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As summer nears and legislatures conclude their spring sessions, it’s a pivotal time for advocacy work.

As summer nears and legislatures conclude their spring sessions, it’s a pivotal time for advocacy work. The RC Government Relations team is actively seizing this moment, increasing efforts to grow awareness, deepen relationships and garner support for the Canadian foodservice industry—a sector that profoundly influences both local communities and the national economy. Remarkably, 96 cents of every dollar spent in restaurants are reinvested into the communities they serve, underscoring the undeniable impact and importance of the industry to Canadians. Our advocacy team remains committed in its efforts to ensure that the foodservice industry can sustain its vital support for communities across the country.

On the labour front, we were encouraged to hear the recent meeting with Provincial Immigration Ministers and Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller was productive and touched on many of Restaurants Canada’s key asks around immigration. Matching newcomers already in Canada who are not working with employment opportunities in our vibrant industry is a win, win, win. You can read more from the Toronto Star here.

As part of our latest campaign on immigration, we invite you to view and share our new video, which highlights one of the many compelling newcomer stories from our industry, Menthe et Couscous.

We sat down with Menthe et Couscous’s owner, staff, and guests in downtown Montreal. Riham Reda, like many entrepreneurs, immigrated to Canada from Egypt with her husband to fulfill their restaurant dream. Our chat reveals the vibrancy and fresh outlook newcomers bring to the industry, and the role they play in building and sustaining communities and economies.

I appreciated the opportunity for Restaurants Canada to contribute to the latest edition of Retail Insider magazine, emphasizing the smart policy initiatives we are advocating for at the provincial and federal levels. Policies that benefit restaurants, and benefit communities. As the fourth-largest private sector employer in the country serving 22 million Canadians daily, it’s clear that restaurants play a significant role in Canadian communities across the country. Read the issue and see page 14 for more details.

I also recently had a great conversation with Foodservice and Hospitality magazine centred on the innovative strides and pressing challenges related to sustainability in the foodservice industry. It was emphasized that the implementation of smart and logical policies, underscored by a unified approach to sustainability, is key to making the adoption of sustainable choices more economically viable and attainable for the foodservice sector.

It can’t be overlooked though that the increasingly intricate and fragmented policy landscape surrounding sustainability issues remains a significant hurdle. Additional taxes and regulations—particularly concerning waste recovery and materials sourcing—compound the cost pressures already faced by foodservice establishments, posing a threat to profitability. Advocacy efforts led by Restaurants Canada underscore the necessity for harmonized policies that not only support a thriving foodservice industry, but also yield strong environmental benefits grounded in evidence. Working together with all stakeholders will make a difference. You can read the article here.

Last week, Restaurants Canada team members and myself had the chance to celebrate a milestone partnership between Smart Serve Ontario and Not 9 to 5 and GreenShield Canada: Smart Serve Cares, a new program that provides FREE Mental Health support and resources to active Smart Serve Certificate holders in Ontario.

From left to right: Kris Barnier, Restaurants Canada VP Central, Kelly Higginson, Restaurants Canada President & CEO, Anna Pham, Restaurants Canada Director, Content & Programming at the Smart Serve Cares launch event in Toronto.

It is imperative for Ontario owners and operators to ensure their teams are informed about this remarkable and critical service for their Smart Serve-certified employees. Embracing this vital initiative will ensure employees are not only aware of the program’s existence but also actively encouraged to utilize the services and reap the benefits. Poor workforce mental health imposes significant costs on Canadian employers, and the foodservice industry is not an exception. We strongly urge provincial operators to integrate this program into your team communications, discuss it during shift meetings and staff meals, and prominently display information about it in your team’s common areas.

The more openly we discuss mental health, the better we can work to eliminate the stigma surrounding it. Our teams are our most valuable investment, and it’s crucial to ensure they are aware of all the available tools to support them.

