COCA Corner: Building Ontario’s future together

By Ian Cunningham

I’m pleased to submit this report to the Barrie Construction Association highlighting the recent activities and accomplishments of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA). As readers may know, COCA is a federation of 29 construction associations whose 10,000 general and trade contractor members operate in the industrial, commercial, institutional, and heavy civil segments of the construction industry, in all regions of the province.

These affiliated contractors are enterprises of all sizes from smallest to largest and are both unionized and non-union. COCA is mandated to work with our members and senior officials in the Ontario government to ensure that the province’s laws and regulations support success in the construction industry and broad prosperity across the province. COCA is your voice at Queen’s Park.

With the pandemic clearly in the rear-view mirror, COCA hit the ground running as dawn lifted on 2023.

Here are some highlights from the year’s first six months:

  • Our pre-budget submission recommended that the provincial government: i) conduct a review of the Construction Act with a view to eliminating bugs,  glitches and process disconnects that have become apparent in the application of this new statute; ii) strengthening the province’s workers compensation system by transferring ministerial oversight to the ministry of finance, by determining loss of earnings benefits fairly and based on an injured worker’s pre-injury earnings and by eliminating the 72-month lock-in provision; iii) continue to deliver on planned investments in public infrastructure and roll out new projects in a way that considers the capacity of the industry; iv) get the province’s new apprenticeship agency, Skilled Trades Ontario (STO), fully functional as quickly as possible to build a strong, domestically trained construction work force; v) collaborate with the federal government to admit more immigrants with construction trades skills and experience to Ontario to help fill the skills gap; vi) streamline the  processes in the ministry of labour for the review and approval of recommendations that have been developed and fully vetted by the Provincial Labour-Management Health and Safety Committee to enhance health and safety on construction sites across the province.
  • COCA continued develop a list of process bugs, glitches and disconnects in the Construction Act as they have become apparent and has actively lobbied senior officials in the provincial government for changes to this relatively new statute to make it work more effectively and coherently. We are optimistic that this will lead to amendments to the Construction Act in the not-too-distant future.
  • We hosted a widely watched webinar and launched a highly successful multi-channel awareness campaign to help construction project owners, general contractors and trade contractors understand how the new prompt payment and adjudication system works and how to align their business practices to be ready in the event a payment dispute arises. Everything possible is being undertaken to make contractors aware of the prompt payment and adjudication provisions in the Construction Act so they get paid on time and to make timely payment the norm in the industry. Check out the prompt payment and adjudication information on COCA’s website at and then get your invoicing processes aligned.
  • Members were informed of changes to their health and safety obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act including new requirements for certain employers to have naloxone kits at their worksites and workers trained in their use, new requirements for washroom and clean-up facilities, and an increase to the maximum fine for the most egregious contraventions of the Act to $2 million
  • We successfully opposed the implementation of a $200 per locate fee proposed by Enbridge and we supported the recommendations of a coalition of heavy civil construction interests with respect to improving the province’s system for underground infrastructure locates
  • COCA participated in the Annual Construction Associations Curling Bonspiel along with teams from construction associations from Windsor, London, Grand Valley Toronto and host Hamilton-Halton. This event is among the industry’s very best annual networking opportunities!
  • We hosted a members Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony in Niagara Falls; recognized with COCA’s Hard Hat Award of Excellence were GVCA past chair and COCA vice chair Ted Dreyer and TCA past chair and current TCA director Glenn Ackerley; receiving COCA’s Industry Ally Award  were recently retired IHSA vice president Dean Dunn and recently retired Helmets to Hard Hats executive director Joe Maloney; COCA’s Chair’s Awards were presented to ISCA director of government and labour relations Jeff Koller, OIRCA executive director Don Marks and LDCA executive  director Mike Carter; ECAO director of health and safety Tom MacKay was presented with the President’s Award; carried over from 2022 was a Chair’s Award presentation to WCA executive director Jim Lyons.
  • We continued our program of member engagement with monthly newsletters, GR Reports, member alerts and of course our 2022 Year in Review “Building Ontario’s Future Together”. Our member engagement program also includes visits to member association events such as board meetings, awards dinners, networking events and golf tournaments and this year included participation in the BCA’s Construction Day in which about 30 co-op teachers and guidance counsellors from local high schools visited two construction sites to see construction trades in action and enjoy a Q&A session with industry leaders.

It is on your behalf and with involvement of an army of volunteers from our 29 member associations that this work has been undertaken.  The BCA is very capably represented around the COCA table by your past president, Blair Chalmers and your executive director, Alison Smith. We are grateful for their dedicated support and thoughtful advice that ensure the interests and views of the Barrie region are heard loud and clear.  And I trust the activities highlighted above have served to make your association, your members and the industry in your region more successful.

If you have concerns, ideas and solutions to improve Ontario’s legislative and regulatory framework that will make life better for contractors and all Ontarians, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Together, we can build Ontario’s future.

Ian Cunningham is COCA’s president and chief operating officer