You asked and we answered – questions about interest rates, rent increases, layoffs and terminations of employment, grants of probate and conversion therapy.
As another year ends, it’s a time to reflect back on the year that was and look forward to the year that will be. I think many of us are still processing 2020 and the arrival of COVID-19, yet here we are almost three years later!
We looked back at the most frequent questions we received as well as our most-visited webpages in 2022. Below we have summarized what the law says about these hot topics and have pointed you in the direction of more information.
Inflation and rising interest rates
Inflation continues to be a persistent problem. The Bank of Canada has raised the policy interest rate by 4 points to 4.25% (as of December 7, 2022 and more hikes are still possible by the end of the year). When the economy is growing quickly, raising the policy interest rate increases the cost of borrowing money and discourages spending. In turn, the economy grows slower, which reduces inflation.
So, what does the law say about inflation and interest rates?
First, Canada’s Constitution Act, 1867 gives the federal government jurisdiction over interest and banking (except for credit unions and treasury branches). Exercising its authority, the federal government enacted the Bank of Canada Act, which gives the Bank of Canada its authority. Section 21 says the Bank must publicly share the minimum rate at which it is prepared to make loans or advances. This is the policy interest rate. So, while interest rates are about economics, the authority to manage the economy is based in law.
Learn more about the policy interest rate from the Bank of Canada’s website.
We continue to receive many questions about rent increases from both tenants and landlords. Are they legal? When can a landlord increase rent? By how much can a landlord increase rent?
So, what does the law say about rent increases?
Alberta’s Residential Tenancies Act governs the relationship between most landlords and tenants in the province. It includes terms that landlords and tenants cannot contract out of. The Act says when a landlord can increase rent and the notice they must give, all depending on whether it is a fixed tenancy (with an end date) or periodic tenancy (such as month-to-month). However, the Act does not say anything about how much the rent increase can be.
Read more about rent increases and more housing issues in our 2022 Housing and Consumer Year in Review article. And learn more about the law around rent increases on our Rent Increases page on CPLEA’s Laws for Landlords and Tenants in Alberta website.
Layoffs and terminations of employment
During this economic cooling off period, some employers may trim their workforce. Amazon, Twitter and Hootsuite have made headlines recently for mass layoffs.
So, what does the law say about layoffs?
First, the rules depend on which law applies. Alberta’s Employment Standards Code applies to most workers in Alberta. The Canada Labour Code applies to workers in Alberta who work in federally regulated workplaces.
Second, terms are important. At law, the term ‘layoff’ refers to a temporary layoff where the employer can recall the employee. Other times people use it to mean a termination without cause. Let’s briefly look at both.
An employer can temporarily layoff an employee with whom they wish to maintain an employment relationship. Often this happens during periods of slowdown. The Employment Standards Code says employment terminates if an employee is laid off for more than 90 days within a 120-day period. The layoff then becomes a termination without cause.
A termination without cause is where an employee has not done anything wrong but the employer still wants to terminate their employment. (A termination with cause is where the employee has behaved poorly so to justify termination.) When an employer terminates an employee without cause, they must give the employee notice or pay in lieu of notice of the termination. Since the employee has not done anything wrong, notice is meant to give them time to find a new job. The amount of notice depends on legislation and common law (judge-made law).
Note that the rules for without cause terminations are a bit different under the Canada Labour Code, which provides union-like protections to non-union workers.
Employees with questions about their employment ending and whether they are entitled to termination pay can read more about their rights at work from CPLEA or contact the Workers’ Resource Centre.
Grants of Probate
We have received lots of questions about grants of probate – what they are, how to get one, and how to find out if the court issued one.
So, what does the law say about grants of probate?
A grant of probate is a court order that confirms the persons named have authority to deal with the deceased’s estate. A grant is not always necessary, depending on what is in the estate. When a grant is necessary, the personal representative must complete the grant application and take several other steps to get permission from the court to act. The personal representative may not be able to deal with the estate until they get the grant.
On June 15, 2022, the process for getting a grant of probate changed, including the applications forms. The new forms simplify the process for personal representatives. If a lawyer is helping the personal representative, the lawyer can file the documents online with the court. If the personal representative is preparing the application themselves, they must file a paper copy with the court.
When it comes to finding out if the court issued a grant of probate, the curious individual may want to contact the personal representative. If that is not an option, you can pay a fee to search the court records at the appropriate courthouse.
For more information on grants of probate, read CPLEA’s Getting a Grant of Probate booklet.
Ban on Conversion Therapy
Equality, diversity and inclusion efforts continue to be at the forefront of society, the courts and politics. And this year, the conversation included conversion therapy – what it is and the harm it causes.
So what does the law say about conversion therapy?
On January 7, 2022, new Criminal Code provisions came into effect that ban conversion therapy and related conduct. It is now illegal to make someone undergo conversion therapy, as well as to provide, promote, advertise or make money off it. CPLEA hosted a virtual panel discussion on the topic with special guests Blake Desjarlais, MP, Emmet Michael, Glynnis Lieb, Rin Lawrence, and Charles Easton. Watch the recording on CPLEA’s YouTube channel.
For more information on the ban on conversion therapy, see CPLEA’s information resources, including an info sheet, poster, FAQs and video.
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The information in this article was correct at time of publishing. The law may have changed since then. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LawNow or the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.
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