I encourage you to download the Smart Serve Cares Campaign Toolkit here. Watch for details and registration information for Restaurants Canada’s upcoming Smart Serve Cares virtual workshop with Not 9 to 5 Founder and Executive Director Hassel Aviles on May 30th at 1:00 p.m. to round out our focus on mental health month.

The creativity and resilience of the restaurant industry continues to bloom.  This indomitable spirit and business savvy was on full display at the Toronto Life’s 42nd Best New Restaurants celebration last week. Congratulations to all the remarkable restaurants making this year’s list. Canada is filled with creative, innovative, exciting restaurants and it is always an honour to celebrate them!

Last, but certainly not least, I invite you to check out Restaurants Canada’s fresh, newly designed website. It’s been a long time coming and is a wonderful new tool to promote the key issues that define our industry, deliver the resources members need to fuel their way forward, and provide the intelligence to guide their business strategy in one of the toughest eras we’ve yet seen.

Thank you to our Toronto team and our agency partner, Spark, who have worked tirelessly to bring this important project to the finish line.


From Richard Alexander | Executive Vice-President, Government Relations & Public Affairs

I am pleased to report we have two exciting initiatives moving forward in the next few weeks, supported by the entire Restaurants Canada team at both the federal and provincial levels.

At Restaurants Canada we have a unique opportunity to amplify our advocacy message to the public and our governments. That opportunity is you: our members—30,000 strong. When you share our communications, you amplify our voice and our chances for success. Please do share when you see our social and media posts.

Moving Forward on Cost Relief

What we are up against: All governments in Canada are under significant pressure to reduce spending to control inflation. RC asks to governments on cost relief must be strategic and recognize the fiscal situation.  

Restaurants Canada has had multiple meetings in Ottawa with Ministers and senior civil servants to determine where government may be able to provide cost relief for our industry. All discussions lead to payroll taxes. As a labour-intensive sector, any changes to payroll taxes (EI and CPP) would have a disproportionate impact on our industry. Therefore, a reduction in EI premiums (and potentially CPP) would not only help the industry but give government a win on their priority of affordability. 

There is precedent for such a move. The previous Conservative government implemented a reduction in 2013 and 2014. Leading up to the 2015 federal election, all three major parties had in their platforms to either lower or freeze EI premiums.

Our campaign on this issue has started:

  • Restaurants Canada has contracted Carleton University professor Ian Lee to write a paper on the benefits of lowering EI and CPP Premiums. 
  • We are building a coalition of other business associations to support the issue.
  • A press conference (in partnership with other business associations) is scheduled in Ottawa for June 6, 2024, to release the paper publicly and lobby government. Restaurants Canada will send a letter and the report to all MPs following the press conference. 
  • Member communications will encourage all members to use the widget on our new website to send a letter to their MP and MLA/MHAs. 
  • The decision on EI premiums will be made in September, so RC’s regional VPs will lobby targeted MPs during the summer in their ridings. 

Moving Forward on Immigration

What we are up against: Canada is experiencing a marked decline in support for immigration. According to a poll released by the Environics Institute last October, support for immigration dropped from an all-time high in 2022 to an all-time low in just one year, finding that Canadians are much more likely to say that there is too much immigration. It’s also the first time Canadians have been found to question the number of immigrants who are arriving in Canada instead of where they are coming from.

This shift in support is driven by growing concerns about the impact of immigration on affordability, particularly the current lack of affordable housing. Both federal and provincial governments are feeling the pressure with some premiers calling publicly for reduced levels of immigration. The result has been some moderate tightening of various immigration streams that some in our industry rely on, specifically the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program and international students. 

The federal government is, at present, resisting calls for pauses to the TFW program; however, the threat to our labour supply through immigration streams is real. 

Restaurants Canada has had multiple meetings in Ottawa with ministers and senior civil servants at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to deliver the message that changes to immigration streams must not destroy the labour market for our industry and that, if changes are made, alternative streams of labour need to become available. 

