Construction associations urge government to release Construction Lien Act review

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Industry associations, including the Ontario Masonry Contractors Association (OMCA) and the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) are expressing concern about the delay in releasing the Construction Lien Act Review, submitted by Bruce Reynolds and Sharon Fogel in May.

Sandra Skivsky, director of marketing and business development at the Canada Masonry Centre, says the Construction Lien Act Review and prompt payment have been almost full time work for herself and many others in the industry through a new organization, Prompt Payment Ontario. That the report on the review completed by Bruce Reynolds and Sharon Vogel has, as of printing, not been released, is a concern. “There has been a lot of time and cost invested by those who participated in the process. By their actions Vogel and Reynolds built a lot of goodwill with the industry but every day the government does not release the report, that goodwill slowly erodes.”

She says while she understands the recent cabinet shuffle may have required some time for the report to be fully disseminated, she says minister Yasir Naqvi, now attorney general and previously minister of labour, is very aware of the issue. “The report was originally due in December 2015 so we would have expected a framework for the release of the report would have been in place. Certainly then after Vogel and Reynolds were granted a four-month extension for the review, there should have been a hard deadline and process set.”

She says one of the promises made by the review was that there would be “prompt” release of the final report.

Skivsky says there has been a lack of transparency with respect to the release of the report and the reasons it has been delayed. She says she has had two meetings to date with senior staff and has been given no anticipated release date as of yet. She has also written to several ministers, including Naqvi and minister of infrastructure Bob Chiarelli, and has received no response.

While the provincial and federal government is talking about the ways construction will move Ontario forward, she says they are talking out of one hand, but not acting from the other. “How can construction move Ontario forward when the companies and people doing the work are not being paid? The government is encouraging careers in skilled trades and apprenticeships but then not supporting the employers who actually hire these apprentices and provide them with the on-site training and work hours required to write the Red Seal Exam in Ontario.”

She says delayed payment is an issue that affects families and the benefit and health and welfare plans of unionized trades people. “Quebec recently conducted a report that quantified the cost of delayed payment at $1 billion a year. Also, the Charbonneau Commission recommended a prompt payment regime to counter the infiltration of organized crime and bribery.”

Meanwhile, COCA has issued an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynn, which reads:

What Are You Waiting For? Where’s the Reynolds Report?

Dear Premier Wynne:

Ontario’s construction industry contributes approximately 6% to the province’s GDP and is among its largest employers with 450,000 workers. Not getting paid in a fair and timely way for work that has been completed without dispute is the most critical threat to the industry today. General and trade contractors and their suppliers are often forced to wait 120 days and longer for payments. These long overdue payments are a severe drag on the industry and the provincial economy. They force many contractors to go more deeply into debt in order to pay their workers, their overheads and their suppliers. Overdue payments drive up the cost of construction, reduce the number of apprentices hired and suppress investments in equipment and capital. That’s why the construction industry has been calling for the modernization of the Construction Lien Act for more than 20 years and for prompt payment legislation since 2011.

On March 28, 2014 your government announced that there would be an independent review of the Construction Lien Act. The announcement stated that the review would also study the issues of delayed payments in the construction industry that arose during the public hearings of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills addressing Bill 69 Prompt Payment Act 2013 that were then ongoing. That announcement caused the Standing Committee to set aside its further consideration of Bill 69.

The review was finally launched almost a year later on February 11, 2015. It was led by Counsel Bruce Reynolds and Co-Counsel Sharon Vogel who are held in high regard by all construction stakeholders. Their review process was open to everyone, it was engaging, fully transparent and exhaustively thorough. After two extensions, Reynolds and Vogel submitted their final written report the Attorney General on May 2, 2016.
Now, more than three months after the report’s submission, the construction industry is once again left waiting with no signal from the Ministry of the Attorney General regarding the status of the report.

The construction industry has waited long enough! Something must be done urgently! We implore you to introduce and pass legislation that will modernize the Construction Lien Act to address the realities of the industry as it exists today and that compels the fair and timely payment for work that’s been completed without dispute. This must be a high priority of your government and passed into law before the legislature rises for the next general election.

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