is reported, the employer must investigate the claim. The employer must also provide the results of the investigation in writing to the worker who made the harassment claim. If the employer does not conduct an investigation of workplace harassment, an inspector from the Ministry of Labour may order the employer to hire an impartial third party to investigate the claim.

Employers must keep confidential all the identifying information of the individuals involved.

Residential Tenancies Act, 2006

Prior to Bill 132, it was very difficult for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence to end a tenancy early if they had a one-year or fixed-term lease without incurring liability. This meant that victims often had to continue living with their abusers.

Bill 132 amended the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 to allow victims of domestic and sexual violence to end a tenancy early by giving notice of at least 28 days to the landlord, if they had experienced violence or abuse while living in the rental unit. If the victim moves out within 28 days after giving notice, the tenancy will end and the victim will not incur any liability for the rental unit after he or she has moved out.

The notice provided to the landlord must include a statement explaining the type of violence or abuse that the tenant experienced. The landlord must keep confidential the information provided by the tenant, and cannot tell any person or entity unless required by law.

Victims who are joint tenants may give his or her notice to the landlord without informing the other tenants. The landlord cannot tell the other joint tenants that the victim gave notice until after the victim has moved out. 

For example, Ms. Lee lives with her husband in a rental unit. They have a one-year lease, and they have been living there for six months. One evening, her husband became violent with Ms. Lee. The next day, Ms. Lee provided notice to end her tenancy early to the landlord. In the notice, she provided information about the abuse she experienced from her husband. The landlord must accept Ms. Lee’s notice to end her tenancy early and cannot tell her husband that she had given notice until after she has moved out. Ms. Lee moved out within 28 days after giving notice to the landlord, which ended her tenancy early.

It is important to note that if the victim does not move out of the unit on or before the termination date, which must be at least 28 days after notice was given, then the notice is void. 

Understanding the Rent Control Exemption in the Residential Tenancies Act

Background

The Residential Tenancies Act (“RTA”) provides rent protection to tenants by prohibiting landlords from arbitrarily increasing the rent greater than the annual rent increase guideline. This year (2016), the maximum yearly rent increase that is permitted is set at 2.0%. This means the landlord cannot increase a tenant’s rent by more than 2.0%, without having to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for approval. In addition, rent can only be increased once every 12 months. However, there is an exception to the rent control rule that may affect your rental unit.

Under s. 6(2) of the RTA, buildings that have not been occupied for residential purposes before November 1, 1991 are not subjected to rent control under the RTA.  For tenants who are occupying residential units in buildings that were constructed after November 1, 1991, they could be charged an exorbitant rent increase as landlords are exempt from following the annual rent increase guideline. Effectively, this creates a two-tier system of renters: those who are protected by rent control provisions under the RTA and those who are not.

Potential Impact on Low-Income Individuals

The impact of this exemption could be detrimental to low-income individuals, as it jeopardizes their security of tenancy. The exemption also shifts the balance of rights to the landlord, and this is exemplified in the following fact scenario:

Mrs. Chen is an elderly woman who lives on a fixed income. She rents a one-bedroom apartment in a building that was constructed in 1999. She pays $800 in rent and spends more than 40% of her fixed income on rent. The market value of her neighbourhood recently went up and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is now $1250. Exempt from the rent control provision under the RTA, her landlord provides notice to Mrs. Chen that her rent will increase by $450, which would be an increase of 56%. This would require Mrs. Chen to spend more than 60% of her fixed income on rent, rendering it unaffordable for her to stay. Mrs. Chen would have no choice but to find housing elsewhere. If the rent control protection had applied however, the landlord could have only increased her rent by 2% this year, which would amount to a $16 increase.

