This is page numbers 2439 - 2492 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was housing.

Topics

Written Question 25-19(2): Medevacs in Nunakput
Written Questions

March 10th, 2021

Page 2446

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Medical evacuations (medevacs) are required for residents to move quickly and safely between medical facilities when their medical needs are greater than what can be provided at the originating medical facility. For many communities, this requires an air medevac. My question for the Minister of Health and Social Services is:

  1. How many medevacs, broken down by community and fiscal year, have taken place in the Beaufort-Delta;
  2. What is the number, by community and calendar year, of medevacs that have been delayed and the reason for that delay, be it that no plane was available, no nursing staff were available, no pilots were available, or any other reason due to weather, natural occurrence, or human factors;
  3. What is the average response time from when a medevac is called to when it arrives in the community and when it arrives at the final destination; and
  4. What provisions exist in the medevac service provider contract for spare aircraft for the Beaufort-Delta, and are those aircraft identified in the contract by their tail registration numbers?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Written Question 25-19(2): Medevacs in Nunakput
Written Questions

Page 2446

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Written questions. Item 9, returns to written questions. Item 10, replies to Commissioner's address. Item 11, Petitions. Item 12, reports of committees on the review of bills. Item 13, reports of standing and special committees. Member for Kam Lake.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2446

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Your Standing Committee on Social Development is pleased to provide its Report on the Review of Bill 20: An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act and recommends it to the House.

Introduction

Bill 20, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, was introduced by the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment. This bill seeks to add two new provisions into the Employment Standards Act. The first provision is intended to provide protection to Northwest Territories workers by introducing emergency leave provisions that will allow workers to access unpaid leave when they are unable to perform their duties due to an emergency.

The second area is intended to provide flexibility to NWT employers by including an exception to the requirement for employers to provide a certain period of notice prior to a group termination.

Bill 20, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, received second reading in the Legislative Assembly and was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Development on November 4, 2020. The public hearing with the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment was held on February 10, 2021. The clause-by-clause review was held on March 2, 2021.

With the Minister's agreement, a substantive motion to amend Bill 20 was passed during the clause-by-clause review. The work of the committee on the review of this bill including amendments are discussed below, along with stakeholder comments and recommended actions.

Public Review of Bill 20

The Standing Committee on Social Development undertook a four-month review of Bill 20, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act. This review provided the Standing Committee on Social Development a valuable opportunity to hear from community members, organized labour groups, groups representing the interests of vulnerable populations, and law professionals outside of government.

Committee would like to thank these stakeholders for taking the time to provide their important feedback and for raising areas of great consideration regarding the potential impacts this bill may have on the NWT, employees, and employers. Committee received three written submissions from stakeholders (attached in appendix A). They were:

  • Status of Women Council of the NWT ("the Status of Women");
  • The Union of Northern Workers ("the UNW"); and
  • Marshall Law Barrister and Solicitor.

Public input has been included in greater detail under the topic headings below. Mr. Speaker, I will now pass the reading of the report on to the MLA for Great Slave. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2446

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Member for Great Slave.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2446

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Emergency Leave

Broadly speaking, committee members and stakeholders welcomed the introduction of emergency leave provisions into the Employment Standards Act. Committee recognizes the employees may need more than the current yearly minimum of five days of sick leave, without pay. With the addition of emergency leave, workers will have access to unpaid leave in the event of an emergency, such as the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, when they are unable to perform their duties.

Emergency Leave - What it Means

Employees will be entitled to unpaid "emergency leave" when a government agency has declared an emergency, defined as:

  1. a state of emergency declared under Section 14 of the Emergency Management Act or a state of local emergency declared under Section 18 of that act;
  2. a state of public health emergency declared under Section 32 of the Public Health Act;
  3. a direction or order of a public health officer, the Chief Public Health Officer or a deputy chief public health officer provided or made under the Public Health Act; or
  4. an emergency declared under the Emergencies Act (Canada).

