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PEI Government Continues to Ignore Business Community / Announces Another Significant Minimum Wage Increase

PEI Government Continues to Ignore Business Community / Announces Another Significant Minimum Wage Increase
PrintOctober 29, 2018On October 26, 2018, the government of Prince Edward Island announced that PEI businesses will be subject to an increase in…

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Manitoba Accessibility Standard For Customer Service Comes Into Effect Nov 1

Manitoba Accessibility Standard For Customer Service Comes Into Effect Nov 1
PrintOctober 22, 2018A reminder that Manitoba’s Accessibly Standard for Customer Service becomes a legal requirement for all Manitoba businesses as of November 1, 2018.
The Cu…

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Relief for Retail – Fixing Bill 148

Relief for Retail – Fixing Bill 148
PrintOctober 23, 2018The new Making Ontario Open for Business Act was tabled in the Ontario legislature this afternoon, which seeks to remove significant burdens that prevent Ontario businesses from creating jobs.
Th…

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PEI Ban on Single Use Plastic Bags – What RCC Members Need to Know

PEI Ban on Single Use Plastic Bags – What RCC Members Need to Know
PrintOctober 11, 2018Please see the note below from the government of PEI dealing with next year’s ban on single use plastic bags and the fee on paper and reusable bags.
The government …

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For members with stores in British Columbia: BC Government to require registration of employers and recruiters of Temporary Foreign Workers

For members with stores in British Columbia: BC Government to require registration of employers and recruiters of Temporary Foreign Workers
PrintSeptember 25, 2018The BC Government will introduce legislation in fall 2018 to require that Employers and R…

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Ontario Introduces Pay Transparency Legislation

Ontario Introduces Pay Transparency Legislation
PrintMay 14, 2018Ontario recently passed legislation to increase transparency in the hiring process.
Starting on January 1, 2019, Ontario will:

Require all publicly advertised job postings to include a…

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PEI Produces Second Consecutive Balanced Budget – Increases Spending – Modest Tax Relief

PEI Produces Second Consecutive Balanced Budget – Increases Spending – Modest Tax Relief
PrintApril 12, 2018Last week, the Prince Edward Island (PEI) government tabled its second consecutive balanced budget. The budget featured a 5.7% increase in spend…

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6 New Municipal Bylaws on Shopping Bags in the Montréal Metropolitan Community

6 New Municipal Bylaws on Shopping Bags in the Montréal Metropolitan Community
PrintApril 5, 2018Over the course of the past 3 weeks, the municipalities of Beloeil, Saint-Mathieu-de-Beloeil, Longueuil, Mascouche, Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac and Beauharnoi…

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Members with Ontario Stores should be prepared for Ministry of Labour Enforcement Blitzes starting in June

Members with Ontario Stores should be prepared for Ministry of Labour Enforcement Blitzes starting in June
PrintApril 5, 2018The Ontario Ministry of Labour has released its enforcement blitz campaign as the following:
Business Type
Program

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Stand Pat Budget For Newfoundland and Labrador: Huge Financial Concerns Remain

Stand Pat Budget For Newfoundland and Labrador: Huge Financial Concerns Remain
PrintMarch 29, 2018The 2018-19 Newfoundland and Labrador budget has no plan of action to deal with the province’s huge deficit and staggering debt. Newfoundland and Labrador…

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2018-2019 Québec Government Budget: One Last Lap Before The Elections

2018-2019 Québec Government Budget: One Last Lap Before The Elections
PrintMarch 28, 2018The Québec Government tabled yesterday its last budget before the fixed date election scheduled for October 1st. Most personal income tax measures having already b…

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Amendment – Québec Parental Insurance Plan

Amendment – Québec Parental Insurance Plan
PrintMarch 23, 2018On March 22, 2018, Minister François Blais (Employment and Social Solidarity) introduced Bill 174: An Act mainly to relax the parental insurance plan to promote better family-work balance.
T…

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Atlantic Provinces – Changes to Employment Standards – Leave from Work

Atlantic Provinces – Changes to Employment Standards – Leave from Work
PrintMarch 23, 2018Since 2016, the federal government has been enacting changes to compassionate care and parental benefits. These changes allow workers to access employment insuran…

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Atlantic Provinces – Changes to Employment Standards – Leave from Work

Atlantic Provinces – Changes to Employment Standards – Leave from Work
PrintMarch 23, 2018Since 2016, the federal government has been enacting changes to compassionate care and parental benefits. These changes allow workers to access employment insuran…

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Quebec – Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards

Quebec – Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards
PrintMarch 21, 2018On March 20, 2018, Labour Minister Dominique Vien introduced Bill 176: An Act to amend the Act respecting labour standards and other legislative provisions mainly to facilitat…

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Federal Court Rules Against Oceanex / Status Quo For Marine Atlantic Subsidy

Federal Court Rules Against Oceanex / Status Quo For Marine Atlantic Subsidy
PrintMarch 9, 2018In late 2017, Oceanex (container shipping business) had a hearing before the Federal Court of Canada where it asked for a ruling that the federal Transport M…

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Federal Budget 2018

Federal Budget 2018
PrintFebruary 28, 2018The February 27 Federal budget did not contain any measures specific to retail but does include a number of items that may be of interest to RCC members.
The budget has been characterized as a social policy bud…

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For members with stores in British Columbia: WorkSafeBC Expedited Review Consultation

For members with stores in British Columbia: WorkSafeBC Expedited Review Consultation
PrintFebruary 23, 2018RCC learned today that Paul Petrie who was contracted by the Chair of WorkSafeBC to conduct an expedited policy review is receiving submissions …

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Maritime Governments to Increase Minimum Wage on April 1st – RCC Push for CPI Adjustments

Maritime Governments to Increase Minimum Wage on April 1st – RCC Push for CPI Adjustments
PrintFebruary 13, 2018The government of New Brunswick announced that it will be raising the province’s minimum wage from $11.00 to $11.25 on April 1, 2018. The go…

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For members with stores in B.C.: Government revises regulatory definitions of printed paper and packaging

For members with stores in B.C.: Government revises regulatory definitions of printed paper and packaging
PrintJanuary 19, 2018Effective November 14, 2017, the B.C. government amended the Recycling Regulation in six material respects:\

amended the “…

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Québec – 2018 minimum wage increase

Québec – 2018 minimum wage increase
PrintJanuary 19, 2018On January 17, 2018, Labour Minister Dominique Vien announced a 75-cent increase in the minimum hourly wage effective May 1, 2018. The increase was more than the 50 cents expected under the minim…

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Nova Scotia Implements a Temporary Decision on Plastic Film Disposal

Nova Scotia Implements a Temporary Decision on Plastic Film Disposal
PrintJanuary 5, 2018The Nova Scotia Department of Environment has given itself a temporary reprieve from the ongoing challenge faced by its municipalities in finding new markets for /…

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Cost-Saving Measures for Small Retailers Announced by Ontario Government

Cost-Saving Measures for Small Retailers Announced by Ontario Government

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November 14, 2017

Today’s Fall Economic Statement (FES) from the Ontario Government contains several measures of interest to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The first is the announcement of a reduction in the small business tax rate from 4.5% to 3.5%, effective January 1, 2018.

Taken together with recently announced reductions in the federal small business tax rate (from 11 per cent today to 10 per cent in 2018, with a further reduction to 9 per cent in 2019), the combined small business tax rate in Ontario will be reduced from 15% in 2017 to 13.5% in 2018 and to 12.5% by 2019.

In addition, the Ontario Government has announced hiring and retention incentives for SMEs making new hires of employees under age 30, effective January 1, 2018. For these purposes, SMEs include independents, franchises, or dealers with fewer than 100 employees (see note below re Design Issues).

The incentive will pay the employer $1000 on hiring and a further $1000 at the employee’s six-month mark for a total of $2000. This measure is a modest response to concerns expressed by Retail Council of Canada in its www.protectfirstjobs.com campaign. The value of this program is estimated at $104 million but we anticipate that the government will continue to support the program even if demand exceeds that estimate.

While we believe and will continue to advocate that the incentive should apply more broadly than to new hires and SMEs, RCC notes that a $2000 incentive covers 40% of the first-year impact of the minimum wage increase on the cost of hiring a young full-time employee (and a greater percentage of the incremental cost of new part-time employees).

New Youth Hire Calculation

In order to be eligible for this incentive, employers will be required to make these hires through Employment Ontario, which is a service open to any interested job-seeker and employer.

Design Issues

  • RCC presumes that the measure will be limited to SME employers with fewer than 100 FTEs (full-time employees or equivalent in part-time hours) but that issue was unsettled at the time of today’s release.
  • As stated, today’s $2000 incentive measure applies to new hires whether they are full-time or part-time employees. RCC expects that the government may decide to put measures in place to stipulate a minimum number of hours for an employee’s eligibility for the program.
  • Summer students will be eligible for the first $1000 incentive but not for the retention bonus (unless they stay on as employees for six months).

RCC will work with the Ontario Government to ensure that these measures are implemented in a manner that works with the operational and staffing needs of retail merchants. RCC will provide further advice to members on how to access the program as the details are finalized.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Karl Littler, Vice President, Public Affairs at: klittler@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3783

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Key RCC Win on Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) – Government Suspends Lawsuit Provisions

Key RCC Win on Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) – Government Suspends Lawsuit Provisions

Print

June 8, 2017

The Government of Canada has agreed to RCC’s and other industry groups’ request to suspend CASL’s lawsuit provisions.

This means that individuals or groups will not be able to file for damages for alleged violations of the law. Enforcement will remain solely with the CRTC and the Federal Government.

These “private right of action” provisions would have created significant business uncertainty by allowing individuals to file for up to $1 million per day per contravention in addition to actual damages. They were scheduled to come into force on July 1.

RCC has been advocating that these provisions be delayed until the Government has had the opportunity to review the law. This review is scheduled for later this year.

The decision was made public yesterday, June 7, and a press release was issued.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jason McLinton, Vice President, Grocery Division and Regulatory Affairs at: jmclinton@retailcouncil.org or 613-656-7903

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NS Election – Liberals Returned to Government with Reduced Majority

NS Election – Liberals Returned to Government with Reduced Majority

Print

May 29, 2017

Nova Scotians have re-elected the Liberal government with a reduced majority. The Liberal Party led in the polls throughout the campaign and was able to hold off a late surge from the Progressive Conservatives to provide Nova Scotians with consecutive majority governments for the first time since 1988.

The re-election of the Liberal government will likely result in renewed consultation and a plan of action from the Department of Environment regarding environmental stewardship programs for packaging and used oil. There will also be steps taken to reduce the amount of plastic bags and textiles ending up in landfills.

Retail Council of Canada (RCC) was active in the lead up to the election. RCC met with members of the major parties to address issues of importance to the retail sector including minimum wage, environmental stewardship, and labour standards. RCC launched its Vote Retail NS website and sent its election questionnaire to all the parties prior to the commencement of the election.

Background:

There were two upsets on election night with surprise losses for former Economic Development Minister Michel Samson and Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard.

The campaign was a referendum on the leadership style of Premier Stephen McNeil. McNeil’s first term in office saw his government clash with many of the province’s unions while making tough decisions to balance the province’s books.

Health care and specifically the lack of doctors in certain parts of the province was also a much-publicized issue during the campaign.

The NDP ran a traditional campaign, which included promises of tax increases on those in higher income brackets, free tuition at the Nova Scotia Community College and a $15 minimum wage. The NDP finished in third place.

One third of the legislature will now be comprised of female MLAs.

Next Steps:

RCC will continue working with the Liberal government and with the new cabinet.

RCC will advise members of the new cabinet and any potential impact the cabinet may have on the retail sector.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director, (Atlantic) at: jcormier@retailcouncil.org or 902-422-4144

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For members with stores in British Columbia: Understanding the Impact of the Change in the B.C. Government

For members with stores in British Columbia: Understanding the Impact of the Change in the B.C. Government

Print

May 29, 2017

John Horgan, the Leader of the B.C. New Democratic Party will become the Premier of British Columbia in the coming months as a result of an agreement between his party and the B.C. Green Party.

In advance of the election, RCC sent questionnaires to the three major parties on a selection of issues of importance to the retail industry. The responses may foreshadow the policy direction of the new government and can be found here: http://voteretail.ca/bc/where-parties-stand.  Because of the precarious nature of the new government’s majority, the responses of the B.C. Liberals and Greens remain of interest.

Several of the critical subjects of the agreement are related to resource issues and will affect retail sales through their impact on the province’s economy. The NDP also made commitments regarding child care, urban transportation, and reform of the electoral system. The New Democrats’ platform is found here: https://www.bcndp.ca/platform.

Of more direct impact to the retail industry will be the commitment of the NDP and Green Party to raise British Columbia’s minimum wage through the establishment of a Fair Wages Commission. Both parties have made commitments to achieve a $15 per hour minimum wage before the 2021 provincial election.

Next Steps:

RCC will reach out to Ministers and officials in the new Government to ensure the best possible outcomes from our advocacy work in British Columbia. The major current files include new and expanding product stewardship obligations, new WorkSafeBC obligations for steel storage racking, and amendments to the Employment Standards Act.

Background:

British Columbia held a provincial general election on May 9, 2017. 44 seats constitute a majority in the B.C. legislature. 43 B.C. Liberals, 41 New Democrats and 3 Greens were elected. The New Democratic Party and Green Party have come to an agreement whereby the Greens will provide confidence and supply for (i.e., votes to support) a New Democratic Party government. Nonetheless, this Government will have only the barest majority and may struggle to retain the confidence of the B.C. legislature. The text of the agreement between the New Democratic Party and Green Party can be found here: https://www.bcndp.ca/latest/its-time-new-kind-government-british-columbia.

Premier Christy Clark has indicated that she will call the legislature in the coming weeks and is prepared to be defeated in a vote (likely on the Throne Speech) and sit as the Leader of the Opposition.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact: Greg Wilson, Director, Government Relations (B.C.) at 604-730-5254 or gwilson@retailcouncil.org

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Ontario Minimum Wage to increase 33% over the next 19 months. Significant changes to Ontario Employment and Labour Law.

Ontario Minimum Wage to increase 33% over the next 19 months. Significant changes to Ontario Employment and Labour Law.