It became clear in our discussions with government that enhanced immigration for the restaurant industry is unlikely; however, our ongoing research identified an opportunity.

There are currently 1M open work permit newcomers in Canada and the federal government is concerned many of them are unemployed. This group includes asylum seekers, refugees and international students. The government is concerned about their wellbeing and the costs associated with supporting this group. 

Our ask is for government to fund a program that provides enhanced matching and training to these newcomers to fill the 73,000 job vacancies in our industry. 

Several programs to connect newcomers with employment opportunities and provide training have been run in our country with strong success. Such a program for our industry would be based on those programs. We have received positive feedback from IRCC and ESDC.

We have launched a campaign to keep this ask top of mind for government:

  • To capitalize on a meeting of all the provincial immigration ministers and the federal Minister of Immigration on May 10th, Regional VPs lobbied the provincial immigration departments to ask for support for a training and matching program for newcomers in the restaurant industry. We were successful in injecting our issue into the discussion. 
  • We have relaunched our Immigration video and included a link in our government 2-pager. You can see the video here
  • Restaurants Canada’s messaging on this ask is currently being promoted on all our channels. 
  • We are launching an education campaign for our members on the ask.
  • A letter-writing widget on our new website will provide the opportunity for members to write their MP and MLAs/MHAs asking for a restaurant industry matching and hiring program. This will run during the summer. 
  • We have a meeting with the Deputy Minister of ESDC on May 30th to continue our discussions. 
  • Over the summer, Regional VPs will continue to push the provinces to push the Federal Government for such a program. 
  • We will be following up with ESDC and IRCC during the summer on our ask.


From Jillian Rodak | Vice President, Sustainability

National: Single-Use Plastics Ban Regulation Appeal

The Federal court is set to hear the appeal on the single-use plastics ban regulation by June 7th. This appeal was in response to the federal court decision to overturn Canada’s ban on single-use plastics in November of 2023, finding the classification of plastics in the regulation was too broad to be listed on the List of Toxic Substances under CEPA, and that the government acted outside of its authority.

National: Restaurants Canada Meets with Environment and Climate Change Canada

On May 16th, Restaurants Canada met with Environment and Climate Change Canada in Ottawa to discuss our questions and reiterate our position on the Federal Plastics Registry, and to share insights on some of the challenges facing the foodservice industry as we shift toward more sustainable outcomes.

Jillian Rodak, Restaurants Canada’s VP Sustainability, following meeting with Environment and Climate Change Canada staff.

New Brunswick: Draft Amendments to Designated Materials Regulation-Clean Environment Act Posted

On May 3rd, New Brunswick’s Department of Environment and Local Government posted draft amendments to the Designated Materials Regulation-Clean Environment Act, the overarching regulation in New Brunswick for EPR programs across a range of product categories including packaging and paper. Notably, the definition of “brand owner” has been replaced with a hierarchical “producer” definition which the industry has been advocating for over the past year.

Calgary: City Council Officially Appeals Single-Use Items Bylaw

On May 7th, Calgary’s city council voted 12-3 to officially repeal the city’s single use items bylaw after initiating the process on January 30th in response to public backlash. As a result, Calgary restaurants will no longer be required to comply with the bylaw requirements, including charging customers $0.15 for a paper bag or $1 for a reusable cloth bag and asking customers to request items such as utensils at checkout. However, Calgary members are free to keep policies implemented to voluntarily comply with the bylaw currently in place.

Montreal: City Announces New Circular Economy Roadmap and Responsible Procurement Plan

The City of Montreal has announced a new Circular Economy Roadmap and Responsible Procurement Plan with the vision of becoming a circular metropolis by 2030. This includes stimulating the local economy while helping to protect biodiversity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To guide/support implementation, the city is expected to release its first three-year action plan by the end of the year. We will continue to monitor and share further updates with members as discussions evolve.