Advocating for Legislative Reform

The rent control exemption clearly shifts the balance of rights in favour of landlords. It also appears to be contrary to the objective of the RTA, which aims to provide protection for residential tenants from unlawful rent increases and evictions. It has broad impact as the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario estimated that some 55,000 to 65,000 people were affected by this provision in 2013. This issue had garnered some attention from a few politicians, who sought to amend the provision. In 2013, Toronto City Councillor Anthony Perruzza introduced a motion before the Executive Committee to urge the province to make all rental units subject to rent control. On June 4, 2013, Bill 82 was introduced by NDP MPP Cindy Forster, who was the NDP Critic of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to amend s. 6(2) to close the rent control loophole.

Not all politicians were sympathetic to tenants, however, as the previous Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Linda Jeffrey stated on April 29, 2013, in an article published on Canada.com:

The post-1991 rent exemption was originally introduced – and has been maintained over time – as an incentive for private landlords to build new rental accommodation. This incentive not only helps to renew the rental housing stock but also creates jobs in the construction sector. As such, any changes to this incentive could have an adverse effect on the rental housing sector, the economy and job creation.

Unfortunately, Bill 82 died when the election writ dropped in 2014. Currently, Davenport NDP MPP Jonah Schein has taken on the cause of calling on the provincial government to close the loophole, but a bill to amend the legislation has yet to be reintroduced.

For now, it is important for tenants residing in residential units built after November 1, 1991 to be aware of the rent control exemption as they may be affected by it. 

New changes to social assistance

Drug Cards changes

At present, OW and ODSP recipients are issued a paper drug card that social housing providers use to verify beneficiaries for Rent Gear GI households.

As of December 1, 2016, the Province will no longer issue this card to those with a valid Ontario Health Card, who will then be required to use their Health Card to access the Ontario Drug Benefit program.  After consultation with the Ministry, information will be provided on how housing providers should verify beneficiary units from December forward

Province ends child support clawback

Currently, child support payments are treated as income for social assistance purposes and are deducted from benefits on a dollar-for-dollar basis. As of January 1, 2017 for ODSP and February 1, 2017 for OW, both child support payments and CPP orphan benefit payments will be fully exempt as income. Client will no loner be required to pursue child support as a condition for eligibility for social assistance.  Assignments of child support to the Ministry or Ontario Works will no longer be required.

Spousal support payments will not be exempted from income and clients may still be required to pursue spousal support as a condition of eligibility for social assistance. However, assignments of spousal support will no longer be required.

In a news release on 29 June 2016, the Ministry of Community and Social Services advised that the full exemption is expected to increase the monthly income of almost 19,000 families, most of them single-parent households. Eligible families receiving social assistance will receive an average of $282/month more from child support payments.

New Changes to Employment Insurance (EI)

The Federal government is putting into place several major changes to the Employment Insurance program in 2016-2017. Here are some changes that may affect you and your family:

(1)   Two Week Waiting Period Reduced to One Week

Starting January 1, 2017, the period that EI claimants must wait until they can begin receiving their EI benefits will be shortened from two weeks to one week. This is a welcome change as claimants that need income between jobs will be able to get their EI benefits faster.

(2)   New Entrant and Re-Entrant Rules will be Eliminated

Previously, new entrants or re-entrants to the workforce needed at least 910 hours of insurable employment in order to qualify for EI. Starting July 3, 2016, this requirement will be eliminated. New entrants and re-entrants now face the same eligibility requirements as other claimants in the region where they live (between 420 hours to 700 hours of insurable employment).

(3)   Working While on EI Pilot Program will be Extended

The government will extend the current version of the working while on EI pilot until August 2018. This pilot allows workers to keep 50 cents of EI benefits for every dollar earned in wages, up to a maximum of 90 per cent of their weekly earnings.

(1)   Certain Job Search Requirements Eliminated

Starting July 3, 2016, certain job search requirements for EI, such as rules that forced workers to move away from their communities and take lower paying jobs, will be eliminated. Most of the current job search requirements however, will remain in place.

Workers should continue to keep records of job search efforts while on EI, including newspaper clippings, online job postings, and personal notes.

Overall, the new EI changes are favourable for workers who are in need of benefits quickly after they lose their jobs. The pilot program will also allow workers to supplement their income with part-time or temporary work while they continue to receive EI.