Print

May 30, 2017

This morning, the Ontario Government announced major increases to the Ontario Minimum Wage, which will rise from the current level of $11.40/hour to $14/hour on January 1, 2018 and to $15/hour on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation. Part-time students under age 18 will see minimum wage increases to $13.15/hour on January 1, 2018 and to $14.10/hour on January 1, 2019.

The Ontario Government also provided its response today to the Final Report of the Changing Workplaces Review, which was released last week.

Minimum Wage

When fully implemented, Ontario’s $15/hour rate will be, along with Alberta’s, the joint highest minimum wage in Canada. RCC is deeply concerned about the impact of this change, both in regard to the size of the increase and the short runway to full implementation, allowing businesses little time to adjust.

Large increases in the minimum wage may appear to be an employee-friendly measure but there is an inevitable trade-off involved which may lead to fewer jobs overall and fewer hours for those who are employed. Most of our merchants’ input costs are fixed, including rent, municipal taxes, utilities and in most cases, the cost of goods. The only ways in which most retail businesses can address rising labour costs are either to reduce hours or to raise prices. And as anyone familiar with retail will understand, price hikes are not feasible in most cases. Our merchants’ competitors are increasingly likely to be online warehouses over the border or overseas than they are to be down the block. If Ontario retail prices were to rise, there would be an immediate impact on Ontario consumers and a longer-term shift of consumer purchases to foreign online vendors, which would itself lead to fewer jobs in Ontario.

RCC has long supported indexation of minimum wages to the Consumer Price Index or to comparable economic indicators, an approach that is in effect in the majority of Canadian provinces and that was, until today, in place in Ontario. That way, employees’ earnings will keep in pace with inflation and there is a level of predictability for business planning purposes. With today’s announcement, the government has diverged from that objective standard to select an arbitrary wage level. In doing so, the government has abandoned the approach recommended by its own Minimum Wage Advisory Panel, which it accepted and adopted into law in 2014.

Employment and Labour Standards

Along with its minimum wage announcement, the government also provided its response to the Changing Workplaces Review (CWR), a wide-ranging study of the effectiveness of the Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act.

Relative to the Final Report of the CWR and particularly to some proposals from organized labour, the government’s response is reasonably well balanced but of course, that does have to be viewed against the backdrop of the costs imposed by the minimum wage increase.

The major items on the CWR response are as follows:

Employment Standards Act (ESA)

  • Effective April 1, 2018, the government will mandate equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual, seasonal employees and temporary help agency employees doing the same job as full-time employees. However, employers will continue to be able to pay differentially based on seniority, merit, or quantity or quality of production.
  • As of January 1, 2018, personal emergency leave will be expanded to ten days for all workers, irrespective of the size of their employer, including a minimum of at least two paid days per year. Employers will no longer be able to require physicians’ notes for employees taking personal emergency leave.
  • Effective January 1, 2018, Ontario employees will be entitled to at least three weeks’ vacation after five years with a company. This brings Ontario into line with rules in Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
  • From January 1, 2019, the “three-hour rule” requiring an employee to be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled will apply to any shift cancellation within 48 hours of its scheduled start time. The employee must be paid three hours at their regular rate of pay (rather than three hours at minimum wage under the existing rule).
  • As of January 1, 2019, when employees are “on-call” and not called in to work, they must be paid three hours at their regular rate of pay. This would be required for each 24-hour period that employees are on-call.
  • After having been employed for three months, employees would have the right to request schedule or location changes, though the decision on whether to accommodate these requests would lie with the employer.
  • The government will eliminate the requirement of proof of “intent or effect” to defeat the purpose of the ESA when determining whether related businesses can be treated as one employer and held jointly and severally liable for monies owing under the Act.
  • Beginning in fall 2017, the Ministry of Labour will conduct a review of current exemptions from the ESA and special industry rules, including consultation with affected stakeholders. This review will include exemptions in place for managers and supervisors.

Labour Relations Act (LRA)

  • The LRA will be amended to establish card-based union certification for the temporary help agency industry, the building services sector and home care and community services industry.
  • The government will make access to first contract arbitration easier, while adding an intensive mediation component to the process. Further detail has not yet been provided yet on this aspect.
  • Unions that have achieved the support of 20 per cent of employees will be entitled to access employee lists and certain contact information.

Several more intrusive proposals made by labour organizations were rejected by the government, including deeper involvement in employee scheduling, card-based certification for all industries, sectoral collective bargaining, and changes to the common employer test that would have negatively affected members with franchise or dealer stores.

Next Steps:

RCC has been engaged throughout the CWR process, working to avert government decisions that will negatively affect our businesses and our vital economic role as the province’s (and Canada’s) largest private sector employer.

While the Ontario government seems firmly committed to its minimum wage decision, there may be room to explore offsets in business taxation, particularly given that government income tax revenues will increase along with the minimum wage hikes and with consequent wage increases for those earning above the minimum wage.

There are also additional details to be worked out on implementation of many of the measures referred to above and in particular, with regard to the pending study of current exemptions under the LRA, including managers and supervisors, IT professionals and pharmacists, which may have major consequences for the retail industry.

Both on minimum wage and changes to employment and labour standards, RCC will engage directly with government on issues of particular interest to retail merchants and alongside other business associations on matters of common interest.

Details of today’s announcement can be found at the following here.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Karl Littler, Vice President, Public Affairs at: klittler@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3783 I Mobile: 416-906-0040
 

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Canada Day Retail Hours

May 30, 2017

Canada Day is a statutory holiday in all provinces and territories.

The following is a brief overview of retail business regulations from across the country, as related to Canada Day.

More information on retail closing days can be found on the RCC website at: http://www.retailcouncil.org/quickfacts/storehours

Since there are exceptions to Canada Day retail hours, based on jurisdiction and type of retail store, RCC members are encouraged to check with their local municipality or provincial/territorial government if they have specific questions.

Please note: In provinces where there are no regulations related to Canada Day retail hours (see below), there may still be rules in a retailer’s shopping mall lease agreement pertaining to retail opening hours on that day.

Atlantic Canada:

In New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Nova Scotia, Canada Day is a retail closing day for most retailers.

In Prince Edward Island, retailers are allowed to open on Canada Day as long as they pay their employees according to the law.

Quebec:

In Quebec, Canada Day is a retail closing day for most retailers (except grocers).

Please note: Quebec will also have a statutory holiday on June 24 for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. Saint-Jean Baptiste-Day is a retail closing day for most retailers. Please see http://www.retailcouncil.org/advocacy/a-reminder-about-store-hours-on-june-24-and-july-1-in-quebec#.

Ontario:

Canada Day is July 1, unless July 1 falls on a Sunday, in which case the public holiday is July 2 by virtue of the federal Holidays Act, RSC 1985.

In Ontario, many retailers will be closed on Canada Day; however, there are exceptions based on municipal jurisdiction which can be viewed on RCC’s website at: http://www.retailcouncil.org/quickfacts/storehours

Manitoba:

In Manitoba, Canada Day is a retail closing day for most retailers.

British Columbia / Alberta / Saskatchewan: 

In British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, retailers are allowed to open on Canada Day as long as they pay their employees according to the law.

Territories:

In the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon, retailers are allowed to open on Canada Day as long as they pay their employees according to the law.

Please note: the Northwest Territories will also have a statutory holiday on June 21 for National Aboriginal Day. Retailers are allowed to open on National Aboriginal Day as long as they pay their employees according to the law.

Again, more information on retail closing days can be found on the RCC website at: http://www.retailcouncil.org/quickfacts/storehours
 

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NS Government Passes Accessibility Legislation – Standards to be Developed

NS Government Passes Accessibility Legislation – Standards to be Developed

Print

May 10, 2017

In late April 2017, the Nova Scotia government passed its Accessibility Act with a goal of creating a more accessible Nova Scotia for people who are physically or intellectually disabled. The Act is a piece of enabling legislation which provides the authority and framework for the development of standards at a later date. These standards will be added as needed, following stakeholder consultation.

In conversations with the Department of Justice, it is likely that standards will be developed for government before attention is turned to the private sector. Therefore, it is likely that over the next two to three years, the Accessibility Act will have limited to no impact on business.

Background:

  • The Accessibility Act sets a goal of achieving an accessible Nova Scotia by 2030.
  • Standards related to the Act will be developed in the areas including:

                       – The delivery and receipt of goods and services
                       – Information and communication;
                       – Public transportation and transportation infrastructure;
                       – Employment;
                       – The Built Environment;
                       – Education, and
                       – An activity or undertaking prescribed by regulation

  • There will be a full consultative process as each standard is developed. It is expected that consultation for each standard could take an average of two years to complete.
  • The implementation of standards will include reasonable and fair timelines for compliance, and exemptions may be applied.
  • A new position of Director of Compliance and Enforcement will be created, removing ministerial involvement in operations.
  • The Director of Compliance and Enforcement will report to the Minister of Justice.
  • Inspections will be done on a risk based model not a complaint based model.
  • The Minister could recommend that government implement incentive-based measures to encourage organizations to meet or exceed accessibility standards.
  • The Accessibility Directorate will develop awareness, education and supportive tools and work closely with those impacted.
  • Fines of $250,000 could be levied on those who do not comply with standards.
  • People with learning disabilities are also included in the new law.
  • A 12-member Accessibility Advisory Board will be created to work with stakeholders and set / enforce standards related to accessibility. The Minister of Justice can overrule the Advisory Board.
  • The Accessibility Advisory Board must include seven members with disabilities (a majority).

Representatives from the disabled community in Nova Scotia have spoken favorably about this legislation. RCC spoke in generally supportive terms of the Bill, stating that retailers continue to make efforts to ensure a welcoming, accessible environment for all customers. RCC stated that it expects to be consulted prior to the development of standards that would affect the retail sector. RCC also called for accessibility standards to be harmonized to the greatest extent possible with best practices involving accessibility legislation in other parts of the country.

Next Steps:

RCC will continue working with the Minister of Justice and government staff as well as the soon to be established Accessibility Advisory Board in the development of accessibility standards.

RCC will continue to advocate on behalf of members for accessibility standards that create an increasingly welcoming environment for retail customers while being fair to business and harmonizing with existing best practices across Canada.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director, (Atlantic) at: jcormier@retailcouncil.org or 902-422-4144

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Nova Scotia Tables Second Consecutive Balanced Budget – Commitment to Highway Twinning with No Road Tolls

Nova Scotia Tables Second Consecutive Balanced Budget – Commitment to Highway Twinning with No Road Tolls

Print

April 28, 2017

On Thursday, the Nova Scotia government tabled its second consecutive balanced budget. It is one of only five provinces to table a balanced budget this year. Given that an election is expected to be called this weekend, many of the items in the budget have already been announced. The budget will likely not be passed until after the election is completed in late May.

The government has done well in keeping spending to a reasonable level while making investments in schools, health care and roads.

Of interest to retailers is a $390 million-dollar long term commitment to twin sections of the three main provincial highways without the use of road tolls.

Up to 1800 small businesses will benefit from the previously announced increase in the small business tax threshold from $350,000 to $500,000. This will cost the government $13.9 million in 2017-18.

The government will also increase the Basic Personal Amount (BPA) before a person is taxed from $8,481 to $11,481. This 35% enhancement is effective January 1, 2018 and will apply fully to individuals earning less than $25,000 per year. The BPA is a sliding scale and thus, applies to a lesser extent on incomes up to $75,000 per year. This will reduce taxes for more than 500,000 Nova Scotians who are low income to middle class. The average annual saving from this measure will be $160 per eligible person. An additional 60,000 people will pay no provincial tax.

Background:

Surplus / Debt: The projected surplus for the 2016-17 fiscal year is $40.8 million. For 2017-18, the government is projecting a surplus of $136.2 million on a total budget of $10.5 billion. However, the government must make a $110.3 million contribution to the multi-year redevelopment of the QEII Health Sciences Centre during the fiscal year which will bring the net surplus to $25.9 million.

The debt for 2016-17 is $15.2 billion while the net debt to GDP ratio has declined to 35.9%. The province has set a goal of lowering this ratio to 30% by 2024.

Tobacco Tax: There is no increase to the tobacco tax for the first time in more than five years.

Seniors: The government is increasing the non-refundable tax credit for low income seniors, from $4,141 to $5,606. An additional $7.9 million will go to seniors’ pharmacare, which will allow rates to stay the same as drug costs and system usage increase.

Existing Highway Toll: The toll on the Cobequid Pass will be removed in 2019 for motorists. A decision regarding commercial and non-resident traffic will be made at a later date.

Affordable Housing: $38 million will be invested across the province in additional affordable housing (in partnership with the federal government).

Water / Wastewater: $40 million in additional funding for municipal clean water and waste water projects.

Youth and Jobs: smaller amounts of funding were announced to improve apprenticeship programs for youth.

Rural High Speed Internet: $14.5 million to increase rural connectivity affecting 5,400 homes and 420 businesses.

Red Tape Reduction: The budget sets a bold target to reduce red tape by $25 million.

Accessibility: With pending passage of the Accessibility Act, $1.8 million in additional funding for the ACCESS-Abilities grant will provide more grants for community buildings / to launch a new grant program for small businesses to make their enterprises more accessible.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director, (Atlantic) at: jcormier@retailcouncil.org or 902-422-4144
 

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For Members with Stores in Ontario – No Surprises just Tobacco Tax Increases

For Members with Stores in Ontario – No Surprises just Tobacco Tax Increases

Print

April 27, 2017

As expected, Ontario tabled its first balanced budget in a decade with just tobacco taxes being increased $10 per carton of 200 cigarettes over the next three years beginning with an immediate $2 per carton increase, effective April 28, 2017. The government also committed to balancing the budget for the following two years. This may prove to be a challenge with the level of uncertainty that is being created south of the border.

This was a budget to set the stage for next year’s provincial election and influence the voter.

As a run up to the budget, most of the budget’s content had been pre-released. Initiatives in the budget included the on-average 25% reduction in electricity prices for consumers and the 16-point plan to make housing more affordable. It also provided funding for child care, respite care, hospitals, infrastructure and a three-year basic income pilot program.

Retailers could benefit from the funding increase as consumers will have additional money in their pockets to spend.

Some of the less visible initiatives include the following:

Effective July 1, 2017, a seniors’ Public Transit Tax Credit for people aged 65 and older will be established. Details about eligibility for the credit will be announced prior to the implementation date.

The Province intends to conduct a policy, legislation and administrative review of all taxes. This review will identify and eliminate loopholes. Details of the review will be released over the next several months.