Emergency Leave - Employment Standards Regulations

Bill 20 allows the Department of Education, Culture and Employment ("the department") to prescribe an emergency in the Employment Standards Regulations to access emergency leave when the state of emergency has ended. If there is an emergency affecting a family member of an employee, the employee is entitled to the leave when:

  1. the circumstance results in a situation where the family member of the employee requires care, childcare, or assistance;
  2. the employee is the person most reasonably able under the circumstances to provide the family member with the required care, childcare, or assistance; and
  3. providing the required care, childcare, or assistance to the family member has the effect of preventing the employee from performing the duties of their employment.

In their plain language summary explaining emergency leave amendments, the department states, if an emergency exists due to a pandemic of a reportable disease, an employee will be able to access the leave when the employee is unable to work because:

  • they are under medical investigation/supervision/treatment related to the reportable disease;
  • they are required to self-isolate or quarantine related to the reportable disease because of the direction of a health officer, healthcare professional, or government agency;
  • they were directed by the employer not to work due to a concern that the employee could expose others to the reportable disease in the workplace;
  • they are required to care for a family member or dependent who is affected by the reportable disease; or
  • they are directly affected by travel restrictions related to the emergency, depending on the circumstances.

Emergency leave does not require an employee to have worked for an employer for any set amount of time to be eligible. The period of leave would end when the employee is no longer unable to work for the reasons above or when the emergency ends. Emergency leave also does not require a doctor's note.

Mr. Speaker, I will now pass the reading of the report to the MLA for the Deh Cho. Thank you.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2446

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Member for Deh Cho.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2446

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

What We Heard

Emergency Leave - Unpaid

Submissions from the both the Status of Women Council and the UNW emphasize there are concerns for potential undue financial hardships caused by mandatory unpaid emergency leave. Both organizations support the use of government resources to provide paid emergency leave to employees. The Status of Women advise the need for paid emergency leave was very important for employees to able to continue to take care of their loved ones:

".... Employees need to be able to take paid sick leave to care for 'individuals,' defined as an immediate family member, someone living with the employee, or someone with whom the employee has a relationship with an expectation of care. This is particularly impactful for LGBTQ workers and workers with a disability, who often have varied family forms and need paid leave that allows them to care for their loved ones."

The UNW provided examples from the COVID-19 pandemic stating, "this situation illustrates very clearly the financial hardship many workers face when they are unable to work because of emergency measures such as mandatory self-isolation or quarantine... especially when workers are unable to work for extended periods of time."

The UNW expressed concern that supporting documents suggested employees could access emergency federal benefits while on emergency leave, even though current benefits are set to expire September 2021. The UNW went on to suggest the department undertake public consultation prior to prescribing an emergency within the Employment Standards Regulations:

"....it is important that the public and key stakeholders are given the opportunity to provide input in the development of any regulations where the department intends to 'prescribe' an emergency under Section 30.3."

Emergency Leave - Too COVID-19 Specific

In their submission, Marshall Law Barrister and Solicitor commented that emergency leave criteria as set out in Bill 20 was too narrow and appeared to be specifically related to addressing COVID-19. They also suggested the department provide scenarios for when employees are entitled to access emergency leave.

Mr. Speaker, I will now pass the reading of the report to the MLA for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Mahsi.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2447

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2447

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Committee Response

Committee supports the recommendations received from stakeholders to have the department investigate policy or program amendments intended to provide temporary unpaid leave supports to employees to reduce financial hardship. Committee also feels it is important for the department to undertake public consultation and engagement regarding prescribed emergency leave regulations.

Accordingly, the committee makes the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1

The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Department of Education, Culture and Employment undertake public consultation to develop prescribed emergency provisions, including those that have already been defined in relevant sections of Bill 20.

Recommendation 2

To address undue financial hardship as a result of mandated emergency leave requirements, the Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Department of Education, Culture and Employment undertake a review of territorial government programs and policies to allow financial resources to be made available while an employee is required to take unpaid emergency leave.

Advanced Notice of Group Termination

Committee recognizes and appreciates the number of challenges employers face when businesses are forced to shut down, especially in circumstances that are beyond their control. Committee is also aware employers face serious legal challenges when they do not meet their responsibilities under the act to provide proper termination notice to employees when these circumstances arise. However, committee members are concerned about the negative impacts on employees if legislation is too heavily in favour of the employer.