From Maximilien Roy| Vice-President, Federal & Québec

Federal: Provincial Meeting on Immigration Offers Some Hope

On May 10th, Immigration Minister Marc Miller and his provincial counterparts met in Montreal to discuss immigration levels in Canada.

Restaurants Canada met with provincial Immigration and Labour Ministers ahead of the meeting to share the industry’s dire needs to access more workforce streams and solutions, and suggested a matching and training program specific to newcomers would help alleviate the high rate of job vacancies currently affecting the industry.

We are pleased that the federal-provincial meeting ended with the provinces asking for more funding for employment services under the labour market transfer agreements (LMTAs) at the provincial level, which is aligned with Restaurants Canada’s ask. There was also consensus that temporary foreign workers will continue to be needed to grow our economy, and that we need to make sure that Canadians and permanent residents have the first opportunity to fill jobs.

In the coming days and months, we will continue to advocate for a program designed to match and train workers for the needs of the foodservice industry.


From Jordi Morgan | Vice-President, Atlantic Canada

Nova Scotia: Immigration

The pause of the Provincial Nominee Program by Nova Scotia Immigration and Population Growth (IPG) for our sector has raised many questions for operators.

Following Kelly Higginson’s visit to Halifax early in May, IPG has reached out on the immigration files to provide information for our members to connect with navigators. These IPG Senior Engagement Specialists are in place to help you understand the best way to engage the immigration system and identify options to recruit and retain international workers. 

David Sévette, Senior Engagement Specialist: | 902-223-7984

Mar Duocastella, Assistant Senior Engagement Specialist: | 902-219-1349

There are also community navigators located around the province and they are currently adding to staff in the Halifax and Cumberland/Colchester areas.

Officials also asked that we encourage employers to check out Nova Scotia Works which is matching job seekers with openings. You can find helpful immigration information here.

You can also find information on hiring locally on the refreshed Nova Scotia Works website.

All of this aligns with federal discussions with ministers and staff at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada on Restaurants Canada’s request for a program that matches and supports unemployed open-work-permitted newcomers with opportunities in our industry.

Nova Scotia: First Reading of Bill Targeting Gratuity Theft by Employers

Last October, The Nova Scotia NDP gave first reading to Bill 366, Tip and Gratuity Theft Prevention Act, a private Members’ bill aimed at restricting tip and gratuity theft by employers.

The bill was brought forward by Kendra Coombes, the MLA for Cape Breton Centre–Whitney Pier. The bill’s purpose is to provide language to clarify the way tips and gratuities may be managed. While it seems inactive, we are currently having the bill analyzed in the event Restaurants Canada is called upon to make an intervention at Public Accounts.

Prince Edward Island: Upcoming Meetings

I will be meeting next week with immigration and tourism officials in PEI to provide more clarity around our recent proposal and discuss employment standards issues including minimum wage.

Newfoundland & Labrador: Wage Supports

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has opened applications for its new small and medium-sized business wage subsidy program, which provides $2,500 to $5,000 to eligible applicants. About 600 businesses are expected to benefit from the more than $2 million available through the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Market Development funds. Eligible employers can apply online here.

Restaurants Canada has recommended similar programs to the governments of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to help employers adjust to the massive minimum wage increases we’ve seen over the past four years.

Newfoundland & Labrador: Upcoming Meetings

We are looking forward to a productive meeting with Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Siobhan Coady as we begin to develop Restaurants Canada’s 2024 edition of Raise the Bar, a cross-Canada examination of the beverage alcohol systems in each of the provinces. The government also announced a list of NLC regulatory changes recently which we will be very interested in discussing.


From Kris Barnier | Vice President, Central Canada and the North

Northwest Territories: Opportunity to Participate in Mental Wellness and Additions Recovery Advisory Group

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is inviting interested members of the public to apply to serve as a representative on the NWT Mental Wellness and Addictions Recovery (MWAR) Advisory Group. Applications are due May 31st. Learn more and review the criteria here.