Simplifying the Process for Old Age Security

The Honourable Jean Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development announced on October 31, 2016 that, thanks to further work that enables automatic enrolment for Old Age Security (OAS), more seniors will now receive their OAS pension without needing to apply.

Quick Facts

The Old Age Security (OAS) program is the first pillar of Canada’s retirement income system. OAS benefits are intended to provide partial income security for seniors in recognition of the contribution they have made to Canadian society and the economy.

In addition to the OAS basic pension, the program also includes other types of OAS benefits, including the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), Allowance and Allowance for the Survivor, which are additional supports for low-income Canadian seniors.

Employment and Social Development Canada’s Old Age Security Service Improvement Strategy aims to modernize the delivery of the OAS program by improving services to eligible Canadians, including vulnerable individuals, while also generating efficiencies in the processing of OAS benefits.

Automatic Enrolment for Old Age Security – Phases 1 & 2

Phase 1

Phase 1 of automatic enrolment for OAS, which started in April 2013, implemented automatic enrolment for Canadian residents who, at age 64, are in receipt of or approved for a CPP or QPP retirement, disability or survivor benefit, and who have a combination of 40 years or more of participation in the CPP or the QPP, as well as a Canadian home address.

Using data already available within the Department, including dates of birth, current addresses and Social Insurance Numbers (SINs), Phase 1 has resulted in approximately 45 percent of new beneficiaries being automatically enrolled for the OAS basic pension without having to apply.

Phase 2

Announced on October 31, 2016, phase 2 builds on Phase 1 by expanding the automatic enrolment process to include individuals who, at age 64, are not yet receiving CPP or QPP benefits, but have participated in CPP or 

QPP for 40 years or more, and each year of CPP or QPP participation must correspond with a valid domestic tax return filed with the Government of Canada. In addition, the Minister requires that the person’s latest possible tax return has been filed as a resident of Canada with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Automatic enrolment reduces the burden on many seniors by enabling them to receive their Old Age Security pension at age 65 without ever having to apply for it. With the introduction of the second phase of automatic enrolment on October 31, 2016, it is anticipated that over 50 percent of new beneficiaries will be automatically enrolled for the OAS basic pension. 

Bill 132: Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act

On March 8, 2016, the Ontario Legislature enacted Bill 132: Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which amends several statutes to provide support to survivors of sexual violence and to eliminate sexual harassment.  Specifically, important changes were made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 come to affect on September 8, 2016.

Occupational Health and Safety Act

Employers are now required to develop a written policy that addresses workplace harassment including workplace sexual harassment. Employers must also inform the employees of this policy. If the employer or a supervisor is accused of harassment by the employee, the policy must have a method for workers to report the harassment to a person other than the employer or supervisor.

When workplace harassment is reported, the employer must investigate the claim. The employer must also provide the results of the investigation in writing to the worker who made the harassment claim. If the employer does not conduct an investigation of workplace harassment, an inspector from the Ministry of Labour may order the employer to hire an impartial third party to investigate the claim.

Employers must keep confidential all the identifying information of the individuals involved.

Residential Tenancies Act, 2006

Prior to Bill 132, it was very difficult for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence to end a tenancy early if they had a one-year or fixed-term lease without incurring liability. This meant that victims often had to continue living with their abusers.

Bill 132 amended the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 to allow victims of domestic and sexual violence to end a tenancy early by giving notice of at least 28 days to the landlord, if they had experienced violence or abuse while living in the rental unit. If the victim moves out within 28 days after giving notice, the tenancy will end and the victim will not incur any liability for the rental unit after he or she has moved out.

The notice provided to the landlord must include a statement explaining the type of violence or abuse that the tenant experienced. The landlord must keep confidential the information provided by the tenant, and cannot tell any person or entity unless required by law.

Victims who are joint tenants may give his or her notice to the landlord without informing the other tenants. The landlord cannot tell the other joint tenants that the victim gave notice until after the victim has moved out. 

