The COCA advantage

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By Ian Cunningham

I’m pleased to write once again for the Barrie Construction Association’s annual publication on behalf of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA).  By way of introduction, COCA is a federation of 29 construction associations. Through the federation, our membership represents approximately 10,000 general and trades contractors of all sizes who work in all regions of the province in the industrial, commercial and institutional parts of our industry. We are mandated to work with our members and with senior officials at Queen’s Park to ensure the legislative and regulatory framework in Ontario supports success in the construction industry and broad prosperity across the province. We are your voice at Queen’s Park.

Examples of some of our recent accomplishments include the following:

  • As a result of our efforts, the Construction Lien Act, now called the Construction Act, was modernized. Changes took effect on July 1, 2018;
  • We have lobbied vigorously for a prompt payment regime and a dispute resolution system for construction projects. These were introduced in the new Construction Act and we have been assured by the province’s Attorney General these provisions will come into force as scheduled on Oct. 1, 2019;
  • We were successful in having the onerous scheduling obligations and personal emergency leave (PEL) requirements that were added to the Employment Standards Act by the previous government, unwound;
  • We worked with the WSIB to deliver premium rate reductions for all construction rate groups for 2019 and we anticipate further reductions in 2020. The WSIB will announce 2020 rates at its annual general meeting scheduled for September 25, 2019;
  • We have worked with the WSIB on implementation policies for their new Rate Framework, which includes a new employer classification system, a new employer-centric rate setting process and new prospective experience rating program to replace CAD 7 and MAP. The Rate Framework will be implemented on January 1, 2020. To this end, the WSIB has notified all employers where they will land in the new classification system – employers should look for this notification in their files and if they don’t agree with the WSIB’s classification determination, to contact the WSIB – this is doubly important for employers that are currently multi-rated;
  • We have made a submission to the government’s WSIB operational review and made recommendations to ensure the province’s compensation system is managed effectively and efficiently and remains sustainable long into the future;
  • Improving the performance of the province’s occupational health and safety system is a constant work in progress for COCA and we have been working with the WSIB on the development of its Health and Safety Excellence Program (HSEP) that will replace their long standing and successful Safety Groups Program. The HSEP, to be introduced in November 2019, is designed to attract many more participants than the Safety Groups Program; it will be a voluntary program and will present employer participants with a 36 module journey that is expected to lead to towards a new Ministry of Labour status currently called “Accreditation”. Accreditation will recognize companies that effectively use health and safety management systems that meet the Accreditation Standard; HSEP will deliver significant financial rewards to successful participant;
  • The province’s health and safety system includes the Ministry of Labour’s Prevention Office, its Operations (Enforcement) Division and Policy Division, the WSIB, the health and safety associations (HSAs) including the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) which is responsible for developing and delivering programs and services for the construction industry. The system is guided by an overarching strategy to make sure all of these independent organizations are aligned. The expiration date of the last strategy was December 2018 so we are working with the Prevention Office on the development of the next strategy;
  • We pressed Ontario’s new government to continue to invest in public infrastructure, particularly core infrastructure that supports the economy and our way of life. In its March 2019 budget, the government committed to investments in 2019-20 of $14.7 billion and $144.2 billion over the next 10 years.
  • During the campaign leading up to the June 2018 Ontario general election, the Progressive Conservatives promised to dismantle the province’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system, the Ontario College of Trades (OCoT), which was launched in April 2012 and was the source of significant controversy. Once the PCs formed government, the process of winding down OCoT began. The government’s March 2019 budget provided framework legislation, the Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act (MSTAA). We are currently working with the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities in the development of a modern, efficient and effective system that will serve apprentices, employer sponsors, journeypersons and our industry;
  • On March 19th COCA held its annual lobby day at Queen’s Park. The June 2018 Ontario general election brought about a change in government and 74 brand new members in the Ontario Legislature. Our goal at this year’s lobby day was to introduce COCA to many of these new members so that COCA was “top of mind” when construction issues arose. We also sought assurance from the Attorney General about the implementation of the prompt payment regime and the dispute resolution system as scheduled in the new Construction Act, on Oct. 1, 2019 and we received an unequivocal positive response;

These are the highlights of the last twelve months at COCA. I trust the members of the Barrie Construction Association value these efforts.

            Ian Cunningham is COCA’s president.

On behalf of our 10,000 general and trade contractor members I wish the members of the BCA much success in the construction season ahead.