The Province will also be reviewing business structures to ensure that payment of Employer Health Tax (EHT) is not being avoided. The government wants to ensure that the EHT relief is targeted to truly the smaller employers.

The 2017 Ontario budget paper can be found here.

Moving forward the government plans to focus on giving businesses the tools they need to succeed by maintaining Ontario’s competitive corporate income tax rates, modernizing regulations and reducing business costs. In addition, the government will continue to support addressing the underground economy by introducing a sales integrity pilot project in the retail and hospitality sectors to test and evaluate security software that will identify businesses using electronic sales suppression technology.

RCC Action:

RCC will continue to work with the government to ensure future business inputs cost are competitive in comparison with other jurisdictions to attract and maintain businesses in Ontario.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Gary Rygus, Director Government Relations (Ontario) at: grygus@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3744

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For Members with Stores in Manitoba – 2017 Manitoba Budget

For Members with Stores in Manitoba – 2017 Manitoba Budget

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April 12, 2017

Manitoba Finance Minister Cam Friesen’s second provincial budget included no tax increases, no new taxes, and will see the province continue to run a significant deficit of $779 million for core government activities. This continues the government’s approach of reducing Manitoba’s deficit incrementally while protecting core services.

As expected, the Manitoba government will continue indexing Manitoba’s personal basic exemption and personal income tax brackets. This will continue to increase the spending power of Manitoba consumers and is welcomed news for Manitoba retailers. As well, fuel and tobacco taxes will remain unchanged.

Reducing red tape and the administrative burden on Manitoba businesses was a priority in Budget 2017. One area specific to retailers involved in Manitoba’s multiple stewardship organizations, is the elimination of Green Manitoba, an oversite agency reporting to the Minister of Sustainable Development. This change should reduce expenses for Manitoba’s Producer Responsibility Organizations (PRO’s), and consequently, retailers and consumers.

Manitoba has also eliminated its Film Classification Board, aligning with British Columbia’s rating system.

To view the 2017 Manitoba budget papers, click here

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Ontario raising minimum wage from $11.40 to $11.60 effective October 1, 2017

Ontario raising minimum wage from $11.40 to $11.60 effective October 1, 2017

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April 11, 2017

The Ontario government recently announced that effective October 1, 2017 the minimum wage will increase from $11.40 to $11.60. The student minimum wage which applies to students under the age of 18 who work 28 hours a week or less when school is in session, or work during a school break or summer holidays, changes from $10.70 to $10.90.

The change is based on Ontario’s Consumer Price Index (CPI). The Ministry of Labour’s announcement can be accessed here.

Background:

RCC continues to support CPI indexation in order to depoliticize the process and to base minimum wage adjustments on objective economic criteria, and to provide predictability and lead time for business planning purposes.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Gary Rygus, Director Government Relations (Ontario) at: grygus@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3744

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For members with stores in Québec – Québec budget 2017-2018

For members with stores in Québec – Québec budget 2017-2018

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March 29, 2017

The Québec Government tabled a third consecutive balanced budget on Tuesday. The 2017-2018 budget provides for significant investment in many sectors (including education), as well as a reduction of the tax burden on individuals.

Budget Highlights:

  • Third consecutive balanced budget.
  • $3.4 billion earmarked for educational success and higher education.
  • $3 billion investment over two years in the health sector.
  • More than $1 million decrease in the tax burden on individuals through the retroactive elimination of the “health contribution” that will apply to the 2016 taxation year, and the increase in the zero-tax threshold.
  • A $830 million investment to stimulate research and innovation.
  • A $1.2 million investment in a range of measures to foster economic development in the regions.

Points of interest to retailers:

The 2017-2018 budget does not provide for any further increase in consumer taxes, including taxes on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.

When the government announced its minimum wage increase policy earlier this year, the Minister had shown some interest in mitigation measures for businesses affected by the increases planned over the next four years. However, the 2017-2018 budget does not contain any such measures.

The budget announces support for the food processing industry ($42 million investment over five years within a $159 million agriculture envelope). Detailed measures will be announced at the Food Summit in the fall of 2017.

The 2017-2018 budget confirms the reduction in the general corporate tax rate announced in the 2015 budget (0.1 percentage point per year as of January 1, 2017, to reach 11.5% by January 1, 2020).

Next Steps:

RCC will continue to lobby the government to establish mitigation measures for businesses affected by the planned increases in the minimum wage.

RCC will continue to work with industry partners to prepare for the fall 2017 Food Summit and to ensure that the Voice of Retail is heard by government as it works on its future agri-food policy.

The detailed Québec Economic Plan is available here.or at: http://www.budget.finances.gouv.qc.ca/budget/2017-2018/en/documents/EconomicPlan_March2017.pdf#page=387

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jean-Luc Benoît, Director, Government Relations (Québec) at: jlbenoit@cccd-rcc.org or 514-316-8913

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Notice for members with stores in Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Budget 2017 raises and expands PST

Notice for members with stores in Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Budget 2017 raises and expands PST

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March 22, 2017

Saskatchewan’s 2017 provincial budget raised the PST from 5% to 6% effective March 23, 2107. Effective April 1, 2017 the PST will also be expanded to cover the following items that were previously exempt:

  • Children’s clothing;
  • Restaurant meals and snacks;
  • Value of a trade in allowance on new vehicles;
  • Contracts for repair, renovation, or improvement of real property; and
  • Insurance premiums.

As well, the fuel tax exemption for bulk fuel purchases will be eliminated on April 1, 2017.

The tobacco tax rate was increased by 2 cents per cigarette effective March 23, 2017 and liquor mark-ups will increase on April 1, 2017.

The full details on these tax changes can be found here:

In addition, changes were made to the Saskatchewan Beverage Container Collection and Recycling Program that will take effect on April 1, 2017 that will see milk containers treated the same as all other beverages and included in the deposit beverage program. In addition, deposits will be increasing on all plastic, metal, paper-based polycoat and aseptic shelf stable containers. Only glass deposits remain unchanged.

More detailed information on these changes can be found here:

Personal income tax rates and corporate tax rates are being reduced by 0.5% on July 1, 2017 and reduced by an additional 0.5% on July 1, 2019. However, the indexing the tax rates to inflation have been suspended for the 2018 tax year so income tax brackets will not be adjusted to account for inflation.

To view the 2017 Saskatchewan budget papers, click here:

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Lanny McInnes, Director Government Relations (Prairies) at: lmcinnes@retailcouncil.org or 204-253-1654
 

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Federal Budget 2017 Tabled

Federal Budget 2017 Tabled

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March 23, 2017
  • RCC wins fight to maintain de minimis at current level.
  • Government recognizes retailers’ concerns regarding lengthening of parental leave.

The following provides a summary of key budget measures that affect RCC members.

De Minimis

Notwithstanding an aggressive lobbying effort by foreign online sellers and courier companies, the government has maintained tax fairness on retail purchases, whether made from retailers here in Canada or from online vendors outside our borders.

The current de minimis rule exempts imported parcels with a value under $20 from sales taxes and customs duties. Foreign online vendors have been pressing the Canadian government to increase that level to as high as $200 in this year’s budget. Had that lobbying effort succeeded, the tax-included price on every item under $200 sold by a merchant in Canada would have been significantly more expensive than the comparable item shipped from a foreign source.

The government’s approach is in keeping with policy moves elsewhere in the World. This year, Australia will lower its de minimis rate to $0 and the European Commission recently proposed a €0 de minimis level throughout the EU. Even in online market leader Amazon’s U.S. home, 39 states[i] now have regimes in place to collect state and local taxes on interstate shipments, levelling the playing field with local businesses.

EI Parental Benefits

As promised in the Liberal 2015 Campaign Platform, parents will have the option of taking up to 18 months of EI parental benefits. If they elect to take 18 months, however, the 12 months of EI benefits would have to be spread over the extended period. The government has backed off its earlier proposal to allow parents to take parental leave intermittently, which was RCC’s key concern with the original platform proposal and on which we engaged extensively with government during its consultations.

New parents must determine how they will manage their leave prior to taking leave and once determined this decision will not be permitted to change.

Employer Provided Transit Passes

The government is eliminating the Public Transit Tax Credit, as of July 1, 2017 due to concerns that it has proved ineffective in encouraging incremental use of public transit.

Excise Taxes

There are relatively small increases on excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol: alcohol excise duties will increase by 2% as of March 23, 2017 and will be increased in line with the Consumer Price Index on April 1st each year, starting in 2018. The increase on tobacco of 53 cents per carton of 200 is ostensibly a replacement for the elimination of the manufacturer’s surtax on tobacco products.

Budget 2017 also commits funding to a number of initiatives that impact retailers, in particular:

  • Work to harmonize regulations between Canadian and the U.S. related to product safety and standards continues to be supported through a $6 million investment over the next 3 years. This will provide opportunities to address long-standing irritants that restrict product availability and increase costs.
  • An investment of $149.3 million related to the Safe Foods for Canadians Act and Regulations which will continue to fund improvements in food safety and inspections.
  • The agri-food sector has been identified as one of 6 industries that will be the focus of the government’s innovation strategy.
  • From 2017 onward, T4 slips may be issued electronically, without requiring express consent from employees. This measure, championed by the Canadian Payroll Association, and actively supported by RCC, will save on processing and mailing costs.

A series of measures that increase spending on public transit, rural infrastructure, greener buildings, affordable housing and child care centres, may be of benefit to the retail industry’s building materials sector.

1Of the 45 states that have state sales taxes.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Karl Littler, Vice President, Public Affairs at: klittler@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3783

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RETAIL INDUSTRY APPLAUDS 2017 BUDGET FOR UPHOLDING FAIRNESS ON IMPORTED PARCELS

March 22, 2017

Retail Council of Canada (RCC) commends the Government for its decision to maintain tax fairness on retail purchases, whether made from retailers here in Canada or from online vendors outside our borders. RCC has led the retail industry’s fight to ensure a continued level playing field on the annual sale of more than $80 billion-worth of shippable consumer goods.
The current de minimis rule exempts imported parcels with a value under $20 from sales taxes and customs duties. Foreign online vendors have been pressing the Canadian government to increase that level to as high as $200 in this year’s budget. Had that lobbying effort succeeded, the tax-included price on every item under $200 sold by a merchant in Canada would have been significantly more expensive than the comparable item shipped from a foreign source.
“The Government’s decision not to change the de minimis rate is a victory for tax fairness and recognition of the importance of Canada’s $530 billion+ retail industry and our workforce of two million Canadians”, said Diane J. Brisebois, CEO. “Foreign online vendors have lobbied relentlessly to obtain favourable tax treatment for themselves but there is no policy rationale for providing an incentive to shop literally anywhere but Canada and to invest and hire outside our borders”, Ms. Brisebois added.
The government’s approach is in keeping with policy moves elsewhere in the World. This year, Australia will lower its de minimis rate to $0 and the European Commission recently proposed a €0 de minimis level throughout the EU. Even in online market leader Amazon’s U.S. home, 39i states[i] now have regimes in place to collect state and local taxes on interstate shipments, levelling the playing field with local businesses.

-30-
Retail is Canada’s largest employer with over 2 million Canadians working in our industry. In 2015, the sector generated payroll over $59 billion and $340 billion in sales (excluding vehicles and gasoline). Retail Council of Canada (RCC) members represent more than two-thirds of retail sales in the country. RCC is a not-for-profit industry-funded association and represents small, medium and large retail business in every community across the country. As the Voice of Retail in Canada, we proudly represent more than 45,000 storefronts in all retail formats, including department, grocery, specialty, discount, independent retailers and online merchants.

For further information, please contact
Caroline Hubberstey
Senior Vice President, Communications & Member Relations
Retail Council of Canada
(o) 416-467-3748
(c) 647-331-3748
chubberstey@retailcouncil.org

iOf the 45 states that have state sales taxes.

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Great news for Ontario retailers – Ontario reduces Hydro rates on average by 25% commencing in the summer

Great news for Ontario retailers – Ontario reduces Hydro rates on average by 25% commencing in the summer

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March 2, 2017

Ontario announced today that starting this summer, electricity bills will be reduced by 25 per cent on average for businesses and households across Ontario. Going forward, hydro bills won’t increase beyond the rate of inflation for at least the next four years. Retailers could benefit from this change as consumers will have additional money in their pockets to spend.

This is positive news for retailers as RCC in its Ontario 2017 pre-budget submission had stressed to the government it needs to re-assess the electricity pricing strategy with a view to making the rates more competitive relative to other jurisdictions.

Background:

The 25 per cent reduction includes the 8 per cent rebate of the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax that took effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

To relieve the current burden on ratepayers and share costs more fairly, a portion of the Global Adjustment (GA) is being refinanced. Refinancing the GA provides rate relief by spreading the cost of electricity investments over the expected lifecycle of the infrastructure that has been built. Under current forecasts, the immediate reduction in the GA would be about $2.5 billion per year on average over the first 10 years.

Next Steps:

Retail Council of Canada will continue to work with the government to ensure future hydro rates are competitive to attract and keep businesses in the Province.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Gary Rygus, Director Government Relations (Ontario) at: grygus@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3744
 

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PEI Government Announces Yet Another Minimum Wage Increase – Limited Consultation – Only 1 Month to Prepare

PEI Government Announces Yet Another Minimum Wage Increase – Limited Consultation – Only 1 Month to Prepare

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February 23, 2017

Yesterday, the government of Prince Edward Island announced that PEI businesses will be subject to an increase in minimum wage. On April 1, 2017, minimum wage will move from $11.00 per hour to $11.25 per hour. 

This follows two increases in the minimum wage during 2016. The province’s minimum wage has increased by 38% since 2008 while inflation has only risen 11% over the same time period. This year’s announcement is particularly challenging given that the government is only providing a little over a month for businesses to prepare for the wage increase.

What RCC Did / Next Steps:

RCC participated in the Employment Standards Board’s stakeholder consultation on minimum wage during the Fall of 2016. Businesses and industry associations participate regularly in these consultations and either ask for no increase in the province’s minimum wage or they follow the RCC lead in asking for minimum wage increases to be based on the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the previous year. The Board continues to ignore the advice of the business community as demonstrated by the 38% increase in the base wage since 2008.

RCC has had numerous meetings with the Premier and various Ministers on this topic and has asked for yet another meeting with the province’s Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning.