Yukon: Federal and Territorial Governments Announce New Funding for Regional Flood Mapping

The Government of Canada is investing in flood hazard mapping through the Natural Resources Canada-led Flood Hazard Identification and Mapping Program (FHIMP). This program supports collaborative efforts with provinces and territories to enhance flood hazard mapping on a cost-shared basis. As part of this initiative, 14 flood-prone communities in the Yukon have been identified for this mapping effort, including Teslin, Carcross, Tagish, Marsh Lake, Lake Laberge, Upper Liard, Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, Whitehorse, Carmacks, Dawson, Klondike Valley, and Old Crow. The flood hazard maps for these communities are slated for completion by 2028. You can learn more here.

Manitoba: Upcoming Meetings

I am planning to be in Manitoba the week of May 20-24th to participate in a Board of Directors planning session with Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba (MMSM). While there, I will be also be attending meetings with Manitoba Restaurants and Foodservice Association (MRFA), government, and provincial members to discuss key member priorities. 

Manitoba: Provincial Government Hosts Public Safety Summit

The new government has acknowledged that crime is a top issue facing Manitobans, including restaurants.

On April 30th in Winnipeg, the Manitoba government hosted a public safety summit which included sessions on mental health, addictions and homelessness, youth violence, gender-based violence and MMIWG2S+, rural and northern safety, access to justice and victim services, vandalism, theft and property crime, law enforcement, organized crime, and strengthening the criminal code.

While the recent budget included several welcomed measures aiming to combat crime, the government fell $2M short on its commitment to deliver on a $2.5M program to help people and businesses with security costs. I am working closely with MRFA on pushing the government to honour this specific commitment.  

Manitoba: MFRA and Restaurants Canada Meetings with Manitoba Government

During my recent visit to Manitoba, MRFA Executive Director and CEO Shaun Jeffrey and I had the opportunity to meet with the Premier’s Office. We engaged with senior staff representing key ministers whose portfolios are closely aligned with our members’ priorities.

We helped them understand the important role our members play as employers, as buyers of goods and services from other businesses, as taxpayers, and as community builders. We spoke with them about how market forces and government policies are driving operating costs up at a pace that far exceeds growth in revenue and were able to share the reasons why governments must work with our sector to help our members return to profitability and keep their staff, patrons, and selves safe from crime.

Manitoba: Government Announcements

New Chair and Full-Time Vice-Chair Appointed to the Manitoba Labour Board

Karine Pelletier (Chair) has moved up from the Vice-Chair position and Helen Krahn (Vice-Chair) has moved from a part-time to a full-time role. Read more here.

Government Announces 45-Day Consultation on Hospitality Sector Regulation Aiming to Prevent Sexual Exploitation
The measure targets hotels and other temporary accommodations and I have flagged it for MRFA.  Comments are due June 14. Read more here.  

Ontario: Provincial Government Introduces New Labour Bill: Working for Workers Five Act, 2024

David Piccini, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, announced the introduction of a new bill: the Working for Workers Five Act, 2024. The government says the intent of the bill is to “open new pathways into skilled trades, remove barriers to employment, protect frontline heroes and support women at work.”

The  Ontario government’s news release and backgrounder on the bill provide more background.

While broadly applicable, the bill generally appears to target the construction industry. Its measures include:

Washrooms – Requirements to ensure that workplace washrooms are kept clean and sanitary and to maintain records of washroom cleaning.

Anti-Harassment – This will include efforts to protect employees from online harassment. Ontario will consult on the creation of a duty to act for employers where investigations have identified workplace harassment has occurred.

Apprenticeships – Plans to expand apprenticeships and cooperative education for students in Grades 11 and 12 who wish to pursue careers in the skilled trades.

