Strengthening and Improving Government Act
The proposed Strengthening and Improving Government Act would amend a number of existing acts across several ministries.
Ministry of the Attorney General
Courts of Justice Act
The Courts of Justice Act would be amended to give effect to new federal legislation governing divorce proceedings for non-resident spouses. Specifically, it would give the Family Court and the Family Rules Committee authority over proceedings under the federal Civil Marriage Act. This would help spouses who were married in Ontario but reside outside of Canada to get a divorce in Ontario if they meet requirements set out in the federal legislation.
This amendment would apply to same-sex couples and any other couples who were married in Ontario but whose own jurisdiction does not legally recognize their union, making divorce impossible in their jurisdiction. This change eliminates the one-year residency requirement for these specific individuals and gives Ontario's 17 unified Family Court locations the authority to hear these divorce cases.
The proposed amendments would also allow additional family law proceedings to be added by regulation in the future.
Ministry of Finance
Pension Benefits Act
In keeping with 2013 Budget commitments, the Pension Benefits Act would be amended to clarify spousal entitlements to pre- and post-retirement death benefits. It would also make changes to help people impacted by split pensions and asset transfers.
The split pension regulation is meant to help employees who were affected by government divestments, resulting in some people receiving one pension from their former employer and one from their new employer -- these are known as "split pensions." The benefits from the separate pensions may be less than if they were combined, so the government is introducing a regulation to allow certain plans to enter into agreements to give people the option to consolidate the benefits of their two plans.
The asset transfer regulation is intended to help people whose jobs have been transferred because of a corporate reorganization, and, as a result, join a new pension plan. It sets out rules for transferring pension assets from the old plan to the new one, such as a timeframe for completing the transfer and a formula to determine the amount of assets to be transferred.
Two additional, minor amendments to the act would extend the timeframe within which the plans can enter into asset transfer agreements from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016 and clarify the language used to describe eligible individuals.
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act, 2004
The Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act, 2004 would be amended to align with the 2012 Physician Services Agreement between the province and the Ontario Medical Association. It would provide immunity for representatives of the Ontario Medical Association, including directors and staff, but not the association itself. This would prevent legal action against representatives for acts done in good faith during negotiations with the government related to physician agreements or payments, such as agreements that contain fee cuts for certain physician groups.
Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and Ministry of Education
Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act would be amended to allow the government to collect and use information about student enrolment and transfer activities to better monitor and evaluate the quality of programs delivered by postsecondary institutions.
The amendments would enable the ministry to link postsecondary student data with elementary and secondary school student data through the use of Ontario Education Numbers. The Ontario Education Number is a unique nine-digit identification number that the Ministry of Education assigns to all Ontario students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and is now being extended to the postsecondary system. It will enable the ministry to securely track information on student enrolment and transfer activities. In their February 2011 report Breaking Barriers: A Strategy for Equal Access to Higher Education, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, the College Student Alliance and the Ontario Student Trustees' Association all expressed support for using the Ontario Education Number to improve the evaluation and interpretation of postsecondary student data.
Collecting this information will help government:
- Better understand trends in students' postsecondary education and training choices
- Better anticipate and plan for demand within the postsecondary education system
- Enhance the affordability and accessibility of postsecondary education and training
- Identify factors that negatively affect student achievement, as well as transition to the workforce or future post-secondary educational or training opportunities
Consequential and related amendments would be made to the Education Act and the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.
Ministry of Transportation
Highway Traffic ActThe Highway Traffic Act would be amended to respond to the provincial ombudsman's recommendation to regulate the non-emergency transport services industry. Specifically, amendments would improve the safety and reliability of non-emergency transport services for passengers who require a stretcher but do not require medical care during their trip. The new standards would require operators to meet specific requirements with respect to vehicle inspection and maintenance, equipment, staff, and recordkeeping.