RCC will continue to demonstrate the negative impact that such increases have on businesses and the potential impact on retail prices, retail jobs and retail wages.

RCC will remind the PEI government that it joined with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador in passing legislation committing Maritime governments to greater regulatory harmonization and elimination of unnecessary red tape. One of the most significant initiatives in this regulatory harmonization process was a commitment from all Atlantic Provinces to set April 1st as the common date for minimum wage increases. This positive step was followed by a commitment from both New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador to harmonize with Nova Scotia in the way each province determines its minimum wage.  For years, Nova Scotia has followed the RCC preferred method of determining minimum wage based on the change in the national Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the previous year. New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador are currently considering their options but to date, they have at least committed to a process whereby minimum wage would be adjusted based on changes to inflation. Once these positive changes are made, PEI will be the only province in the Atlantic region which refuses to implement a transparent, predictable process for determining minimum wage.

Background:

The PEI government proudly states that PEI has the highest minimum wage rate in Atlantic Canada and that the base wage rate will help low income Islanders.

For years, RCC has explained to the PEI government that while minimum wage increases do little to benefit low income Islanders, the increases do have a significantly negative impact on retail employers.  RCC has continually presented the PEI government with Statistics Canada data that proves the retail sector in PEI and every Canadian province pays its fulltime employees well above minimum wage. Excessive and unpredictable changes in minimum wage only create upward pressure on all other retail wages. 

On a positive note, years of RCC advocacy resulted in the PEI government finally increasing the basic personal tax exemption to $8000. This was done last year and was the first increase since 2008. Unlike the minimum wage increase, this decision will make a difference in the lives of low income Islanders through increasing the amount a worker can earn before paying income tax.  Although this is a positive step, PEI still has one of the lowest basic personal exemption levels in Canada.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact Jim Cormier at: jcormier@retailcouncil.org or (902) 422-4144

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CETA Timing

CETA Timing

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February 21, 2017

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA, is a free trade deal between Canada and the European Union (EU). Once enacted, the agreement will eliminate tariffs (i.e., customs duties) on EU-originated goods imported to Canada and vice versa. RCC expects that the retail-relevant provisions of CETA will be in force before July 1, 2017.

Countries Involved:

The deal applies to goods manufactured in all 28* member states of the EU. Because Canada already has a free trade deal in place with several countries outside the EU (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein), the only European countries to which customs duties will still apply are Albania, Turkey, Russia, Macedonia and Montenegro.

For members who source goods from the United Kingdom, between implementation of CETA and the final exit of the UK from the EU (which might take a year or two), British products would fall under the new CETA rules and be tariff-free. It is also expected that the UK will move quickly to sign a free trade deal with Canada.

Legislative Progress:

On February 15, 2017, the agreement received final passage in the European Parliament. At the Canadian end, the enabling legislation has already passed the final stage in the House of Commons and is now in the Senate, where passage is expected quickly. Because the legislation is supported both by the Liberal government and the Conservative opposition, passage is essentially a certainty.

Because regulations need to be made to relieve goods of import tariffs, RCC (and the Canadian Government) anticipates that the deal will be in full effect for retail purposes by July 1, 2017. RCC is also engaged with the issue of new cheese quota allocation of significant interest to our grocery members and we are told that notification of quota allocation could come as early as March (or on passage of the Bill) to allow quota-holders to prepare for July implementation.

Next Steps:

RCC will keep tight track of timelines for tariff elimination, not least because of the potential savings to our members from properly timing their buying and delivery schedules, in that the existing tariffs apply on landing of goods.

RCC is also preparing a guide for members on the rules and the opportunities under CETA.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Karl Littler, Vice President, Public Affairs at: klittler@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3783

*Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania
 

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New Brunswick Budget: Slow Progress, No New Taxes / Small Business Tax Cut

New Brunswick Budget: Slow Progress, No New Taxes / Small Business Tax Cut

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February 9, 2017

The New Brunswick government tabled a budget featuring no tax increases or program cuts. The budget will see investments in tourism, education and healthcare while making slow but steady progress in reducing its deficit. The government is committed to balancing its budget by 2020-21 yet the province’s $13 billion debt will continue to grow. The highlight of the budget was a decision to further lower the small business tax rate from 3.5% to 3% and a commitment to move the rate to 2.5% by the end of the government’s mandate in 2019.

Last year, the province lost its competitive tax advantage in the Atlantic region through increases to personal and corporate taxes as well as the HST. The lowering of the small business tax is welcomed but RCC continues to remind the New Brunswick government that once the province’s fiscal house is in order, businesses need tax relief.

Local Food: The government has committed to implement a local food and beverages strategy to promote consumption of locally produced food and beverages. No details were provided but RCC spoke to officials at the Department of Agriculture who committed to consult with grocery retailers on this strategy.

Background:

The province has experienced slow but steady growth in jobs and GDP since 2015. However, there is much debate over the types of jobs created versus the types of jobs that have been lost. Retail sales are projected to increase by 3.2% in 2017. However, projected growth across the economy is dependent on increased public sector investment (heavily dependent on the federal government), a rebound in exports and economic stimulus from the construction of the Energy East Pipeline. Given the political climate in Canada and the USA regarding trade and pipelines, New Brunswick’s projections for growth may be overly optimistic. Also, given the province’s commitment to develop a made in New Brunswick carbon pricing mechanism (following consultation), continued growth for the province is not guaranteed.

Budget Highlights:

Deficit: The deficit for the 2016-17 fiscal year is $231.1 million. The government has reduced the deficit by $130 million over the past two years. Last year’s deficit was initially projected at over $430 million but this number was inflated due to the fact that 2016-17 was the final year where the government included a $150 million annual contingency fund to cushion against unexpected costs or revenue shortfalls. For 2017-18, the government is projecting a deficit of $191.9 million. The deficit numbers for 2016-17 and 2017-18 will likely be impacted by the ever increasing costs from the recent ice storm in northeastern New Brunswick.

The long term plan is to balance the books by 2020-21.

Net Debt: The net debt is $13.659 billion and is expected to grow to $13.997 billion for 2018.

2017-18: Revenues are projected to increase by 4.1% while expenditures will increase by 3.6%.

For 2017, the Department of Finance expects real GDP growth of only 0.6%.

HST revenue: for 2016-17 decreased by 9% despite last year’s 2% increase in the tax.

Tourist Areas: The budget for the Department of Tourism Heritage and Culture will increase by 17.6% and a comprehensive tourism strategy will be released in 2017. This investment should have an indirect impact on retailers in tourist destinations throughout the province.

Government stated its commitment to regulatory reform / harmonization with its Atlantic counterparts.

Next Steps:

RCC will continue to oppose last year’s tax increases, pointing to the correlation between last year’s HST increase and the lower than expected HST revenues for the past fiscal year. RCC will also continue to call on the government to make greater efforts to reduce expenditures in order to balance its budget.

RCC will follow up with the Department of Agriculture to gain further information regarding the consultation process leading to implementation of a local food and beverages strategy promoting consumption of locally produced food and beverages.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at:  jcormier@retailcouncil.org or (902) 422-4144

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Quebec – New policy on minimum wage

Quebec – New policy on minimum wage

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January 25, 2017

On January 19, the Government of Québec introduced its policy on minimum wage increases for the next four years.

Labour Minister Dominique Vien announced a 50-cent increase, effective May 1, 2017, thus raising the minimum wage to $11.25/hour, as well as a gradual increase that will make it equivalent to 50% of the average hourly wage (without exceeding it) by 2020. Since 2002, the ratio for minimum wage has been between 45% and 47% of the average hourly wage. The government expects to see minimum wage reach $12.45 by 2020.

While Minister of Finance Carlos Leitão suggested that mitigation measures might be implemented in certain sectors, nothing will be confirmed before the next budget.

This new policy is a response to increasingly vocal groups that have been demanding that minimum wage be raised to $15/hour. However it is expected that the pressure from labour groups and the Parti Québécois will continue as they included this element in their policy.

While the increase announced on Thursday is higher than inflation, the government has nevertheless responded in part to a request made repeatedly by RCC and its members, namely for a defined framework for increases in minimum wage.

Link to the government’s press release (in French only): http://www.fil-information.gouv.qc.ca/Pages/Article.aspx?aiguillage=ajd&type=1&idArticle=2501195313

Link to the RCC press release (in French only): http://bit.ly/2jDJo2m

Next Steps:

RCC intends to work with the government to assess the impacts of the upcoming increases on retail jobs and to optimize potential mitigation measures.

If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact Jean-Luc Benoît, Director, Government Relations, at jlbenoit@ccccd-rcc.org or (514) 316-8913.

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BC Centre for Disease Control advisory regarding consumption of raw or lightly-cooked oysters

BC Centre for Disease Control advisory regarding consumption of raw or lightly-cooked oysters

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January 19, 2017

On January 13, the BC Centre for Disease Control issued an advisory regarding a norovirus outbreak connected with the consumption of raw or lightly-cooked oysters harvested from British Columbia waters.

No Health Authority has issued a ban on the sale or consumption of oysters at this date.

BCCDC held a call January 18 to update industry on the outbreak:

  • Their advice to processors was to be vigilant about employee illness.
  •  CFIA has advised impacted oyster processors and lease-holders.
  • There is no concrete evidence about the cause of the outbreak.

The BCCDC advisory and background information can be found here: http://www.bccdc.ca/about/news-stories/news-releases/2017/bccdc-advises-consumers-to-properly-cook-oysters

There has been significant media coverage of this story.  RCC has not, however, received any media inquiries on this topic.  Members are welcome to forward any inquiries to RCC.

Next Steps:

RCC will continue to participate in BCCDC information sessions during the outbreak.  We will update members as required.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Greg Wilson, Director, Government Relations (B.C.) at: gwilson@retailcouncil.org or 604-736-0368

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For Members with Stores in Manitoba – Public Consultation underway on Proposed Accessibility Standard on Employment

For Members with Stores in Manitoba – Public Consultation underway on Proposed Accessibility Standard on Employment

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December 13, 2016

In-person/Webcast session on January 18, 2017

Manitoba’s Accessibility Advisory Council will be hosting a consultation session on January 18, 2017 to get feedback on the proposed Accessibility Standard on Employment. The public consultation session will also be available via webcast.

If you are able to attend in-person, the public consultation session is on:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
1:00 to 4:00 pm CT
Viscount Gort Hotel
Main Floor, Royal ABC Ballroom
1670 Portage Ave.
Winnipeg, MB

You can register onsite or you can register in advance by calling the Disabilities Issues Office at (204) 945-7613 or toll-free at 1-800-282-8069.

You can register for the webcast online at www.AccessibilityMB.ca beginning on January 6, 2017.

The proposed Accessibility Standard on Employment and supporting documentation can also be found at www.AccessibilityMB.ca

You can provide your feedback and comments on the proposed Employment Standard to access@gov.mb.ca. Please also share your feedback and comments with RCC by contacting Lanny McInnes at lmcinnes@retailcouncil.org. Comments are being accepted until February 15, 2017.

RCC represents the Manitoba employer community on the Accessibility Advisory Council and will be attending the consultation. Your input and comments on the Standard would be very valuable.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Lanny McInnes, Director –  Government Relations (Prairies) at: lmcinnes@retailcouncil.org or 204-253-1654
 

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Canada-EU Trade Agreement Signed; Implementation and Tariff Relief Expected in 2017

Canada-EU Trade Agreement Signed; Implementation and Tariff Relief Expected in 2017

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November 1, 2016

The primary focus and benefit of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is the elimination of tariffs on goods imported into Canada from European Union countries, and, in reverse, the elimination of tariffs on Canadian goods exported to EU countries. Most of these tariff reductions will occur immediately upon implementation.

Based on RCC’s review of the schedule, tariffs on apparel items such as tailored suits, knitwear and shoes would be eliminated immediately upon implementation. Due to differing treatment for individual products, officials are encouraging organizations to consult with a customs broker in order to confirm exact timing of elimination for specific products.

Process and Timing

After some well-publicized hurdles in obtaining approval in Belgium, the CETA deal was finally signed on October 30, 2016.

To come into effect, the trade agreement still requires the approval of the Canadian Parliament. To that end, the Government of Canada introduced a Bill in the House of Commons on October 31, titled: An Act to implement the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union and its Member States and to provide for certain other measures. Hearings are expected to be held on the Bill and RCC intends to appear at those hearings in support of the agreement.

Final ratification is also required by the European Parliament and by the legislatures in each EU member country. However, once the treaty is approved by the European Parliament, the measures in the treaty will take provisional effect, which will mean that most of the important provisions will begin to operate right away.

Brexit Implications

Because the United Kingdom has signalled its intention to exit the European Union, the deal will not be put before the British Parliament and thus will have no effect on trade relations between Canada and the UK post-Brexit. The UK has however, indicated a strong interest in concluding a trade deal with Canada on terms similar to those in CETA.

Cheese Quota Issue

In addition to general tariff elimination, the CETA agreement also increases the amount of European Cheese that will be available to import to the Canadian market. The cheese provision of the agreement will provide an additional 18,000 metric tonnes of European cheese to the Canadian market for commercial purposes, in addition to the current 13,000 metric tonnes that is currently available. The agreement specifies that 30% of the additional allocation must be allocated to new quota holders. The existing quota is held by a limited number of large processors. This provides an opportunity for retailers who currently sell cheese to directly import and sell cheese to Canadian consumers.

RCC has engaged in extensive consultation to demonstrate and ensure that this new allocation of cheese is provided directly to retailers. The Minister has not finalized recommendations on how to distribute allocation, however it is anticipated that access to additional imports will be initiated in the spring of 2017.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Karl Littler, Vice President, Public Affairs at: klittler@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3783

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Government of Canada Commits to Review Credit Card Market, Including Fee Levels

Government of Canada Commits to Review Credit Card Market, Including Fee Levels

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September 15, 2016

In the context of receiving audited statements from Visa and MasterCard on their level of compliance with “voluntary” interchange fee reductions announced on November 11, 2014, the Minister of Finance announced yesterday his intention to conduct a further assessment of the fees charged by credit card networks and review the effects of the fee reductions.
The announcement is found here.

The audited statements were not released. MasterCard has publicly posted its average rate for the year ending March 31, 2016, at 1.5187%. Visa has privately confirmed that its rate was 1.5183%.