For example, Ms. Lee lives with her husband in a rental unit. They have a one-year lease, and they have been living there for six months. One evening, her husband became violent with Ms. Lee. The next day, Ms. Lee provided notice to end her tenancy early to the landlord. In the notice, she provided information about the abuse she experienced from her husband. The landlord must accept Ms. Lee’s notice to end her tenancy early and cannot tell her husband that she had given notice until after she has moved out. Ms. Lee moved out within 28 days after giving notice to the landlord, which ended her tenancy early.

It is important to note that if the victim does not move out of the unit on or before the termination date, which must be at least 28 days after notice was given, then the notice is void. 

Understanding the Rent Control Exemption in the Residential Tenancies Act

Background

The Residential Tenancies Act (“RTA”) provides rent protection to tenants by prohibiting landlords from arbitrarily increasing the rent greater than the annual rent increase guideline. This year (2016), the maximum yearly rent increase that is permitted is set at 2.0%. This means the landlord cannot increase a tenant’s rent by more than 2.0%, without having to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for approval. In addition, rent can only be increased once every 12 months. However, there is an exception to the rent control rule that may affect your rental unit.

Under s. 6(2) of the RTA, buildings that have not been occupied for residential purposes before November 1, 1991 are not subjected to rent control under the RTA.  For tenants who are occupying residential units in buildings that were constructed after November 1, 1991, they could be charged an exorbitant rent increase as landlords are exempt from following the annual rent increase guideline. Effectively, this creates a two-tier system of renters: those who are protected by rent control provisions under the RTA and those who are not.

Potential Impact on Low-Income Individuals

The impact of this exemption could be detrimental to low-income individuals, as it jeopardizes their security of tenancy. The exemption also shifts the balance of rights to the landlord, and this is exemplified in the following fact scenario:

Mrs. Chen is an elderly woman who lives on a fixed income. She rents a one-bedroom apartment in a building that was constructed in 1999. She pays $800 in rent and spends more than 40% of her fixed income on rent. The market value of her neighbourhood recently went up and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is now $1250. Exempt from the rent control provision under the RTA, her landlord provides notice to Mrs. Chen that her rent will increase by $450, which would be an increase of 56%. This would require Mrs. Chen to spend more than 60% of her fixed income on rent, rendering it unaffordable for her to stay. Mrs. Chen would have no choice but to find housing elsewhere. If the rent control protection had applied however, the landlord could have only increased her rent by 2% this year, which would amount to a $16 increase.

Advocating for Legislative Reform

The rent control exemption clearly shifts the balance of rights in favour of landlords. It also appears to be contrary to the objective of the RTA, which aims to provide protection for residential tenants from unlawful rent increases and evictions. It has broad impact as the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario estimated that some 55,000 to 65,000 people were affected by this provision in 2013. This issue had garnered some attention from a few politicians, who sought to amend the provision. In 2013, Toronto City Councillor Anthony Perruzza introduced a motion before the Executive Committee to urge the province to make all rental units subject to rent control. On June 4, 2013, Bill 82 was introduced by NDP MPP Cindy Forster, who was the NDP Critic of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to amend s. 6(2) to close the rent control loophole.

Not all politicians were sympathetic to tenants, however, as the previous Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Linda Jeffrey stated on April 29, 2013, in an article published on Canada.com:

The post-1991 rent exemption was originally introduced – and has been maintained over time – as an incentive for private landlords to build new rental accommodation. This incentive not only helps to renew the rental housing stock but also creates jobs in the construction sector. As such, any changes to this incentive could have an adverse effect on the rental housing sector, the economy and job creation.

Unfortunately, Bill 82 died when the election writ dropped in 2014. Currently, Davenport NDP MPP Jonah Schein has taken on the cause of calling on the provincial government to close the loophole, but a bill to amend the legislation has yet to be reintroduced.

