Stiffer distracted driving fines, a frozen minimum wage: Here’s what’s changing in Ontario in 2019

The new year in Ontario means new laws and regulations.

The provincial government has made a host of changes to everything from energy, to wages for workers and political fundraising.

Here are some of the new laws and rules you might notice in 2019.

Environment and green technology

repeal of the previous Liberal government’s Green Energy Act will come into effect on Jan. 1 and will reintroduce some energy efficiency and conservation provisions in the 1998 Electricity Act.

The remade regulations require municipalities, educational institutions, owners of large buildings and select others to report energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The new rules set energy and water efficiency requirements for certain products in select sectors.

A repeal of the previous Liberal government’s Green Energy Act is now in effect. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

The Used Tires Program and Ontario Tire Stewardship will also be wound up, and a new framework will be established to make tire producers responsible for collecting and managing tires at the end of their lifecycle.

Ontario will extend the moratorium on new or increasing permits for extracting groundwater for water bottling until 2020. The province said it will continue its scientific work and policy review of the water-taking framework.

The province will extend the moratorium on new or increasing permits for taking groundwater for water bottling until 2020. (CBC)

Changes for workers

As part of the government’s commitment to keep the minimum wage at $14 an hour, the province has launched a tax credit for low-income individuals and families.

It will provide up to $850 in tax credits for individuals and up to $1,700 for couples. The minimum wage will be reviewed in 2020 and will be tied to the inflation rate.

As part of its broader rollback of policies instituted by the previous Liberal government, the provincial Conservatives will replace paid leaves for emergencies, illness or bereavement with unpaid leaves.

The province will also end provisions that ensured part-time, casual or temporary employees were paid at the same rate as full-time workers. Pay equity provisions based on gender remain in place.

Ontario’s minimum wage will stay $14 an hour and will be reviewed in 2020. (Robert Short/CBC)

Changes on the road

Most drivers caught using a hand-held device will now be fined up to $1,000 — more than double the previous fine. Additional penalties include a three-day licence suspension and three demerit points.

For a second conviction within five years, the maximum fine rises to $2,000, plus six demerit points and a seven-day driver’s licence suspension.

More convictions within that five-year period would result in at a fine up to $3,000, six demerit points and a 30-day suspension.

Most drivers caught on a hand-held device will be fined up to $1,000. (The Associated Press)

Penalties for having a blood alcohol concentration higher than 0.05, failing a roadside sobriety test or violating the zero tolerance requirements for young, novice and commercial drivers will now be increased to $250 for the first offence, $350 for the second offence and $450 for third and subsequent offences.

There’s also a new $550 penalty for refusing to take a drug or alcohol test if you register a blood alcohol concentration over 0.08 or if a drug recognition evaluator determines impairment.

A new penalty for refusing to take a drug or alcohol test if you register a blood alcohol concentration over 0.08 will cost drivers $550. (Shutterstock)

Additionally, the fee to get your driver’s licence reinstated after a suspension has increased from $198 to $275.

Changes to the Highway Traffic Act will expand testing of connected and autonomous vehicles on highways, which the province said will open opportunities for research and development.

Election finance

Political contribution limits in the province will now match federal contribution limits at $1,600. Starting in 2020, Ontario’s annual contribution limit increase will match the federal rate of increase of $25 at the start of each year, bringing the new limit to $1,625.

Ontario will rise political contribution limits to match federal contribution limits at $1,600. (iStock)

Politicians will now be able to participate in fundraisers and the province has eliminated the cap on the amount of money that can be contributed at fundraising events.

Hunting and fishing

Hunters and fishers can expect streamlined licensing with the creation of a single Outdoors Card for fishing and hunting licenses. The document would list all licences a client has purchased.

The creation of a single Outdoors Card will mean hunters and fishers can expect streamlined licensing. (Radio-Canada)

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