COCA – Your Provincial Voice

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By Ian Cunningham

It’s always a pleasure for me to write for the Barrie Construction Association’s annual publication and it’s especially exciting this year because of the ground we have covered and the progress we have made over the past 12 months working together.

Before I begin to recap our recent accomplishments, first I want to thank the members of the BCA for your continuing membership and your ongoing support for our provincial construction federation. In addition to the membership fee you pay to COCA and the warm and generous hospitality you always greet me with at your annual meetings, golf tournaments and members’ days, COCA is also most grateful for the important contributions made by your executive director, Alison Smith, and by your COCA director, Scott Garrett. They are strong voices around the COCA table and they represent you well.

Last August, 25 COCA members gathered in Brantford, they rolled up their sleeves and put their thinking caps in high gear for a two-day planning retreat. The session was professionally facilitated by Erin Roberts, a not-for-profit consultant who is well known in the construction industry and who had previously done some work for COCA and with our Chief Operating Officers Committee.

The product of the retreat is a 17-page report that is COCA’s roadmap for the next few years. The report is quite operational, complete with action steps in the following seven areas: Membership retention; member attraction; advocacy; revenue diversification; communication plan to reach contractors; ensuring COCA is the “go-to” source for government and industry information; professional development for members’ staff. We have already begun to make progress with regard to the recommended action steps.

COCA’s core business is advocacy on behalf of our members and I will touch on our progress in this area first. Long-time BCA members will be aware that COCA has been lobbying for Construction Lien Act reform for more than 20 years and for prompt payment legislation for construction projects in the province since 2011. Well, we are almost there.

Legislation pursuant to the Reynolds-Vogel Report, which, if passed, will modernize the Construction Lien Act, introduce a prompt payment regime and introduce a dispute resolution mechanism for construction project disputes has been introduced into the legislature. The attorney general has stated that he is hopeful this bill will become law in Ontario before the end of 2017. When this happens, it will represent a major step forward and an enormous accomplishment.

On the health and safety file, COCA worked closely with the Ministry of Labour’s Prevention Office in the development of the Construction Health and Safety Action Plan which was made public on May 11 and we continue to provide advice with regard to the development of an accreditation standard which will recognize the best performing construction companies, encourage others to do better and allow the ministry to allocate its scarce resources more strategically.

We continue to work with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, now in the planning for the implementation of its new rate framework. This new framework includes a new employer classification system, a new rate setting process and a new, employer-centric prospective experience rating program. The new rate framework will be implemented on January 1, 2020.  All employers are strongly encouraged to take steps to improve their health and safety performance NOW to improve their starting point and premium rate in the new system.

The government expanded WSIB coverage to include chronic mental stress that has been caused by workplace factors. The WSIB has published a draft policy addressing how it will deal with chronic mental stress claims and COCA has provided advice that could lead to some important changes. We want to make sure that the diagnosis is made by an appropriately trained healthcare professional and that there is a strong connection to workplace stressors.

Coming out of the planning session our COCA chair, Gary van Bolderen (also a BCA member), made it his personal goal to grow the COCA membership. As a result of his efforts and the initiative taken by others, the Niagara Construction Association, the Ontario Erectors Association and the Ontario Sheet Metal Contractors Association have joined the COCA family of construction associations. Together we stand stronger.

I always enjoy my visits to the BCA to reconnect with the friends I’ve made over the years and to make some new friends too and to discuss the challenges and concerns of contractors in your region of the province. This is a critically important part of our work, meeting with contractors from across Ontario and learning what’s on their minds.

Between Gary van Bolderen and I, we have attended more than 15 member association’s AGMs this year. We continue to attend members’ events such as members’ days, awards dinners and golf tournaments in order meet with contractors at the front lines of the industry to get a better sense of the challenges and concerns of contractors from across the province.

Following the planning retreat’s roadmap, we have also presented a number of professional development learning opportunities for our Chief Operating Officers Committee. Among the sessions presented were not-for-profit governance, not-for-profit accounting, and workplace drug and alcohol policies.

There is a strong appetite among the senior staffers of our member associations for more training on association governance and other aspects of association management to make their organizations stronger and we will continue to provide those opportunities.

Before closing I want to thank you again for your support and remind you that COCA is your association and to invite you to contact us whenever you think we might be able to provide advice or assistance.

            Ian Cunningham is COCA’s president. See coca.on.ca.