To address concerns, committee moved a substantial motion requiring the Employment Standards Officer to provide a decision on waivers and improved the vague language first presented in the bill that did not clearly interpret the Employment Standard Officer's responsibilities. The motion ensures a copy of a decision is served, with the reasons for or against approving a waiver, to an employer and any trade unions of which employees may be members. Committee's motion also included new clauses for employers to, without delay, make reasonable efforts to provide a copy of notice to employees who will be terminated and to provide a copy of the notice to employees when it is not possible to post notice.

Mr. Speaker, I will now pass the reading of the report to the MLA for Hay River South. Thank you.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2447

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Member for Hay River South.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2447

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Waiving Advanced Notice for Group Termination - What it Means

Bill 20 provides an exception clause permitting employers demonstrating an inability to provide group termination notice due to a significant unexpected event that prevents the employer from respecting the notice period in the act. Under the existing act, the period of required notice ranges from four to 16 weeks, depending on the number of employees affected. In situations where employers do not follow this required period of notice may be guilty of an offence and liable or summary conviction.

Bill 20 provides exceptions that would only apply when an employer is required to terminate the employment of a group of employees as a result of a circumstance or event beyond their control, such as the destruction or major breakdown of machinery or equipment, climatic or economic conditions, or emergencies, including a public health emergency:

  • the circumstances that prevented the employer from providing notice must have been truly beyond the employer's control;
  • the employer must have exercised due diligence to foresee and avoid the cause of termination; and
  • the cause of termination must prevent the employer from respecting the periods of notice set out in act.

Within the proposed bill, the employer is still required to provide notice of the group termination to the Employment Standards Officer and to any trade union of which the employees may be members as soon as possible. Once notice is received, the Employment Standards Officer determines if the exception applies to circumstances preventing employers from providing notice to employees within the periods of notice set out in the act.

What We Heard

Waiving Advanced Notice for Group Termination - Employment Standards Officer

In their submission to committee on Bill 20, the UNW emphasize there is a lack of clear language within the proposed exemption clause. The UNW also felt the interpretation of this clause could be perceived as protecting the needs and rights of the employer over the rights of workers and their union representatives. Additionally, they stated the unclear language describing the broad interpretation exemption criteria provided the potential for abuse. They stated:

"The UNW is struggling to understand the rationale for adding a clause specifically exempting employers from notifying designated authorities and workers' unions when they intend to circumvent the advance notice requirements of a group termination. The employer is still obligated to notify its workers, and the UNW fails to see how, in the age of electronic communication, notifying additional parties presents a burden or undue hardship. On the surface, this section appears to remove any government oversight from the process and strip collective agreement protections from unionized workers."

Committee expressed similar concerns upon their review of Bill 20. To increase legislative balance within Bill 20 for both employees' and employers' rights, committee moved the several motions amending Bill 20. The motions can be found in appendix C.

Mr. Speaker, I will now pass the reading of the report to the MLA for Kam Lake. Thank you.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2447

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Member for Kam Lake.

Committee Report 12-19(2): Report on the Review of Bill 20 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2447

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Conclusion

Following the clause-by-clause review, a substantial motion was carried to report Bill 20, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, to ensure there are emergency leave provisions for workers in the act and provisions to waive advanced notice for group termination during circumstances beyond an employer's control. This concludes the standing committee's review of Bill 20, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act.

Motion to Receive Committee Report 12-19(2) and Move into Committee of the Whole, Carried
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2448

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes, that Committee Report 12-19(2), Standing Committee on Social Development Report on the Review of Bill 20, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be received by the Assembly and moved into Committee of the Whole for further consideration. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion to Receive Committee Report 12-19(2) and Move into Committee of the Whole, Carried
Reports Of Standing And Special Committees

Page 2448

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. The motion is in order and is non-debatable. All those in favour? All those opposed? Any abstentions? The motion is carried.

---Carried

The report will be moved into Committee of the Whole. Thank you. Item 14, tabling of documents. Minister of Finance.