For now, it is important for tenants residing in residential units built after November 1, 1991 to be aware of the rent control exemption as they may be affected by it. 

New changes to social assistance

Drug Cards changes

At present, OW and ODSP recipients are issued a paper drug card that social housing providers use to verify beneficiaries for Rent Gear GI households.

As of December 1, 2016, the Province will no longer issue this card to those with a valid Ontario Health Card, who will then be required to use their Health Card to access the Ontario Drug Benefit program.  After consultation with the Ministry, information will be provided on how housing providers should verify beneficiary units from December forward

Province ends child support clawback

Currently, child support payments are treated as income for social assistance purposes and are deducted from benefits on a dollar-for-dollar basis. As of January 1, 2017 for ODSP and February 1, 2017 for OW, both child support payments and CPP orphan benefit payments will be fully exempt as income. Client will no loner be required to pursue child support as a condition for eligibility for social assistance.  Assignments of child support to the Ministry or Ontario Works will no longer be required.

Spousal support payments will not be exempted from income and clients may still be required to pursue spousal support as a condition of eligibility for social assistance. However, assignments of spousal support will no longer be required.

In a news release on 29 June 2016, the Ministry of Community and Social Services advised that the full exemption is expected to increase the monthly income of almost 19,000 families, most of them single-parent households. Eligible families receiving social assistance will receive an average of $282/month more from child support payments.

New Changes to Employment Insurance (EI)

The Federal government is putting into place several major changes to the Employment Insurance program in 2016-2017. Here are some changes that may affect you and your family:

(1)   Two Week Waiting Period Reduced to One Week

Starting January 1, 2017, the period that EI claimants must wait until they can begin receiving their EI benefits will be shortened from two weeks to one week. This is a welcome change as claimants that need income between jobs will be able to get their EI benefits faster.

(2)   New Entrant and Re-Entrant Rules will be Eliminated

Previously, new entrants or re-entrants to the workforce needed at least 910 hours of insurable employment in order to qualify for EI. Starting July 3, 2016, this requirement will be eliminated. New entrants and re-entrants now face the same eligibility requirements as other claimants in the region where they live (between 420 hours to 700 hours of insurable employment).

(3)   Working While on EI Pilot Program will be Extended

The government will extend the current version of the working while on EI pilot until August 2018. This pilot allows workers to keep 50 cents of EI benefits for every dollar earned in wages, up to a maximum of 90 per cent of their weekly earnings.

(1)   Certain Job Search Requirements Eliminated

Starting July 3, 2016, certain job search requirements for EI, such as rules that forced workers to move away from their communities and take lower paying jobs, will be eliminated. Most of the current job search requirements however, will remain in place.

Workers should continue to keep records of job search efforts while on EI, including newspaper clippings, online job postings, and personal notes.

Overall, the new EI changes are favourable for workers who are in need of benefits quickly after they lose their jobs. The pilot program will also allow workers to supplement their income with part-time or temporary work while they continue to receive EI.

Simplifying the Process for Old Age Security

The Honourable Jean Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development announced on October 31, 2016 that, thanks to further work that enables automatic enrolment for Old Age Security (OAS), more seniors will now receive their OAS pension without needing to apply.

Quick Facts

The Old Age Security (OAS) program is the first pillar of Canada’s retirement income system. OAS benefits are intended to provide partial income security for seniors in recognition of the contribution they have made to Canadian society and the economy.

In addition to the OAS basic pension, the program also includes other types of OAS benefits, including the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), Allowance and Allowance for the Survivor, which are additional supports for low-income Canadian seniors.

Employment and Social Development Canada’s Old Age Security Service Improvement Strategy aims to modernize the delivery of the OAS program by improving services to eligible Canadians, including vulnerable individuals, while also generating efficiencies in the processing of OAS benefits.

Automatic Enrolment for Old Age Security – Phases 1 & 2

Phase 1

Phase 1 of automatic enrolment for OAS, which started in April 2013, implemented automatic enrolment for Canadian residents who, at age 64, are in receipt of or approved for a CPP or QPP retirement, disability or survivor benefit, and who have a combination of 40 years or more of participation in the CPP or the QPP, as well as a Canadian home address.

