By Ian Cunningham president,
Council of Ontario Construction Associations
The Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) is a federation of 26 construction associations. We’re mandated to work with our members and with the government of Ontario to develop and advance public policy solutions that support success in the construction industry and foster broad prosperity across the province.
Representing approximately 10,000 contractors who employ in excess of 400,000 workers, COCA is the largest and most representative voice for non-residential construction employers in Ontario. We are proud to count the Barrie Construction Association in our membership and to have BCA member Gary van Bolderen of Dutch Masters Construction Services providing strong leadership to our organization as its chair and BCA past chair, and current director Anita Stacey of Cowden- Woods Design Builders capably serving as our vice chair.
In the course of our work at COCA, we visit with most of our member associations at least once a year. In the case of the BCA it’s several times a year, usually at your annual general meeting, your golf tournament at Bear Creek and the members’ BBQ. These visits are important because they give us the opportunity to broaden our relationships with our member associations beyond their boards of directors and staff to the hard working rank and file contractor members. Through conversations at member events we get to know what’s really on the minds of contractors. And it’s a rare occasion when the issue of getting paid in a fair and timely way doesn’t come up. That’s why COCA’s top public policy priority over the last six years has been the implementation of prompt payment legislation for construction projects in Ontario. Prompt payment legislation exists in most jurisdictions in the developed world, except in Canada. It’s in place to address the serious problem of delayed payments that is a pervasive and endemic plague to construction projects everywhere. As a result of our efforts there have already been two Private Members’ Bills introduced in the Ontario legislature. Unfortunately, neither one made it through the legislative process to become law.
But because of pressure from COCA and other industry players, in February 2015, the Government of Ontario launched a comprehensive review of the Construction Lien Act. (CLA reform has also been a high priority of COCA’s for many years.) The review was also mandated to consider the industry’s chronic delayed payment issue. That review was completed on May 1, 2016 but the cabinet shuffle in mid-June has delayed its public release. New cabinet ministers and their political staffs have to get up to speed on all the various files in their new ministries. Despite the long time this has taken, we remain optimistic that the report will be released soon and that it will recommend an appropriate modernization of the Construction Lien Act and a payment regime that puts an end to the scourge of long overdue payments.
Even if the report’s recommendations are completely to our liking, the battle for prompt payment legislation will not be won. It’s still a long way to the finish line. The next step will be putting pressure on the government to turn the report’s recommendations into a Bill and to make the passage of that Bill into law a top priority.
When we visit with our member associations, we also hear from contractors about their challenges with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). That’s why we’ve been working with the provincial compensation agency to keep premium rates in check and on the development of a new classification system, rate setting process and experience rating program. As a result of the efforts of COCA and others, contractors can expect reduced premium rates for 2017 and can look forward to the introduction of a simpler classification system and an easy to understand experience rating program starting on January 1, 2019 or 2020.
COCA has also shown leadership in the area of health and safety. We have successfully advocated for the continuation of the WSIB’s Safety Groups Program. Additionally, we have been an active participant on the Provincial Labour-Management Health and Safety Committee (PLMHSC) that provides advice directly to the Minister of Labour on important health and safety matters and on the Prevention Employers Partnership (PEP) which, along with the PLMHSC, serves as the primary stakeholder reference group for the Ministry of Labour’s Chief Prevention Officer.
COCA has advocated for the development of an accreditation program broadly based on the existing Certificate of Recognition (CoR) program and the development of this program for high achieving companies is finally a priority of the Prevention Office.
COCA relies on the help of its members to achieve its public policy objectives. One way that members help is by participating in our annual Construction Day at Queen’s Park industry lobby day. This year a record number of 38 volunteers from 17 associations advanced the need for prompt payment legislation in a record number of 48 meetings with cabinet ministers, PAs, MPPs and senior political staffers at COCA’s 7th Construction Day at Queen’s Park. Included in this activity were Anita Stacey, Dave Beardsall, Blair Chalmers and Alison Smith from the Barrie Construction Association. As a result of this strong participation by members, we have achieved a high level of support for prompt payment legislation from most members of the three political parties at Queen’s Park.
Another way our members help out is through participation on our committees and task forces. Members of your association have also participated on many of these, including our Construction Lien Act Review Task Force, our College of Trades Task Force and our COO Committee.
Our members showed their support for COCA once again with their attendance at our Annual General Meeting that featured a keynote address by the leader of the Official Opposition in the Ontario Legislature and the MPP for the riding of Simcoe North, Patrick Brown. A record number of 13 awards were presented to recognize the significant contributions made by individuals to the success of our organization, including the recognition of Ted Dreyer of the Grand Valley Construction Association for his leadership of the Construction Lien Act Review Task Force with COCA’s most prestigious honour, the Cliff Bulmer Award.
As you can tell by now, COCA strives to be a member driven organization. We understand fully that we are in business only to serve the collective views of our members. It’s only with the support of organizations like the BCA and its members that we can achieve our goals. We are grateful for your support and look forward to your continuing active participation.