ALERT: Ontario OHS Reform Bill 160 Has Second Reading

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To implement some of the changes recommended in the Dean Report, the government introduced Bill 160, Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011, which received first reading on March 3, 2011. And its second reading already began on March 8 and is continuing this week. What does this development mean? Bill 160 is apparently being fast-tracked and is likely to be enacted by the end of the Assembly session on June 2.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

For a bill to become law, it must go thru three “readings,” or debates. After third reading and getting Royal Assent, the bill becomes an Act and takes effect on:

  • The date of Royal Assent;
  • A date stated in the bill; or
  • A date proclaimed by the Lieutenant Governor.

Bills can get changed after second reading. For example, a bill can be sent to committee, which may propose amendments, invite comments or hold public hearings. (Click here for more on the legislative process.)

Progress on Bill 160

Bill 160 got first reading on Thursday, March 3. The fact that it’s getting a second reading so soon after the first strongly suggests that the government’s determined to get the bill adopted. For example, many bills never even get to second reading.

What’s the likely next step in the bill’s progress after second reading? A source tells us that he believes the government is going to hold public hearings on Bill 160 to allay any opposition.

What Happened in Second Reading

In the debate in the Assembly during second reading, Minister of Labour Charles Sousa reviewed the key components of Bill 160. He didn’t say anything new but just explained the motivation for the bill and how it embodies some of the recommendations from the Dean Report.

Lorenzo Berardinetti, member for Scarborough–Southwest, then spoke in support of the bill. He noted, “This bill is not an end point, but a beginning. Our proposed changes would create a framework for us to build on together.”

The floor was then opened for comments and questions. Highlights:

  • One member said there was a need to keep politics out of these issues, especially the appointment of the Chief Prevention Officer
  • Another stressed the need to protect vulnerable workers, including those who don’t speak English, are new to Canada, aren’t in unions and work on farms.

The debate was then adjourned for the day. Second reading is expected to continue through Thursday morning.

We’ll continue to keep you posted on what happens during second reading.