RCC’s Response:

Having long been the leading advocate for a regulated solution to the credit card fee problem, Retail Council of Canada welcomes this new opportunity from the Minister of Finance to shine a light on the multi-billion dollar costs imposed on all Canadians, including merchants, by Visa and MasterCard.

Simply stated, credit card interchange fees are far too high, with the credit card duopoly charging merchants in Canada – and ultimately Canadian consumers – five times what they charge in other markets (e.g. the United Kingdom and the European Union) for the same services.

Canadian businesses and ultimately, Canadian consumers, pay $4.5 billion more for credit purchases each year than they would if our rates were comparable to the 0.30% cap in the EU. At the current 1.50% average rate, over the four remaining years of the voluntary agreement, Canadians would pay at least $18 billion more than they should.

As to Visa’s and MasterCard’s statements on their level of compliance with “voluntary” interchange fee reductions, Retail Council of Canada considers the variance of a few basis points from the Networks’ existing cap of 1.50% to be of only minor importance when compared to the rate level overall.

The real issue isn’t compliance with the voluntary agreement. It is an absence of both competition and regulation in the credit card industry.

Next Steps:

Retail Council of Canada is undertaking an advocacy campaign to convince the Government of Canada of the need for a regulated solution to excessive interchange rates. We are engaged on two private members’ bills that will be in parliament this fall and have mounted a letter-writing campaign to all MPs. The Minister’s commitment to assess the market, including fee levels, provides an opportunity to address the issue directly with the primary decision-makers.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Karl Littler, Vice President, Public Affairs at: klittler@rcc.org or 416-467-3783

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For Quebec grocery retailers – The government revokes the Regulation respecting fresh fruits and vegetables

For Quebec grocery retailers – The government revokes the Regulation respecting fresh fruits and vegetables

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July 29, 2016

On April 6, the government of Quebec published a draft of the Regulation to revoke the Regulation respecting fresh fruits and vegetables. RCC members had supported the initiative leading to this draft, given that the regulation stipulated standards that were deemed unnecessary.

Overall, the revoking of the Regulation respecting fresh fruits and vegetables will generate positive changes by eliminating all of the standards concerning the conditioning, sale, packaging and marking of fresh fruits and vegetables sold in retail stores or wholesale.

On Wednesday, July 20, the government confirmed this initiative, specifying that it would come into effect on August 4.

The draft regulation in its entirety can be found here.

What this represents for you:

Here are a few concrete examples of the types of changes this initiative will allow you to make.

1) The name of the country of origin

Given that section 22 of the Regulation respecting fresh fruits and vegetables will be repealed, retailers will need to abide by section 3.3.4 of the Regulation respecting food. As such, identifying the name of the country of origin on a sign above products sold in stores or published in flyers will no longer be mandatory for those fruits and vegetables that are not similar to those grown in Québec and which do not come from Québec: oranges, pineapples, mangos, etc.

2) Permission to legally sell vegetables that are or appear “misshapen”.

Henceforth, there will be no legal restrictions on the trade and sale of “abnormal-looking” fruits and vegetables.

3) Permission to innovate as regards product presentation.

The requirements concerning container format and type have been revoked, and it will now be possible to legally sell fresh fruits and vegetables of different categories, sizes and colour in a same bag.

For further details on the upcoming changes, please see the analysis (French Only) prepared by Me Carole Fortin, Director of government relations and public affairs, Grocery division. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact her at cfortin@cccd-rcc.org

Next steps:

  • Obtain more specific information as regards products similar to Québec products as well as the term “abnormal” vegetables.
  • Comply with the process for the initiative’s coming into effect, and this as of August 4th.
  • Respond to all questions asked during the transition period.

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For members with stores of all sizes in B.C.: WorkSafeBC revises proposed regulation on steel racking

For members with stores of all sizes in B.C.: WorkSafeBC revises proposed regulation on steel racking

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August 2, 2016

WorkSafeBC proposed an amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety regulation in regard to “storage racks”.

WorkSafeBC released a revised proposal on 28 July 2016.

  1. The new proposal more narrowly defines storage racking and now does not include shelving and display fixtures used for retail purposes.
  2. The explanatory notes to the revised proposal make it clear that WorkSafeBC’s intent is that the regulation does “apply to steel storage racks on retail floor of some businesses, such as Costco warehouses, Rona, Home Depot, and other similar stores that sell tiles and carpets, where customers are selecting items off pallets on or around the storage racks”.
  3. The proposal will apply to many steel racks not in customer-facing areas of many retail stores.
  4. While there is no improvement within the regulation in the definition of who is qualified to install, inspect and maintain fixtures, the explanatory notes indicate WorkSafeBC has heard the concern and “will develop a guideline to assist employers on how to determine if someone is qualified to install and uninstall storage racks”.
  5. RCC remains concerned about the cost and burden of inspecting a large amount of existing steel shelving.
  6. RCC is concerned that the WorkSafeBC proposal that the rated capacity of the storage rack be clearly posted near the storage rack might not be the most effective manner to communicate rated capacity to employees.

WorkSafeBC’s proposal can be found here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/resources/law-policy/discussion-papers/2016-public-hearings-proposed-regulatory-changes/section-4-43-1?lang=en

Next Steps:

RCC provided detailed written comment to government in regard to the original proposal and will again provide detailed written comment.

RCC welcomes comment from members in regard to the proposal.

RCC will monitor WorkSafeBC’s consultation process to ensure that the retail industry is well-represented at hearings expected in fall 2016.

RCC will update members in regard to the proposal and implementation following our interventions with WorkSafeBC.

Background:

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation does not currently contain specific safety requirements for storage racks or shelving. Previously, WorkSafeBC has issued orders under other sections to require employers to rectify conditions they consider unsafe.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Greg Wilson, Director, Government Relations (B.C.) at: gwilson@retailcouncil.org or 604-736-0368.

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Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review Interim Report Released

Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review Interim Report Released

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July 27, 2016

Earlier today, Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review released its interim report, beginning a new round of consultations, which are expected to conclude on October 14, 2016.

Background:

The Review is intended to make recommendations for any necessary changes to Ontario’s Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act.

The scope of the two pieces of legislation is very broad and attracted over 200 submissions, including a substantial one from the Retail Council of Canada (see here).

What the Interim Report Is and Isn’t:

It is important to understand that the Review’s interim report is not a set of policy proposals from the special advisors to government. Instead, the interim report seeks to categorize the issues and to capture the very wide range of recommendations made in stakeholders’ submissions.

Needless to say, with several hundred submissions from organized labour, business associations, and employee advocacy groups, on a multitude of different legislative provisions, the range of opinion is diverse and often contradictory. In almost all cases, the status quo is also listed as an option.

Several of the recommendations from other stakeholder groups would be highly problematic from a business perspective and some are quite controversial, e.g., a return to card-based certification. Members can therefore expect to see a fair amount of media coverage and it may not be made clear in media that these are still a very long way from being the proposals of the Special Advisors, let alone government policy. As such, these stakeholder recommendations will have no immediate impact on member business operations.

Content of the Interim Report:

Because the interim report is so far-reaching, it is difficult to provide a brief summary.
Areas addressed include the following aspects of the Employment Standards Act:

  • who is the employer/common employers;
  • scheduling;
  • personal emergency leave and paid sick days;
  • part-time and temporary work wages and benefits;
  • temporary help agencies; and
  • written agreements re overtime;

Areas addressed in the Labour Relations Act include:

  • related and joint employers;
  • card-based certification versus secret ballot;
  • successor rights
  • consolidation; and
  • remedial powers of the Ontario Labour Relations Board

The report can be viewed at the following link.

Next Steps:

RCC is engaged at several levels with this process, working to ensure that retailer perspectives are front and centre. Having made a significant submission during hearings in fall 2015, RCC will make a new submission in the next phase of the Review by October 2016. We will be soliciting member viewpoints on the issues identified in the interim report.

We are also engaged in direct discussions with the Ministry of Labour, which will be the government’s lead ministry on making actual policy proposals after receiving the final report of the Special Advisors.

Thirdly, we are aligned with and are working with other business groups, including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Restaurants Canada and Canadian Franchise Association, on some matters of common interest, while retaining our own retail-focused voice on matters of particular importance to our industry.

RCC will also be engaging in media on this issue. Members are encouraged to refer any inquires on this issue to Karl Littler, who is RCC primary spokesperson on the topic.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Karl Littler, Vice President, Public Affairs at: klittler@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3783
 

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Ontario Members with Toronto locations – Potential Parking Space Tax is on the Horizon for 2017

Ontario Members with Toronto locations – Potential Parking Space Tax is on the Horizon for 2017

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July 5, 2016

The City of Toronto has indicated that it will be introducing new revenue tools to address forecast budget shortfalls. In particular, the City is considering recommending taxing parking spaces and is reviewing the following two options:

  1. A parking tax of $.50 to $1.50 per unpaid parking spaces per day.
  2. A parking sales tax on paid parking spaces from 5% to 20%.

Retail Council of Canada (RCC) as part of a real estate industry Coalition comprised of major property owners is actively campaigning against both these approaches.

On June 28, the City of Toronto Executive Committee was presented with a report from KPMG looking at several revenue tools including those outlined above. The Committee did not make a decision on any of the recommendations and instead asked City staff to do an assessment of the economic impact of the potential new taxes/levies. It is anticipated that City staff will report back to the Executive Committee in the Fall. RCC will utilize this delay to undertake the following activities:

Next Steps:

  1. RCC will meet with Councillors over the summer to discuss retailers’ concerns over the parking space tax options.
  2. RCC will work with the Coalition to finalize an economic impact report on the parking space tax options that will be released in mid-July. The report will highlight the following areas:
  • clearly explaining the difference between a sales tax on parking spaces and a parking space tax, as there is a general lack of understanding of the differences between these options;
  • refuting revenue projections from City-commissioned research that indicated that unpaid parking space tax would generate $535 million in revenue and sales tax on paid parking spaces would generate ‎$121 million in revenue; and
  • developing additional information that will strengthen the Coalition’s primary argument that a parking tax on either paid or unpaid spaces will simply result in double taxation as commercial property tax already has parking built into the valuation.
  • The report will be shared with members.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Gary Rygus, Director Government Relations (Ontario) at: grygus@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3744

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    For members with stores in Alberta – Alberta’s minimum wage to increase to $12.20 on October 1, 2016

    For members with stores in Alberta – Alberta’s minimum wage to increase to $12.20 on October 1, 2016

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    July 5, 2016

    Alberta’s minimum wage will increase to $12.20 per hour on October 1, 2016. Labour Minister Christine Gray announced the $1.00 increase on June 30, 2016.

    Minister Gray also announced that the minimum wage will be increased by $1.40 in 2017 and another $1.40 in 2018 in order for the Notley government to implement its election promise of raising Alberta’s minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by 2018.

    The future increases to Alberta’s minimum wage will be to $13.60 on October 1, 2017 and to $15.00 on October 1, 2018.

    More information on Alberta’s minimum wage can be found at here.

    RCC Action:

    RCC has been extremely active in engaging with Alberta’s Minister of Labour on this issue. We met with the Minister in May to outline the impact the 2015 minimum wage increase had on retailers, the current state of Alberta’s retail sector, and the impact rising costs and declining sales have had on retail employment. We have also met with Alberta’s Finance Minister to outline the impact the Notley government’s promise to have a $15.00 per hour minimum wage by 2018 will have on Alberta retailers.

    On June 6, 2016, RCC attended an all-day stakeholder consultation in Calgary. We took part in the consultation sessions and roundtables and also had the opportunity to have another brief private discussion with the Minister. Despite holding consultations in Calgary and Edmonton with stakeholders through the month of June, Premier Notley has publicly stated this month that she fully intends to move forward with implementing a $15.00 per hour minimum wage by 2018 – despite any feedback the government may receive saying to slow down the increases. The strong consensus, even among minimum wage advocates, at the Calgary consultation was that 2018 was too aggressive a timeframe in light of the current economic situation in Alberta.

    RCC has written Minister of Labour Gray and Premier Notley to again stress the need to consider stakeholder feedback on this issue and reconsider the 2018 timeframe. To view RCC’s letter to the Alberta government, please click here.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Lanny McInnes, Director –  Government Relations (Prairies) at: lmcinnes@retailcouncil.org or 204-253-1654

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    For members with stores in Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan’s minimum wage to increase to $10.72 on October 1, 2016

    For members with stores in Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan’s minimum wage to increase to $10.72 on October 1, 2016

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    July 5, 2016

    Effective October 1, 2016, Saskatchewan’s minimum wage will increase by 22 cents to $10.72 per hour.

    This is the second change to the minimum wage under Saskatchewan’s minimum wage indexation formula. The minimum wage rate is calculated using changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Average Hourly Wage in Saskatchewan for the previous year. This approach is consistent with RCC’s position on future changes to the minimum wage and should ensure predictability for business owners in the province.

    Information on Saskatchewan’s minimum wage can be found at here.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Lanny McInnes, Director –  Government Relations (Prairies) at: lmcinnes@retailcouncil.org or 204-253-1654

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    For members with stores in Fort McMurray, Alberta – Share your resettlement experiences with RCC

    For members with stores in Fort McMurray, Alberta – Share your resettlement experiences with RCC

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    July 4, 2016

    Many members have shared with RCC that they faced a number of challenges during the evacuation and re-settlement of Fort McMurray and getting their stores operational again.

    To discuss key learnings from this process, RCC will be hosting a member conference call on July 19, (call in information is provided below), to discuss the following topics:

    • Was information provided by RM and the Province timely and accurate?
    • What are the opportunities for improvement?
    • Were you able to contact the right individuals to receive evacuation and resettlement information?
    • What additional information would have been useful to receive?
    • How can RCC improve communications and service to members in emergency situations?

    Please RSVP to lmcinnes@retailcouncil.org to confirm that you will be participating in the call, as well as indicating if there is additional points that you would like added to the agenda.

    RCC/Fort McMurray Member Debrief
    July 19, 2016 at 1pm MT/3pm ET
    Toll Free Dial: 1.866.486.3921
    Participant Code: 0839675

    RCC will use this information to advocate on your behalf with both the Alberta Government and RM of Wood Buffalo to improve emergency processes and communication protocols.

