It is a pleasure to have the opportunity, once again, to provide this report from your provincial construction federation, the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA). Members of the Barrie Construction Association (BCA) will know that COCA is mandated to work with its members and with senior officials at Queen’s Park to ensure that the province’s laws and regulations support success in the construction industry and foster broad prosperity across Ontario. COCA is your voice with the provincial government.
At time of writing, the Ontario general election took place just 90 days ago. The election had few surprises. The result was pretty much what the pollsters had predicted. Turnout was extremely low as only slightly more than 40% of eligible voters decided to cast their ballots. Of that 40% of eligible voters who voted, approximately 40% voted for the Ontario PC Party, 24% voted NDP, 24% voted Liberal and 6% voted Green. One of the surprises, because of the way the votes were distributed or concentrated across all the electoral districts in the province, was that this vote share delivered 83 seats (66.9% of the seats) in the province’s 124 seat legislature to the PCs, 31 to the NDP, 8 to the Liberals, 1 to the Greens and 1 Independent. There was a nail-biter in the Barrie area in the Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte riding in which two top notch candidates, the highly competent attorney general from the previous parliament Doug Downey for the PCs facing off against the popular mayor of Barrie Jeff Lehman for the Liberals with Downey coming out on top by about 300 votes.
Prior to the provincial election COCA sent letters to the leaders of all major political parties in the contest in which we laid out our “asks” in the event that their party was elected to form government. Here is what we asked them to commit to:
- A review of the Construction Act (as recommended by Reynolds and Vogel in their report “Striking the Balance” that led to the creation of the Act)
- Strengthen the province’s workers compensation system by:
- Transferring ministerial oversight for the WSIB from the Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development to the Ministry of Finance which is much better equipped with the financial and mathematical skills and understandings to oversee a large and complex insurance system
- Eliminate the 72-month lock-in provision which is unique to Ontario and serves as a barrier to getting injured workers back to productive work
- Continue with long term commitments to the province’s core infrastructure maintenance and development with projects sequenced in a way that as much as possible smooths the demand for construction services, to ensure competitive prices from multiple bids and to avoid stretching beyond the capacity of the industry
- Ontario is currently in the midst of a severe construction skills shortage which is projected to continue well into the future. Commit to ensuring that the province’s new apprenticeship and skilled trades system, which includes the MLTSD’s Employment Training Division, the MLTSD’s Fair, Safe and Healthy Workplace Division and an agency called Skilled Trades Ontario (STO), becomes fully operational and begins its work at an accelerated pace to make up for four lost years. The new system must:
- address the needs of the province’s labour market and focus on in-demand trades,
- be easy to access
- deliver up-to-date curriculum effectively
- provide the necessary supports for apprentices and sponsors, including financial supports
- hold training delivery agents and employers of apprentices accountable for the contributions they make to apprentices’ learnings and completions
- produce high apprentice completion rates
- evaluate trade equivalencies quickly and appropriately
- attract qualified young people to the fulfilling and rewarding careers in the construction industry in sufficient numbers to meet the skills gap.
- Work collaboratively with the federal government towards the admission into Ontario of a much greater number of immigrants with construction trades skills to help fill the skills gap in a more immediate way
- Provide relief for contractors from pandemic-related costs, project delay claims, not reasonably anticipated skyrocketing increases in project input costs
These are the priority issues that COCA will be pursuing in our advocacy work on your behalf, as Ontario’s 43rd Parliament swings into action.
- For a detailed review of your provincial construction federation’s activities and successes over the last year please visit our website at coca.on.ca where you will find our “2022 Year in Review” publication
As COVID case counts, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths began to subside, I am starting to get out and visit with some of our member associations once again. I look forward to my next visit with the members of the BCA.
Your association is in good hands with solid leadership. I can’t close without recognizing your President, Blair Chalmers who represents your interests on COCA’s board of directors, and your Executive Director Alison Smith who actively participates on our Chief Operating Officers Committee, for their important contributions they make to our the success of your provincial federation.
Together we are stronger and together we will build a brighter future!