Using data already available within the Department, including dates of birth, current addresses and Social Insurance Numbers (SINs), Phase 1 has resulted in approximately 45 percent of new beneficiaries being automatically enrolled for the OAS basic pension without having to apply.

Phase 2

Announced on October 31, 2016, phase 2 builds on Phase 1 by expanding the automatic enrolment process to include individuals who, at age 64, are not yet receiving CPP or QPP benefits, but have participated in CPP or 

QPP for 40 years or more, and each year of CPP or QPP participation must correspond with a valid domestic tax return filed with the Government of Canada. In addition, the Minister requires that the person’s latest possible tax return has been filed as a resident of Canada with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Automatic enrolment reduces the burden on many seniors by enabling them to receive their Old Age Security pension at age 65 without ever having to apply for it. With the introduction of the second phase of automatic enrolment on October 31, 2016, it is anticipated that over 50 percent of new beneficiaries will be automatically enrolled for the OAS basic pension. 

Bill 132: Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act

On March 8, 2016, the Ontario Legislature enacted Bill 132: Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which amends several statutes to provide support to survivors of sexual violence and to eliminate sexual harassment.  Specifically, important changes were made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 come to affect on September 8, 2016.

Occupational Health and Safety Act

Employers are now required to develop a written policy that addresses workplace harassment including workplace sexual harassment. Employers must also inform the employees of this policy. If the employer or a supervisor is accused of harassment by the employee, the policy must have a method for workers to report the harassment to a person other than the employer or supervisor.

When workplace harassment is reported, the employer must investigate the claim. The employer must also provide the results of the investigation in writing to the worker who made the harassment claim. If the employer does not conduct an investigation of workplace harassment, an inspector from the Ministry of Labour may order the employer to hire an impartial third party to investigate the claim.

Employers must keep confidential all the identifying information of the individuals involved.

Residential Tenancies Act, 2006

Prior to Bill 132, it was very difficult for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence to end a tenancy early if they had a one-year or fixed-term lease without incurring liability. This meant that victims often had to continue living with their abusers.

Bill 132 amended the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 to allow victims of domestic and sexual violence to end a tenancy early by giving notice of at least 28 days to the landlord, if they had experienced violence or abuse while living in the rental unit. If the victim moves out within 28 days after giving notice, the tenancy will end and the victim will not incur any liability for the rental unit after he or she has moved out.

The notice provided to the landlord must include a statement explaining the type of violence or abuse that the tenant experienced. The landlord must keep confidential the information provided by the tenant, and cannot tell any person or entity unless required by law.

Victims who are joint tenants may give his or her notice to the landlord without informing the other tenants. The landlord cannot tell the other joint tenants that the victim gave notice until after the victim has moved out. 

For example, Ms. Lee lives with her husband in a rental unit. They have a one-year lease, and they have been living there for six months. One evening, her husband became violent with Ms. Lee. The next day, Ms. Lee provided notice to end her tenancy early to the landlord. In the notice, she provided information about the abuse she experienced from her husband. The landlord must accept Ms. Lee’s notice to end her tenancy early and cannot tell her husband that she had given notice until after she has moved out. Ms. Lee moved out within 28 days after giving notice to the landlord, which ended her tenancy early.

It is important to note that if the victim does not move out of the unit on or before the termination date, which must be at least 28 days after notice was given, then the notice is void. 

Understanding the Rent Control Exemption in the Residential Tenancies Act

Background

The Residential Tenancies Act (“RTA”) provides rent protection to tenants by prohibiting landlords from arbitrarily increasing the rent greater than the annual rent increase guideline. This year (2016), the maximum yearly rent increase that is permitted is set at 2.0%. This means the landlord cannot increase a tenant’s rent by more than 2.0%, without having to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for approval. In addition, rent can only be increased once every 12 months. However, there is an exception to the rent control rule that may affect your rental unit.