Internationally Trained Workers – Measures targeting internationally trained workers, including expanding occupations eligible for the In-Demand Skills stream for the Ontario Nominee Program (OINP). Restaurants Canada understands this will include classes of workers involved in food supply chains, but not directly restaurant workers.  (See the backgrounder above for additional measures).

Changes to Sicknote Policies – Prohibiting sick notes for a worker’s job-protected sick leave.

Ghost Jobs and Notifying Unsuccessful Interviewees – Requiring employers to disclose in publicly advertised job postings whether a position is vacant and respond to applicants they have interviewed for those jobs. If passed, the Ministry would consult with stakeholders to develop an education-first approach to implement these changes. (Restaurants Canada understands this measure will target larger employers).

Fines – Doubling the maximum fine for individuals convicted of violating the ESA (to $100K).

Restaurants Canada will monitor the bill as it progresses through the legislative process and will engage with the government on items of relevance and importance to our members.

Ontario: Province Announces Plans to Make it Easier to Enter Skilled Trades

As a key item building on the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), Ontario is creating a new stream, called Focused Apprenticeship Skills Training (FAST), that will allow students in Grades 11 and 12 to participate in more apprenticeship learning through additional co-operative education credits while completing high school. 

Restaurants Canada has engaged with key ministerial offices and will continue to speak with them about the importance of ensuring all skilled trades, including those that touch the foodservices sector, are included in the program. The news release can be found here.

Ontario: City of Toronto Says CaféTO Program on Track

Mayor Olivia Chow recently outlined the City of Toronto’s plans to launch the Curb Lane CaféTO 2024 season sooner than ever before and deliver on the City’s commitment to open 90 per cent of curb lane patios by the Victoria Day long weekend.

The City has shared that more than 1,000 patios will be opened as part of CaféTO, noting that more than 500 sidewalk cafés remain in place year-round and more than 650 patios on private property. More than 290 curb lane patio spaces will stay open until October 15. The news release can be found here


From Mark von Schellwitz | Vice-President, Western Canada

British Columbia: Victory! B.C. Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act Paused

Further to previous Bill 12 updates, we are pleased to report that, in response to lobbying efforts by Restaurants Canada and several other business sector stakeholders voicing liability concerns with Bill 12- Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act, the BC government has decided to pause the legislation.

As the initial target of the legislation was online digital platforms, the government took the opportunity to also announce they reached an agreement with digital platform companies for a BC Online Safety Action Table. Here is the Joint Statement announcing both the legislative pause and the creation of the BC Online Safety Action Table.

The decision to pause the legislation follows a couple of weeks of intensive lobbying activities including meetings with ministers, opposition MLAs, the Premier’s Office, and the Attorney General, to address the business community’s concerns. We are pleased the government listened to our concerns by pausing the legislation. Given the upcoming B.C. election in October, it is unlikely there will be any further developments on possible public health cost recovery legislation until after the election. 

British Columbia: Preventing Non-Residential Packaging and Paper Products Consultation 

The B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has launched a consultation and discussion paper on preventing non-residential packaging and paper waste. As this has implications for foodservice, Restaurants Canada has been invited to provide a submission responding to the discussion paper’s questions by July 23, 2024.

Interested members may want to sign up for upcoming info sessions to learn more about the discussion paper and consultation. In the coming weeks Restaurants Canada will also invite BC Environment Ministry staff to participate in a Restaurants Canada member webinar on the issue.

Further information on the consultation can be found here.

At the time of writing this note, I’m getting ready to head to Chicago for the National Restaurants Show over the long weekend to meet and mingle with the North American industry and participate in an exciting women leaders event. This is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate, share insights, and learn from the experiences of trailblazing women who are shaping our industry. I look forward to bringing back valuable strategies and innovative ideas that will benefit our team and help propel our industry forward.

Hoping you all had a safe and restorative break over the long weekend, and that you found ample time to care for yourselves and cherish moments with your loved ones.

Yours in fostering a vibrant and strong future for our industry and the well-being of us all.

Kelly Higginson