New year will see changes to light bulbs, foreign worker program
Immigration, foreign workers among areas affected by new rules
Canadians will see a range of federal rules come into effect this week governing everything from the taxes they pay to the type of light bulbs they can purchase.
Here is a brief glance at some of those changes:
1. No more foreign strippers
The federal government will continue to put the onus on Canadian employers to show why they need to hire temporary foreign workers over Canadian ones.
New rules that went into effect on Dec.31, 2013, are part of the government's ongoing reform of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which it says will help ensure that Canadians get the first crack at available jobs while making sure that foreign workers are protected.
- Effective Dec.31, 2013, the government will no longer approve labour market opinion applications from employers looking to hire foreign workers in the sex trade industry, a spokesperson for the department of Employment and Social Development Canada told CBC News. An LMO is usually required to prove the need to hire a temporary foreign worker over a Canadian one.
That means employers will have to look to Canadians to fill those jobs. The new rules, announced in 2012, are intended to protect "vulnerable" foreign workers such as strippers, erotic dancers, and those who are hired to work in the escort services or erotic massages industry.
These rules come almost seven years after the federal Conservatives first promised to put an end to the "Liberal strippergate," in which temporary work permits were issued to hundreds of exotic workers during the previous government.
- Federal officials will now have the power to inspect workplaces without a warrant for a period of up to six years. Employers will receive advance warning in most but not all cases.
- Employers will be required to keep their paperwork for six years and ensure that their workplace is free of abuse. Those employers found to be breaking the rules could be put on an official blacklist, barred from hiring temporary foreign workers for a period of two years.
- The government will now have the right to suspend and revoke, or refuse to process LMOs if employers are found to be breaking the rules.
The changes were prompted in part following a CBC Go Public story on the use of foreign workers by the Royal Bank of Canada.
2. Ban on incandescent light bulbs
The Conservatives also came into office vowing to do away with incandescent light bulbs. After phasing them out over the last couple of years, Canadians will no longer be able to buy old-fashioned light bulbs beginning Jan.1, 2014.
The ban will force Canadians to buy more energy efficient alternatives, such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LED) bulbs, which tend to cost more that the old-fashioned types.
Despite the ban, there is no federal plan yet to dispose of the CFLs, which meet energy efficient standards but also contain a small amount of mercury.
While retailers will be able to sell the incandescent bulbs left on their shelves, manufacturers will no longer supply Canadian stores with them.
3. New tax measures
Several tax measures announced in the last federal budget will come into effect this week. Here are two that were announced in September:
Canadian manufacturers will benefit from an extended two-year tax break for the purchase of new equipment and machinery.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the two-year extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance would bring in $1.4 billion in tax relief for Canadian manufacturers.
According to Flaherty, 25,000 businesses in Canada used the the accelerated capital cost allowance to write off the purchase of new investments and machinery since the federal government first introduced the measure in 2007.
- A three year-freeze on employment insurance premiums for employers and employees will go into effect this week.
Employees currently pay $1.88 per $100 of earnings up to a maximum annual EI premium of $891.12, while employers pay $2.63 per $100 to a maximum $1,247.57, based on a maximum annual insurable earnings of $47,400.
But maximum insurable earnings will rise to $48,600 in 2014, which means higher-income employees will still pay more in premiums next year, just not as much as they would have under the planned increase.
- Businesses that hide sales using "zapper" software will be fined $5,000 on a first infraction and $50,000 on any subsequent infraction.
The government will also fine anyone in possession of the software up to $50,000, as well as anyone developing or selling the software up to a fine of $100,000.
It will now be a criminal offence to use, develop, or sell the "zapper" software. A criminal offence will carry a fine of up to $1million and a prison term of up to five years.
4. Parent and grandparent re-unification
Canadian citizens and permanent residents wishing to sponsor their parents or grandparents living in a foreign country to become permanent residents in Canada will be able to do so under the new parent and grandparent program beginning Jan.2, 2014.
The government will limit the number of sponsorship applications to 5,000 per year in order to avoid a massive backlog.
Party and industry critics denounced the government's decision to halt all applications in 2011 in order to cut down on a backlog that resulted in wait times of eight years.
"The modernized PGP program will mean faster processing times and shorter waits," Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in October.
"It will also ensure that families have the financial means to support those they sponsor, while also protecting the interests of taxpayers."