    Lanny McInnes, Director –  Government Relations (Prairies) at: lmcinnes@retailcouncil.org or 204-253-1654

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    Ontario releases its economic altering Climate Change Action Plan

    Ontario releases its economic altering Climate Change Action Plan

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    June 16, 2016

    On June 8, the Ontario government released its much anticipated five-year Climate Change Action plan to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and help move Ontario to a low-carbon economy. The plan is intended to drive consumers and businesses to adopt low carbon energy solutions in homes, vehicles and workplaces. It is intended to provide business certainty and a stable investment climate, by defining where revenue raised will be spent. The program is expected to raise about $1.9 billion annually by selling pollution emission credits from a cap and trade market with Quebec and California.

    What retailers should expect going forward:

    A Green bank will be established to deploy and finance low-carbon energy technologies to reduce carbon pollution from Ontario homes and business buildings (i.e. replacing oil furnaces and electric baseboard heaters with solar and air-source heat pumps). The fund will be primarily used by the large emitters to change their business processes wherever possible.

    To assist fuel distributors, Ontario plans to provide funding to fuel distributors for high blend sustainable biofuels and infrastructure upgrades.

    A new Green Commercial Vehicle Program will be set up to provide incentives to businesses that want to buy low-carbon commercial vehicle and technologies to reduce emissions. This initiative will have a potential impact on retailers’ transportation fleets.

    Ontario intends to establish a requirement that as of 2018, all newly built commercial office buildings and workplaces must provide charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

    Ontario plans to update the Building Code with the long-term energy targets to come into effect by 2030 at the latest, and will consult on those changes over the next several months.

    The delivery model to help transition businesses to use low carbon technologies will be finalized in the second half of 2017. RCC plans to participate in consultations with utilities to ensure retail opportunities are included in the outcomes.

    Each year Ontario will prepare and make public an annual report that describes the progress of the actions set out in the action plan.

    Retail Council of Canada (RCC) believes the Action Plan should be viewed as a work in process and will be adjusted along Ontario’s path to a low carbon and greener economy. All the actions described in the document will need to be balanced against how they will potentially impact Ontario’s competitiveness going forward. RCC will participate during the consultation process to ensure retailer opportunities are maximized.

    To see the full array of action plan items, the link to the plan can be found here.

    Background

    A cap and trade program is a way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. It limits the amount of emissions that can come from the economy (the cap) and then allows those covered by the cap to trade among themselves (the trade) in a flexible manner which creates a price on carbon pollution. In 2015, Ontario Green Investment Fund was created to promote household and businesses to install energy efficient equipment, including windows and furnaces (potential opportunity for retailers).

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Gary Rygus, Director Government Relations (Ontario) at: grygus@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3744
     

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    Ontario Retail Members Need to be Aware of Customer Service Standard Changes in Accessibility

    Ontario Retail Members Need to be Aware of Customer Service Standard Changes in Accessibility

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    June 16, 2016

    Ontario retailers need to be aware there are changes to the accessible customer service standard and Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation effective July 1, 2016.

    What are the main changes?

    • All employees and volunteers must now be trained on accessible customer service.
    • More types of regulated health professionals can provide documentation of a need for a service animal.
    • More specific information is provided to clarify that an organization can only require a support person to accompany someone with a disability for the purposes of health or safety and in consultation with the person. If it is determined that a support person is required, the fee or fare (if applicable) for the support person must be waived.
    • All accessibility standards — including the accessible customer service standard — are now part of one Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. The requirements are now better aligned to make it easier for organizations to understand their obligations.
    • Retailers with 20-49 employees no longer need to document policies (this does not remove compliance or reporting requirements).

    An information sheet with more detail about the changes can be found here.

    What is the deadline to report compliance with these changes?

    Retailers with 20 or more employees must submit their 2017 accessibility compliance report by December 31, 2017.

    The 2017 report will include questions relating to compliance with the updated customer service standard.

    Background:

    These changes were made as accessibility standards must be reviewed within five years after becoming law to ensure they are working as intended.

    Changes are based on recommendations from the Standards Development Committee in which Retail Council of Canada was an active participant.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Gary Rygus, Director, Government Relations (Ontario) at: grygus@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3744

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    For members with stores in Fort McMurray, Alberta – May 26 Update on Retail Re-entry Plan

    For members with stores in Fort McMurray, Alberta – May 26 Update on Retail Re-entry Plan

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    May 26, 2016

    RCC has been advised by the Alberta Provincial Operations Centre that the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) continues to work on the development of its re-entry plan for citizens.

    A “rehearsal” re-entry is scheduled for May 28 that would allow some RMWB and critical retail staff to re-enter their homes and access the services several days prior to general re-entry.

    Plans have been developed for re-entry of critical businesses (gas stations, banks, grocers, pharmacy). Discussions are ongoing with Canada Post, big box retail and restaurants, regarding staging of re-entry. Messaging is being prepared to assist business owners with the provision of respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE) in accordance with Occupational Health and Safety Legislation.

    Assessment and restoration of local government assets are ongoing. RMWB Utilities are installing digital sign boards at the entrance to each subdivision in the city to provide advice as to what services are available in that particular subdivision.

    RCC will share information across the industry and to those retailers affected as soon as it is available and make best efforts to facilitate member communication with RMWB staff although RCC recognizes that the Regional Municipalities resources are focused on urgent tasks.

    Additional up to the minute information is available to members through the following links:

    • General information and resources for Fort McMurray retailers can be found here.
    • Re-entry information for returning evacuees is available here.
    • General information can be found on the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s website.

    If you have any questions or can share information with RCC on your operations in Fort McMurray, please contact Lanny McInnes, Director – Government Relations (Prairies) at: lmcinnes@retailcouncil.org or 204-253-1654 at your earliest convenience.

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    For Retailers with Stores in Quebec – Government Tables Draft Regulations Affecting Exterior Signage Requirements

    For Retailers with Stores in Quebec – Government Tables Draft Regulations Affecting Exterior Signage Requirements

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    May 4, 2016

    Yesterday, the acting minister of Culture and Communications and Acting Minister responsible for the Protection and Promotion of the French Language, Hélène David, proposed a modification to the Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business in order to ensure French would be added to exterior signage.

    We are concerned with some of the sections of this modification, mainly:

    • Retailers would only have 3 years to comply
    • The government doesn’t take into account the real costs of the measures for retailers
    • The fact that in some municipalities, retailers could be prevented from the promised flexibility

    We have decided not to comment for now. We will study the modification in detail before answering as an industry. Until then, please redirect your media requests to our communication advisor Philippe Dion, pdion@cccd-rcc.org

    The link to the Draft Regulations can be found here.

    Next steps:

    • Participate in the consultation which will take place from May 4th to June 18th

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Philippe Dion, Communications advisor at:  pdion@cccd-rcc.org or 514-3316-8260
     

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    PEI Retailers Lose Tax Advantage in Budget

    PEI Retailers Lose Tax Advantage in Budget

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    April 21, 2016

    The Prince Edward Island government has tabled a $1.7 billion budget with a $9.6 million deficit. Retailers are disappointed that the government decided to increase the HST from 14 percent to 15 percent. The government has also delayed balancing the budget for another year while increasing program spending by 3.3 percent.

    In recent years, retailers have become increasingly concerned with the growing costs of doing business in Prince Edward Island. PEI retailers have always been faced with the challenge of keeping Island residents from shopping in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or online. For years, many PEI retailers had a regional tax advantage as the province exempted clothing and footwear from the provincial consumption tax. The introduction of a 14 percent HST in 2013 harmonized the tax system for retailers in the region and lowered consumption taxes on some products. However, with the implementation of the HST a point of sale rebate was only awarded to children’s clothing and footwear, thus the cost of apparel increased by nine percent. Even with the tax change in 2013, PEI retailers still had an HST tax advantage within the Maritimes. Regrettably, the announcement that the HST will move to 15% on October 1, 2016, eliminates the tax advantage for PEI retailers. PEI will now have the same HST as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

    While taxes and fees have continued to increase in PEI, government has not taken a meaningful approach to reducing expenditures. Despite repeated promises from the current government to balance the budget, the government does not appear willing to make the necessary decisions to reduce expenditures.

    Background:

    Measures bearing on consumer spending or on retail goods and employment include:

    • The basic personal income tax exemption for 2016 will go up to $8,000 from $7,708. This will be the first increase since 2008 and could impact 84,000 taxpayers.
    • The PEI portion of the HST rebate will be increased to 10 percent on October 1, 2016. Only low income Islanders are eligible for this credit.
    • The HST increase is projected to add $11 million in revenue in 2016-17 and another $22 million in 2017-18.

    Other items of note:

    • Real GDP: growth is expected to be 1.2% for 2015 and at 1.4% for 2016.
    • Net Debt: is expected to be $2.18 billion for 2015-16 and $2.2 billion in 2016-17.

    Next Steps:

    RCC continues to express concern with the PEI government’s ongoing actions with impact on the business community. Minimum wage increases that are not tied to inflation, tax increases and annual broken promises to eliminate the deficit do not create a positive environment for retail businesses across PEI. RCC will continue to express its opposition to the HST increase while monitoring the government’s progress in keeping expenditures in check so as to finally balance the budget in 2016-17.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at: jcormier@retailcouncil.org or 902-422-4144
     

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    Nova Scotia Tables Razor Thin Balanced Budget – Retailers Cautiously Optimistic

    Nova Scotia Tables Razor Thin Balanced Budget – Retailers Cautiously Optimistic

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    April 21, 2016

    The Nova Scotia government tabled a $10.1 billion budget with a $17.1 million surplus. The modest budget features an overall increase in Departmental spending of 2.1 percent. The majority of this investment will be in education and the Senior’s Pharmacare Program. There were no noticeable increases in fees while the only notable tax increase was with tobacco.

    Given the economic climate in Atlantic Canada, it is commendable that the Nova Scotia government has been able to balance its books without significant tax increases. The surplus is largely due to the government’s ability to hold the line on Departmental spending while benefitting from a 2.6 percent jump in tax revenues from the previous year. RCC is still concerned that Nova Scotia’s civil service continues to grow and that the province remains one of the most heavily taxed provinces in Canada. However, RCC is cautiously optimistic that the return to a budgetary surplus is good news for the retail sector. Our caution relates to the fact that the razor thin projected surplus is based on the assumption that there will be no increase in overall health care spending. Health care accounts for over 40% of the province’s budget and over the past five years, health care spending has increased by an average of two percent each year.

    Background:

    Measures bearing on consumer spending or on retail goods and employment include:

    Tobacco tax: will increase by 2 cents per unit, 50 cents a pack or $4 per carton. The tax on cigars will increase by 4%. The tax does not apply to e-cigarettes.

    $3 million to help seniors with Pharmacare costs.

    Nova Scotians receiving social assistance will receive $20 more in their monthly allowance beginning at the end of May 2016. This increase will cost $7.5 million and affect 24,000 Nova Scotians.

    Government will maintain the tax credit for families with young children.

    Youth Employment: $3.2 million will be spent to create 150 summer jobs for students and 75 public sector placements. 600 co-op positions will be developed through partnerships with employers province-wide.

    Wine Industry: $3.5 million for wineries and vineyards, which will be focused primarily on research and marketing.

    Food:
    Food Safety Inspection: The Budget made mention of the completion of the consolidation of inspection and enforcement services under the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Environment and Labour. This process has been ongoing where food safety inspectors were moved from the Department of Agriculture over the past year.

    Food Banks: Farmers who donate produce to local food banks will be eligible for a new 25% tax credit.

    Other items of note:

    Real GDP: Real GDP growth for the next few years will average at just under one percent.

    Net Debt: is expected to be $15.1 billion for 2015-16 and $15.2 billion in 2016-17.

    Next Steps:

    RCC applauds the government’s efforts to return to a balanced budget. RCC will continue to monitor the government’s progress in keeping expenditures in check so as to remain in a balanced budget position throughout the year. If the budget remains in balance and the economy continues to improve, RCC will increase its advocacy for corporate and HST tax relief.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at: jcormier@retailcouncil.org or 902-422-4144
     

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    Brian Pallister’s PCs win historic majority – What this means for retailers with stores in Manitoba

    Brian Pallister’s PCs win historic majority – What this means for retailers with stores in Manitoba

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    April 21, 2016

    On April 19, 2016 the people of Manitoba gave Brian Pallister and the Manitoba Progressive Conservative party a historic majority government, with 40 of the 57 seats in the Legislature. The NDP will form the official opposition with 14 seats, and the Liberals won 3 seats.

    Premier Greg Selinger has resigned as NDP leader, but will continue to serve as an MLA in the Legislature.  Selinger’s decision to raise the PST in 2013, without warning or consultation and despite promising not to do so in the 2011 election, was a key issue in this election.  RCC strongly opposed the PST increase. The PC Party has committed to reducing the PST back to 7% by the end of its first term in office.

    Premier-elect Pallister has outlined what to expect during the new government’s first 100 days in office. Key economic commitments include:

    • Abolish the “vote tax” subsidy for political parties.
    • Restore the public’s right to vote on tax increases.
    • Establish a Red Tape Reduction Task Force.
    • Meet with municipalities to discuss strategic infrastructure funding.
    • Join the New West Partnership Trade Agreement between BC, Alberta & Saskatchewan. This will boost trade and make it easier for Manitoba businesses to expand.
    • Establish the Premier’s Enterprise Team to provide advice to government on economic development.

    Retailers can also expect the new government to raise the personal basic exemption, index Manitoba’s tax brackets to inflation, and potentially implement other tax changes in the upcoming provincial budget. These changes will increase the spending power of Manitoba consumers and will be welcome news for Manitoba retailers. 

    RCC provided information and updates for Manitoba retailers during the provincial campaign on www.voteretail.ca. RCC also encouraged merchants to connect with their local candidates to raise issues important to our sector. 

    Additionally, RCC asked each political party how they would address the priority issues Manitoba retailers are facing. We posted those responses on our VoteRetail.ca website as well as each party’s full platform.

    To see the PC Party’s response to RCC’s questionnaire, click here

    To view the PC Party’s full platform, click here.

    Retail Council of Canada will be meeting with numerous government officials in the coming weeks to discuss the new government’s legislative agenda and the next provincial budget.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Lanny McInnes, Director –  Government Relations (Prairies) at: lmcinnes@retailcouncil.org or 204-253-1654

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    Tough Budget For Stores in Newfoundland and Labrador: HST and Corporate Tax Increases, Fee Hikes, Exemptions for Books Eliminated

    Tough Budget For Stores in Newfoundland and Labrador: HST and Corporate Tax Increases, Fee Hikes, Exemptions for Books Eliminated

    Print

    April 15, 2016

    Newfoundland and Labrador’s ongoing economic struggles and the continuing low price of oil resulted in today’s tabling of a tough budget featuring a two percent increase in the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), a one percent increase in the corporate income tax rate, increases to personal income taxes, increases to 300 service fees (e.g. vehicle registration, tourism levies), the introduction of 50 new service fees and significant cuts to the public service.

