In Ontario, 2022 is starting off with a trend seen across the country: a disturbing and dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, despite a very high vaccination rate. Ontario’s business leaders are carefully watching the numbers in their own organizations as ever-more employees are calling in sick or taking time off to help children with virtual school. As tough as the start to the year has been, there are other challenges on the horizon that must be addressed.
Organizations will need to understand the new provincial legislation
In late 2021, the Government of Ontario introduced and passed the Working for Workers Act, a comprehensive set of legislative changes that, for example, allows employees the right to disconnect from work; for delivery drivers to avail themselves of a business’ washroom facilities; and bans the use of non-compete agreements.
Businesses are working furiously to understand the implications of this sweeping legislation and many questions remain unanswered on how to operationalize many of the new rules.
Elections are looming
Ontario faces two elections in 2022: the provincial election in June, and municipal elections across the province in October. Campaign organizers are already working on party platforms and candidates are beginning to canvass, albeit with COVID-19 measures changing the way they’re connecting with voters.
Will Ontarians reward Doug Ford with another term after a patchy record managing the pandemic? Will the Liberal leader, Steven Del Duca, manage to build a presence on the campaign trail with his pledge of a 4-day work week? Will the NDP’s Andrea Horwath finally connect with voters? And which party will stand with the small- and medium-sized businesses that bore the brunt of the pandemic?
At the municipal level, like elsewhere across Canada, incumbent mayors are taking their leave. Ottawa’s Jim Watson leaves with an otherwise solid legacy marred by transit challenges. And the City of Toronto is waiting to know the outcome of John Tory’s “will he or won’t he run?” teasing.
No matter who takes the helm of Ontario’s largest cities, they will be faced with ongoing and dramatic budget shortfalls, transit ridership and revenue in tatters, and an increasingly exhausted public waiting to socialize once more. Will our municipal leaders secure funding from the two other orders of government? The future of our cities depends on it.
COVID-19 challenges will dominate—again:
Healthcare challenges will continue to dominate in 2022, even if the pandemic itself is on the wane.
Like many other industries, healthcare has witnessed a mass exodus of burnt-out professionals and the trend is more than likely to continue. How the province enables credentialling for foreign-trained professionals to work in our healthcare system may make the difference between a functional or fractured system. The costs to business of a broken health system are higher than anyone wants to contemplate. Furthermore, the engagement between Premier Ford and the Prime Minister on bolstered federal healthcare funding—Canada Health Transfers—promises to be a dynamic to watch in the coming months. The provinces have collectively been clear: Our health system is not sustainable at current funding levels, and the challenges have been exacerbated by severe COVID-19 pressures. NATIONAL will be carefully monitoring these developments.
Other Managing Partners letters:
——— Gillian is a former Managing Partner at NATIONAL Public Relations