Under s. 6(2) of the RTA, buildings that have not been occupied for residential purposes before November 1, 1991 are not subjected to rent control under the RTA.  For tenants who are occupying residential units in buildings that were constructed after November 1, 1991, they could be charged an exorbitant rent increase as landlords are exempt from following the annual rent increase guideline. Effectively, this creates a two-tier system of renters: those who are protected by rent control provisions under the RTA and those who are not.

Potential Impact on Low-Income Individuals

The impact of this exemption could be detrimental to low-income individuals, as it jeopardizes their security of tenancy. The exemption also shifts the balance of rights to the landlord, and this is exemplified in the following fact scenario:

Mrs. Chen is an elderly woman who lives on a fixed income. She rents a one-bedroom apartment in a building that was constructed in 1999. She pays $800 in rent and spends more than 40% of her fixed income on rent. The market value of her neighbourhood recently went up and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is now $1250. Exempt from the rent control provision under the RTA, her landlord provides notice to Mrs. Chen that her rent will increase by $450, which would be an increase of 56%. This would require Mrs. Chen to spend more than 60% of her fixed income on rent, rendering it unaffordable for her to stay. Mrs. Chen would have no choice but to find housing elsewhere. If the rent control protection had applied however, the landlord could have only increased her rent by 2% this year, which would amount to a $16 increase.

Advocating for Legislative Reform

The rent control exemption clearly shifts the balance of rights in favour of landlords. It also appears to be contrary to the objective of the RTA, which aims to provide protection for residential tenants from unlawful rent increases and evictions. It has broad impact as the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario estimated that some 55,000 to 65,000 people were affected by this provision in 2013. This issue had garnered some attention from a few politicians, who sought to amend the provision. In 2013, Toronto City Councillor Anthony Perruzza introduced a motion before the Executive Committee to urge the province to make all rental units subject to rent control. On June 4, 2013, Bill 82 was introduced by NDP MPP Cindy Forster, who was the NDP Critic of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to amend s. 6(2) to close the rent control loophole.

Not all politicians were sympathetic to tenants, however, as the previous Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Linda Jeffrey stated on April 29, 2013, in an article published on Canada.com:

The post-1991 rent exemption was originally introduced – and has been maintained over time – as an incentive for private landlords to build new rental accommodation. This incentive not only helps to renew the rental housing stock but also creates jobs in the construction sector. As such, any changes to this incentive could have an adverse effect on the rental housing sector, the economy and job creation.

Unfortunately, Bill 82 died when the election writ dropped in 2014. Currently, Davenport NDP MPP Jonah Schein has taken on the cause of calling on the provincial government to close the loophole, but a bill to amend the legislation has yet to be reintroduced.

For now, it is important for tenants residing in residential units built after November 1, 1991 to be aware of the rent control exemption as they may be affected by it. 

New changes to social assistance

Drug Cards changes

At present, OW and ODSP recipients are issued a paper drug card that social housing providers use to verify beneficiaries for Rent Gear GI households.

As of December 1, 2016, the Province will no longer issue this card to those with a valid Ontario Health Card, who will then be required to use their Health Card to access the Ontario Drug Benefit program.  After consultation with the Ministry, information will be provided on how housing providers should verify beneficiary units from December forward

Province ends child support clawback

Currently, child support payments are treated as income for social assistance purposes and are deducted from benefits on a dollar-for-dollar basis. As of January 1, 2017 for ODSP and February 1, 2017 for OW, both child support payments and CPP orphan benefit payments will be fully exempt as income. Client will no loner be required to pursue child support as a condition for eligibility for social assistance.  Assignments of child support to the Ministry or Ontario Works will no longer be required.

Spousal support payments will not be exempted from income and clients may still be required to pursue spousal support as a condition of eligibility for social assistance. However, assignments of spousal support will no longer be required.