    The budget will result in the average provincial household paying nearly $3,000 more in taxes and fees per year.

    RCC met with Honourable Cathy Bennett, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Finance Minister earlier this year to express the negative impact of an HST increase on consumer spending; the negative impact of corporate tax increases on attracting and retaining business in the province; the negative impact of income tax increases on disposable income and the impact of significant government job losses on retail spending.

    Reaction to the budget has been negative but with the exception of the HST increase, much of this negativity has not been directed towards the newly elected government. The former government was in power for over a decade and during that time, inflation-adjusted program and operating spending for government grew by almost 30 percent, while population growth was only 1.6 percent. The current government is now facing what amounts to revenue collapse. In 2008, oil royalties accounted for 30% of the province’s revenues whereas in this year’s budget, oil royalties will only account for 7% of the province’s revenues.

    Background:

    HST: will increase from 13% to15% on July 1, 2016 (provincial portion moves from 8-10%). The increase is expected to generate $111 million annually for the province. A 15% HST will match the HST rate in New Brunswick’s (as of July 1, 2016) and Nova Scotia.

    The current government was elected on a promise to reverse the former government’s planned increase of the HST to 15%. The current government followed through on their campaign promise only to reverse this decision in today’s budget.

    Government has eliminated the HST point of sale rebate on books purchased by individuals.

    General Corporate Income Tax Rate: will increase from 14% to 15%, retroactive to January 1, 2016. This rate is higher than New Brunswick (14%) but lower than NS and PEI (16%).

    Small Business Tax: unchanged at 3% on the first $500 thousand of active business income.

    Tobacco tax: will increase on April 15, 2016 by 1 cent per cigarette or 2 cents for each gram of loose or fine cut tobacco.

    Liquor: prices increased by an average of 3% on April 1, 2016. This followed a government decision to mandate a $3 million increase in the dividend paid by Newfoundland Liquor Corporation to the government.

    Drug Coverage: Funding of approximately $2.6 million is committed for coverage of a number of new drug therapies under the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program, presently under review by the national and regional review agencies. Prior to the tabling of the budget, the government also removed coverage in the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program for over-the-counter drugs and introduced limits to diabetic test strips that are consistent with national guidelines, for an annualized savings of $5.5 million.

    Food: The budget renewed the government’s commitment to develop a new food security and agriculture growth strategy.

    Gas tax: On June 2, 2016, the gas tax will increase temporarily from 8.25 to 16.5 cents per litre for gasoline. This tax will be reviewed every six months. For Labrador border zones: a 10 cent per litre rebate will be provided for gasoline used in motor vehicles, effective June 2, 2016.

    The tax rate on diesel products will increase by 5 cents per litre.

    Taxes on Home Heating fuels will not change.

    Personal income taxes: will increase in each of the next two years. The increases will affect all brackets beginning on July 1, 2016. By 2017, the lowest income bracket will see a 1% increase while the top bracket will see a 3% increase.

    Program Cuts: The government eliminated the “baby bonus” of $1,000 paid to parents. The government will revert back to a student loan program following two years of offering grants to students. The Home Heating Rebate Program and the Labrador Building Material Rebate Program have been eliminated.

    Infrastructure Spending: Many infrastructure announcements made by the previous government have been either delayed or cancelled.

    Public Service Cuts: Between 2004-2015, the former government doubled the size of the public service. Given the dire fiscal situation, 200 direct government jobs will now be eliminated (75 through attrition). 450 full-time equivalent jobs will be eliminated from the province’s many agencies, boards and commissions. But considering that the public sector in the province employs over 46 thousand people, the government has hinted that there will be more public sector job cuts when the Finance Minister presents a mini-budget this Fall.

    Cabinet Ministers: have already taken a 10% cut in salary in anticipation of upcoming contract talks with public sector unions.

    Deficit / Debt: The deficit for the 2015-16 fiscal year is $2.2 billion. For 2016-17, the government is projecting a deficit of $1.83 billion on a budget of $8.5 billion. The debt for 2015-16 is $14.7 billion for a population of only 528 thousand people. The debt has doubled since 2004.

    On July 1, 2016, a temporary deficit-reduction levy of 1.2% will come into effect. The levy will be incremental (based on income) and apply to people earning over $20,000. The levy is expected to raise $126 million annually. Government has pledged to begin phasing out the levy in 2018.

    Real GDP: fell by 2.3% in 2015. For 2016, the government expects real GDP growth of 1.0%

    The long term plan is to balance the books by 2022.

    Next Steps:

    RCC will continue to oppose the tax increases while working with stakeholders to push the Newfoundland and Labrador government to develop a plan to grow the economy that is not so dependent on oil and gas.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at: jcormier@retailcouncil.org or 902-422-4144

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    Members with Ontario Stores should be prepared for Ministry of Labour Enforcement and Blitz Schedule during May 2 to June 30 and September 1 to October 31

    Members with Ontario Stores should be prepared for Ministry of Labour Enforcement and Blitz Schedule during May 2 to June 30 and September 1 to October 31

    Print

    April 8, 2016

    The Ontario Ministry of Labour has indicated that it will be undertaking enforcement blitzes during the above periods. The overall focus of these inspections is to ensure compliance with the Employment Standards Act.

    1. Based on the Ministry’s experience, inspectors have historically focused on asking employers to share records that demonstrate compliance in the following areas Public Holidays/Public Holiday Pay
    2. Record Keeping
    3. Overtime Pay
    4. Vacation Pay/Vacation Time
    5. Hours of Work: Excess Daily or Weekly

    In addition to these general areas, information from the Ministry indicates that inspectors will focus on the following areas during periods noted below:

    • Ensuring employers are following rules related to both a temporary foreign workers and young worker blitz – May 2 to June 30.
    • Companies that have been cited for repeat violations of the Act — September 1 to October 31.

    If an inspector does visit your store you should expect that an education package will be provided that contains the following information:

    2016-17 Employment Standards Proactive Enforcement Plan
    http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/enforcementplan.php

    2016-17 Ministry of Labour Blitz Schedule
    http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/resources/blitzschedule.php

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Gary Rygus, Director, Government Relations Ontario at: grygus@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3744

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    British Columbia: Consultation Regarding Amendment of Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (Steel Shelving)

    British Columbia: Consultation Regarding Amendment of Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (Steel Shelving)

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    March 29, 2016

    WorkSafe BC is seeking input on a proposed amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation in regard to “storage racks”.

    The proposed amendment would impact steel shelving in distribution warehouses and/or retail stores. The intent is to ensure worker safety through the inclusion of requirements regarding the design, construction, installation and regular inspection of steel shelving.

    Further information can be found here or http://www.worksafebc.com/regulation_and_policy/policy_consultation/assets/pdf/OHSRMarch2016/Part4StorageRacks.pdf

    To date, concern has been expressed on four fronts: (1) the number of store fixtures impacted, (2) the cost of inspecting a large volume of existing steel shelving, (3) that fixtures have been supplied by external suppliers without information required under the amended regulation, and, (4) the lack of a definition surrounding who is qualified to install, inspect and maintain fixtures.

    Next Steps:

    RCC will provide comment to WorkSafe BC in regard to the requirements. Members may contribute to RCC comments or provide separate comment to WorkSafe BC. (WorkSafe BC’s deadline for comment is 4:30 p.m. PDT on Thursday, March 31, 2016.)

    RCC will urge WorkSafe BC to provide for a sufficient period of time for retailers to prepare prior to the effective date for compliance purposes.

    Background:

    The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation does not currently contain specific safety requirements for storage racks or shelving. Previously, WorkSafe BC has issued orders under other sections to require employers to rectify conditions they consider unsafe.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Greg Wilson, Director, Government Relations (B.C.) at: gwilson@retailcouncil.org or 604-736-0368.
     

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    Federal Budget 2016 – Implications for Retailers

    Federal Budget 2016 – Implications for Retailers

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    March 23, 2016

    Government Holds Firm on De Minimis Level – Some Areas of interest for Retail Merchants

    The new federal government brought in its first budget on March 22, 2016, making substantial investments in infrastructure and social programs, in keeping with its platform commitments during the last campaign. Rather than add to the numerous analyses being circulated on the topic of deficit-spending, this note will instead address those aspects of direct interest to retailers.

    The top line is a real GDP growth forecast of 1.4% for 2016, with inflation of 1.0%. Growth is expected to rise to 2.2% in 2017, with inflation at 2.4%. The federal budget is not expected to be balanced within the four year mandate of the government and deficits will amount to just under $100 billion over the next four fiscal years.

    De Minimis

    From a retail perspective, the budget is most remarkable for something that is NOT in it. Despite a strong pre-budget lobby from foreign sellers and the US air-freight industry, the government has rejected calls for a major increase the de minimis level and has maintained it at $20.

    Under de minimis rules, parcels valued under $20 are exempt from sales taxes and duties when shipped into Canada by post and courier. An increase in the de minimis level would therefore mean that goods sold by Canadian merchants, whether in-store or online, would cost an average of 12.3% more after tax than those same goods shipped into Canada by courier or mail.

    RCC is pleased with the federal government’s decision and will continue to work with federal policymakers to underscore the critical importance of tax fairness to the success of bricks-and-mortar and online retailers in Canada.

    Taxation

    The government already introduced its major personal income tax measures in the December 7, 2015 Fiscal Update. To recap, reductions in the middle personal income tax rate from 22% to 20.5% will reduce the income tax burden on most Canadian families and single-earners.

    This additional disposable income for consumers should be of benefit to most Canadian retailers. Luxury retailers may see different outcomes, as the December tax changes also introduced a new top rate of 33% on income above $200,000.

    Budget 2016 introduces an enriched Child Tax Benefit with recipient families receiving almost $2300 on average in 2016-17. While the current Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) cheques are being replaced by a more-targeted benefit, the overall enrichment of the program should be beneficial for retailers.

    The small business tax rate on the first $500,000 of business income, which had been scheduled by the previous government to be reduced to 9%, will instead be maintained at 10.5%, with further reductions deferred indefinitely.

    The government is engaged in a number of anti-tax avoidance initiatives, too lengthy to be detailed here. Further information can be found at the following here.

    Specific Measures

    Booksellers

    As the government moves to increase overall assistance to students, the Textbook Tax Credit is being eliminated. However, given that this was general assistance rather than targeted to actual textbook sales, it is doubtful that this would have a negative impact on the industry.

    Renovation

    New spending on construction of affordable housing and on energy and water efficiency retrofits for existing social housing should be beneficial for home improvement retailers.

    Innovation and Youth Employment

    The budget commits an additional $50 million to the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) to support advisory services by Industrial Technology Advisers to small and medium-sized companies for innovation projects. This program dovetails with aspects of the Youth Employment Program, for which a further $73 million has been added for co-op placements and work-integrated learning. RCC will meet with the federal government to ensure that innovation in small to medium-sized retailers is eligible for support under these two programs.

    Grocers

    Nutrition Labelling

    The budget restates the government’s intent to revise food labels to include more information on added sugars and artificial dyes in processed foods, as was previously indicated in the Liberal election platform and the Minister’s mandate letter. This signals that the government will be moving forward over the next year. RCC has been actively engaged on this file and will continue to work with the Minister’s office and department officials to ensure any changes to nutrition labels are clear and helpful for consumers, based in science, and reasonable for industry to implement.

    Food Safety

    The budget commits to enhancing food safety in Canada with an allocation of $38.5 million over two years to further strengthen and modernize Canada’s food safety system. With this funding, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will invest in systems that help target inspection activities to the highest-risk domestic and imported foods. The Agency will also enhance inspection activities abroad to assist in responding to food safety risks before they reach domestic consumers. RCC will continue to work closely with the Agency to ensure consistent, retail-friendly requirements and to address historical irritants.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Karl Littler, Vice President Government Relations and Strategic Issues at: klittler@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3783
     

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    Ontario – Implementation Date – September 8, 2016 – New and Updated Workplace Harassment Policies, Procedures and Training

    Ontario – Implementation Date – September 8, 2016 – New and Updated Workplace Harassment Policies, Procedures and Training

    Print

    March 21, 2016

    Ontario employers are required to have new and updated workplace harassment policies, procedures and training in place by September 8, 2016.

    Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), requires Ontario employers to do the following:

    • Review (and if necessary, amend) workplace harassment policy to ensure that it includes workplace sexual harassment;
    • Investigate incidents and complaints of workplace harassment;
    • Inform the parties to a workplace harassment complaint of the results of the investigation and any corrective action that will occur; and
    • For employers that regularly employ 20 or more employees – Involve the employer’s Joint Health and Safety Committee in developing written programs and procedures, regarding workplace harassment, which address:
      • The reporting of incidents – ensure that each harassment complaint is taken seriously – including measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace harassment to a person other than the employer or supervisor, if the employer or supervisor is the alleged harasser;
      • The investigation process – how information obtained about an incident or complaint of workplace harassment, including identifying information about any individuals involved, will not be disclosed unless the disclosure is necessary for investigation, taking corrective action or by law;
      • Training under the programs and procedures – Employer must ensure that its team understand the terms and definitions in the new legislation; and
      • An annual review of the programs and procedures.

    Bill 132 also clarifies that reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of its workplace is not workplace harassment. A Ministry of Labour inspector now has the power to order an employer to conduct an investigation by an impartial third party and obtain a written report by that party, all at the employer’s expense. Bill 132 does not specify the circumstances in which an inspector can order an employer to conduct such an investigation and RCC will seek clarification from the Ministry of Labour on this aspect of the legislation. Again, the deadline for employers to act is September 8, 2016.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Gary Rygus, Director, Government Relations Ontario at: grygus@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3744

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    Thanksgiving Retail Hours

    Thanksgiving Retail Hours

    Print

    September 23, 2015

    Thanksgiving is a statutory holiday in all provinces and territories.