In a news release on 29 June 2016, the Ministry of Community and Social Services advised that the full exemption is expected to increase the monthly income of almost 19,000 families, most of them single-parent households. Eligible families receiving social assistance will receive an average of $282/month more from child support payments.

New Changes to Employment Insurance (EI)

The Federal government is putting into place several major changes to the Employment Insurance program in 2016-2017. Here are some changes that may affect you and your family:

(1)   Two Week Waiting Period Reduced to One Week

Starting January 1, 2017, the period that EI claimants must wait until they can begin receiving their EI benefits will be shortened from two weeks to one week. This is a welcome change as claimants that need income between jobs will be able to get their EI benefits faster.

(2)   New Entrant and Re-Entrant Rules will be Eliminated

Previously, new entrants or re-entrants to the workforce needed at least 910 hours of insurable employment in order to qualify for EI. Starting July 3, 2016, this requirement will be eliminated. New entrants and re-entrants now face the same eligibility requirements as other claimants in the region where they live (between 420 hours to 700 hours of insurable employment).

(3)   Working While on EI Pilot Program will be Extended

The government will extend the current version of the working while on EI pilot until August 2018. This pilot allows workers to keep 50 cents of EI benefits for every dollar earned in wages, up to a maximum of 90 per cent of their weekly earnings.

(1)   Certain Job Search Requirements Eliminated

Starting July 3, 2016, certain job search requirements for EI, such as rules that forced workers to move away from their communities and take lower paying jobs, will be eliminated. Most of the current job search requirements however, will remain in place.

Workers should continue to keep records of job search efforts while on EI, including newspaper clippings, online job postings, and personal notes.

Overall, the new EI changes are favourable for workers who are in need of benefits quickly after they lose their jobs. The pilot program will also allow workers to supplement their income with part-time or temporary work while they continue to receive EI.

Simplifying the Process for Old Age Security

The Honourable Jean Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development announced on October 31, 2016 that, thanks to further work that enables automatic enrolment for Old Age Security (OAS), more seniors will now receive their OAS pension without needing to apply.

Quick Facts

The Old Age Security (OAS) program is the first pillar of Canada’s retirement income system. OAS benefits are intended to provide partial income security for seniors in recognition of the contribution they have made to Canadian society and the economy.

In addition to the OAS basic pension, the program also includes other types of OAS benefits, including the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), Allowance and Allowance for the Survivor, which are additional supports for low-income Canadian seniors.

Employment and Social Development Canada’s Old Age Security Service Improvement Strategy aims to modernize the delivery of the OAS program by improving services to eligible Canadians, including vulnerable individuals, while also generating efficiencies in the processing of OAS benefits.

Automatic Enrolment for Old Age Security – Phases 1 & 2

Phase 1

Phase 1 of automatic enrolment for OAS, which started in April 2013, implemented automatic enrolment for Canadian residents who, at age 64, are in receipt of or approved for a CPP or QPP retirement, disability or survivor benefit, and who have a combination of 40 years or more of participation in the CPP or the QPP, as well as a Canadian home address.

Using data already available within the Department, including dates of birth, current addresses and Social Insurance Numbers (SINs), Phase 1 has resulted in approximately 45 percent of new beneficiaries being automatically enrolled for the OAS basic pension without having to apply.

Phase 2

Announced on October 31, 2016, phase 2 builds on Phase 1 by expanding the automatic enrolment process to include individuals who, at age 64, are not yet receiving CPP or QPP benefits, but have participated in CPP or 

QPP for 40 years or more, and each year of CPP or QPP participation must correspond with a valid domestic tax return filed with the Government of Canada. In addition, the Minister requires that the person’s latest possible tax return has been filed as a resident of Canada with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Automatic enrolment reduces the burden on many seniors by enabling them to receive their Old Age Security pension at age 65 without ever having to apply for it. With the introduction of the second phase of automatic enrolment on October 31, 2016, it is anticipated that over 50 percent of new beneficiaries will be automatically enrolled for the OAS basic pension.