    The following is a brief overview of retail business regulations from across the country, as related to Thanksgiving Day. More information on retail closing days can be found on the RCC website.  Retail Council website/quickfacts/storehours

    Since there are exceptions to Thanksgiving Day retail hours, based on jurisdiction and type of retail store, RCC members are encouraged to check with their local municipality or provincial/territorial government if they have specific questions.

    Please note: In provinces where there are no regulations related to Thanksgiving Day retail hours (see below), there may still be rules in a retailer’s shopping mall lease agreement pertaining to retail opening hours on that day.

    Atlantic Canada:

    In New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, Thanksgiving Day is a retail closing day for most retailers.

    Quebec:

    In Quebec, retailers are allowed to open on Thanksgiving Day as long as they pay their employees according to the law.

    Ontario:

    In Ontario, many retailers will be closed on Thanksgiving Day; however, there are exceptions based on municipal jurisdiction which can be viewed on RCC’s website.

    Manitoba:

    In Manitoba, Thanksgiving Day is a retail closing day for most retailers.

    British Columbia / Alberta / Saskatchewan: 

    In British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, retailers are allowed to open on Thanksgiving Day as long as they pay their employees according to the law. 

    Territories:

    In the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon, retailers are allowed to open on Thanksgiving Day as long as they pay their employees according to the law. 

    Again, more information on retail closing days can be found on the RCC website.

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    Alberta’s Minimum Wage to increase to $11.20 on October 1, 2015

    Alberta’s Minimum Wage to increase to $11.20 on October 1, 2015

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    June 29, 2015

    Alberta’s Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, Honourable Lori Sigurdson, has announced that the province’s minimum wage will increase to $11.20 effective October 1, 2015. Alberta’s liquor server wage will increase to $10.70 and will be eliminated in 2016.

    More information on Alberta’s minimum wage can be found here.

    Current Status:

    As part of its election platform, the NDP committed to raising Alberta’s minimum wage to $15.00 by 2018.

    RCC provided our submission to the Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour regarding the Alberta government’s promise to raise Alberta’s minimum wage on June 16.

    RCC, along with other business organizations, had urged the Alberta government to make changes to the minimum wage one year at a time rather than announce a four year schedule of changes up to and including 2018. During the government’s industry consultation meeting which RCC attended on June 11, both the Minister and Premier Notley indicated that the government will make changes to the minimum wage on an annual basis.

    The government has committed to undertake further consultation and economic analysis before defining future increases.

    Next Steps:

    RCC will be meeting with Finance Minister Ceci in July and this will be a key issue that will be raised during that meeting. RCC has also requested a meeting with Minister Sigurdson and we expect to meet with her sometime this summer.

    We will continue pushing for minimum wage changes to be based on economic indicators, not political agendas. RCC will be part of the ongoing consultation the Minister has indicated will take place as the government moves forward on implementing its campaign promise.

    We will also be sharing our submission and recommendations with members of Alberta’s official opposition, the Wild Rose Party, to ensure they are fully informed of our position.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Lanny McInnes, Director –  Government Relations (Prairies) at: lmcinnes@retailcouncil.org or 204-253-1654
     


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    No Surprises in Ontario’s 2015 Budget, Concerns Continue to Mount Over Pension Plan

    No Surprises in Ontario’s 2015 Budget, Concerns Continue to Mount Over Pension Plan

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    April 24, 2015

    RCC Press Release English

    N.B. Given the sheer volume of budget coverage in a 24/7 news environment, RCC has decided to stop issuing same-day budget analyses and will instead take the time to carefully review the documents for issues specific to or important to retail and issue member notices on the day following a budget.

    It has become commonplace to pre-release key budget policies in order to give each one a more focused launch. Ontario’s 2015 budget has taken this approach to new lengths, the government having previously announced its pension, asset divestment, cap-and-trade and infrastructure policies. The consequence is that there is very little in the budget that was being announced for the first time yesterday.

    Infrastructure Funding

    The budget focuses primarily on public infrastructure initiatives while avoiding tax increases to fund the 10-year, $130 Billion plan. Revenue will be flowed from asset sales and the proposed cap-and- trade system via a carbon-pricing mechanism. The government plans to release a comprehensive strategy to address climate change in the fall of 2015.

    Retail Council of Canada strongly supports the government’s approach of not raising retailers’ taxes to provide funding for infrastructure initiatives. RCC campaigned against the recommendations of the Toronto Regional Board of Trade (TRBOT) and Metrolinx, which would have led to a tax on parking spaces and, potentially, to a regional sales tax within the GTHA.

    Pension Plan Proposal

    The budget does not address any of the retailers’ outstanding questions related to the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), whether on the substitutability of existing workplace pension plans, on the income threshold, or if the plan will apply to students, youth and retirees. The government is reviewing feedback from its recent consultation and says that it will determine key design questions in the “near future”. Timing is itself becoming a problem, as we are now less than 20 months out from the ORPP’s expected start-date of January 1, 2017, without many of the design issues having been settled.

    RCC will continue its advocacy campaign and lobbying efforts to mitigate the impact of the ORPP on the retail sector.

    Other Budget Measures

    The government plans to introduce legislation that supports the Premier’s Council on Asset Review recommendation to allow the sale of beer in grocery stores. Over the summer months, the council will consult with stakeholders on potential reforms in the wine and spirits area.

    The budget also confirms the Ministry of Labour review on the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act to reflect the changing landscape for employment. RCC has already been actively involved in preliminary consultations with the Special Advisors in the review. The review is expected to last about two years before reporting back to the government and business will have opportunities to participate in the consultation process.

    The government is pursuing options to address the Underground Economy. One of the areas identified is electronic sales suppression. The Province is proposing to ban the manufacture and use of “zapper” technologies and will consult more generally on options to stop sales suppression at point-of-sale. RCC will participate in the consultations over the next several months.

    As a follow up to the recent federal budget, businesses that invest in manufacturing and processing equipment will benefit from the Ontario government’s commitment to extend the provincial Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance program.

    Retailers selling and installing winter tires and rims may experience an increase in sales, as the government is requiring that all insurers offer a discount for the use of winter tires.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Gary Rygus, Director, Government Relations (Ontario) at: grygus@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3744


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    Code of Conduct Version 2.0

    Code of Conduct Version 2.0

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    April 13, 2015

    Enhancements to the Code of Conduct for the Credit Card and Debit Card Industry in Canada (“the Code”) have now been released. The Retail Council of Canada was a driving force in the creation of the original version of the Code in 2010 (“Code 1.0”), and has worked hard since that time on these important updates as a vocal member in the Finance Canada Payments Consultative Committee.

    The focus of the Code 1.0 was to reduce the average interchange rate paid by merchants to 1.5% (a 10% reduction) effectively reversing the increasing trend which began in 2008. The enhanced version of the Code, which we will call Code 2.0, provides merchants with 3 additional benefits:

    1. CHOICE – New rules for contactless payment, particularly mobile payment, allowing merchants to choose whether to accept contactless payment, whose products to accept, and to choose between different payment types that may carry different costs.
    2. SAVINGS – Ensuring the estimated $2 billion in savings from network reductions in interchange are fully passed on to merchants; and
    3. PROTECTION – Greater clarity in statements, and better rules for contract termination, as well as a new process to resolve any disputes that might arise.

    Ensuring Customer Preference with Mobile Wallets

    Code 2.0 requires separate payment applications (“applets”) for each debit and each credit payment option within a mobile wallet. These applets must be uploaded individually and appear separately. The choice of whether to accept network debit or credit products remains with the merchant.

    Code 2.0 also requires that all payment applets in a mobile wallet or device must be clearly identifiable and equally prominent, ensuring that where Interac is present in a mobile wallet, it is not crowded out by larger or flashier network credit or debit offerings.

    Finally, the Code ensures that a customer using a mobile wallet is not “locked-in”, can set his or her own payment preferences, and is able to move easily between payment options at point-of-sale.

    Merchant Acceptance of Contactless Payment

    Code 2.0 ensures that a merchant who chooses to accept a network’s credit payments from a mobile device is not required to accept debit payments from that network and vice versa.

    Merchants cannot be required to accept contactless payments at point-of-sale or to upgrade terminals to enable contactless payment, and if a merchant does choose to accept contactless payment, the merchant may, with thirty days’ notice, cancel without financial penalty.

    The Code also specifies that “negative option” acceptance is not allowed. As a result, even if the merchant’s POS terminal is physically able to accept contactless payment, it does not mean the merchant must accept contactless payment; merchants must give their express consent.

    Ensuring Reductions in Interchange Rates are Passed to Merchants

    On November 4, 2014, agreements were announced by Visa and MasterCard to reduce their respective interchange rates on consumer credit cards from current levels to an average of 1.50%. As the leading advocate for these interchange fee reductions, RCC is determined to ensure that these savings are passed fairly on to all Canadian merchants. That’s where Code 2.0 comes into play, as it ensures that these savings are indeed passed on by:

    1. Requiring networks to incorporate the Code into all of their existing and future contracts, rules, and regulations with their participants, including issuers (banks), acquirers (processors), etc.
    2. Networks are required to ensure all of their participants do in fact comply with the Code; and
    3. In the event that an acquirer does not pass through the full savings from a reduction in interchange rates, a merchant has the right, with 90-days’ notice, to cancel their contract without penalty.

    Although changing processors is obviously disruptive for merchants, RCC believes that the combination of network pressure on acquirers and the potential for merchants to walk away from their contracts should be sufficient to ensure that most acquirers pass on the full savings.

    Increased Clarity, Notice and Dispute-Resolution

    The remaining changes made by Code 2.0 deal with clearer statements, earlier notice of changes and the establishment of a dispute-settlement route. The primary goal is to provide merchants with cost certainty over the life of a contract with an acquirer.

    Clear Statements

    Payment card network rules will ensure that merchant statements include the following information:

    • Effective merchant discount rate for each type of payment card that the merchant accepts;
    • Interchange rates and, if applicable, all other rates charged to the merchants by the acquirer
    • The number and volume of transactions for each type of payment transaction;
    • The total amount of fees applicable to each rate; and
    • Details of each fee and to which payment card network they relate.

    Notice Requirements

    Code 2.0 expands the 90-day notice requirement of fee changes to include reductions in interchange rates and empowers merchants to cancel their processor contract if the savings are not fully passed on. Code 2.0 also provides that fixed-term contracts will not be automatically renewed for the initial term length, but will instead convert to automatically renewable contract extensions of no longer than six months.

    Dispute Resolution

    Code 2.0 lays out a dispute-resolution path. If a merchant believes that a service provider’s conduct is contrary to the Code, the merchant may report the issue to its acquirer. Service providers include acquirers, processors, independent sales organizations, and referral agents. The acquirer will review the issue with the merchant, undertake an investigation, and respond within ninety days.

    If a satisfactory resolution is not achieved, the merchant may submit the complaint to the payment card networks, who will work to find an appropriate resolution, and communicate the outcome of the investigation directly to the merchant within forty-five days of receiving the complaint. And, should the merchant choose, they remain free to directly file a complaint with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, or a payment card network, to investigate non-compliance with the Code.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Karl Littler, Vice President Government Relations and Strategic Issues at: klittler@retailcouncil.org or 416-467-3783


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    New Brunswick Budget: No HST / Corporate Tax Increases, No Road Tolls

    New Brunswick Budget: No HST / Corporate Tax Increases, No Road Tolls

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    March 31, 2015

    The new, New Brunswick government introduced its first budget today featuring no HST or corporate tax increases and no road tolls. There will be an increase in fuel taxes of 1.9 cents per litre and 2.3 cents per litre on diesel fuel. Generally, this is a good news budget for retailers given the government’s significant fiscal challenges. However, this year’s budget alluded strongly to the likelihood of tax increases and possible road tolls in next year’s budget.

    The deficit for 2014-15 is $255.4 million, which is an anomaly, due to a one time, unexpected federal transfer payment of $170 million. For 2015-16, the deficit is projected to be $476.8 million, which will include the creation of a $150 million contingency reserve to protect the province against unforeseen circumstances.

    Expenses are expected to grow by 1.5% over revised 2014-15 estimates.

    Of note to Retail Council of Canada’s (RCC) members, there was not a word of the New Brunswick Drug Plan. It appears that the status quo will be maintained on this file with government funding a more limited drug program for uninsured New Brunswickers as opposed to the one proposed by the former government.

    Other budget items of note:

    Government will improve its Small Business Investor Tax Credit rate for individuals from 30% to 50%. The enhancement will increase the maximum tax credit from $75 thousand per year to $125 thousand per year for individuals who invest in eligible small businesses in the province. The credit is projected to provide $5 million in annual tax relief.

    The New Brunswick Dividend Tax Credit will be decreased from 5.3% to 4.0% (retroactive to January 1, 2015) to match the new small business corporate income tax rate.

    There will be tax breaks for seniors or their families to renovate their homes. This program will be introduced in the 2015 tax year with details to be confirmed.

    The fuel tax increase of 1.9 cents per litre / 2.3 cents per litre on diesel will be implemented at midnight on March 31, 2015. Government estimates that this increase will provide $28.2 million annually to provincial coffers. The combined total of federal and provincial gasoline taxes along with motive fuel tax rates will be 25.5 cents per litre. New Brunswick will now have the same gas tax rate as Nova Scotia while still being lower than the combined rate in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.

    The government will create two new personal income tax brackets to target the richest New Brunswickers. Those with an income between $150 thousand and $250 thousand will see their top rate tax increase from 17.84% to 21%. Those earning greater than $250 thousand will see their top rate tax increase from 17.84% to 25.75%.

    There were diametrically opposed announcements of education plans to improve literacy while also cutting teaching positions. There was also an announcement to provide additional funding for economic development in Northern New Brunswick and the Miramichi area.

    The budget mentioned earlier announcements related to the government’s elimination of the Department of Healthy and Inclusive Communities, Efficiency New Brunswick and the Energy Institute. There was also mention of the province’s new Youth Employment Fund, which will help up to 1,500 young New Brunswickers obtain work experience and training.

    The budget made numerous references to the government’s Strategic Program Review, which continues to meet with stakeholders to discuss areas in which the government can find savings and/or increase revenue. The review will be completed in 2015, which will likely pave the way for tough decisions regarding tax increases in next year’s budget.

    RCC will be meeting with the New Brunswick’s Minister of Finance on April 2, 2015 to discuss the budget and continue RCC’s call for government to continue making the necessary cuts to government before considering tax increases.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at:  jcormier@retailcouncil.org or 902-422-41


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