STAFF WRITER – The Ontario Construction Report
Concerns growing over delay in releasing Construction Lien Act Review
The Ontario Masonry Contractors’ Association (OMCA) continues to establish new partnerships as it advocates for issues critical to the industry, including prompt payment, and supports its members through training and education.
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,” she said. “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.”
Prompt Payment legislation exists virtually everywhere else in the world, she says, except in Canadian provinces. Skivsky says OMCA will continue to monitor the situation provincially. She is also hopeful that Bill S224, currently with the Senate, will get to the House of Commons in the fall of this year. This is something the National Trade Contractors Coalition has been working towards for a long time.
“The crux of a healthy and vibrant industry is giving those who employ and build, the security to pay their bills, invest in their companies and employ good people, so they can continue to do good work. It is extremely short-sighted of the government to tout the construction industry as an economic driver while trade contractors are bleeding to their financial death. Having a prompt payment regime will increase the economic impact of every dollar the government invests.”
While efforts with prompt payment continue, OMCA is also working on other initiatives and efforts aimed at supporting the industry. OMCA is continuing its focus on creating new and effective partnerships.
Through the Ontario Masonry Training Centre (OMTC), the association currently has apprenticeship programs delivered in partnership with Ottawa’s Algonquin College and La Cite Collegiale, and in Waterloo through Conestoga College. It has also developed a unique program with the Windsor Essex District Catholic School Board (WEDCSB) for kids in grades 7 through 12, and is working on another with St. Clair College in Windsor which, if initiated, would be the fourth regional delivery of the bricklayer apprentice program.
“We have a masonry shop we’ve constructed for the WEDCSB that allows students to start training in grades seven and eight. They can then continue right through high school so by the time they graduate they have achieved their first level of training.”
The association is also involved with the Coalition for Fair Construction Practices, a group which works to educate and advocate against government intervention in the selection of construction material, by legislating a preference for wood. “We have always held that the designer is in the best position to decide the right materials for any project based on function and aesthetics. For a government to fund the use of one material over another, to favour one industry over another, is unconscionable.”
OMCA is a partner in the Canada Masonry Design Centre (CMDC), publisher of the university textbook Masonry Structures: Behaviour and Design for engineers and a member of the Canadian Masonry Contractors Association (CMCA), which publishes the Textbook of Canadian Masonry for apprenticeship training. Both the CMDC and CMCA are currently involved in developing new editions for the textbooks.
Skivsky says the apprenticeship textbook, launched in 2010, was an industry first and well received as reflected in the 5,000 copies sold.
On a national level, OMCA will be taking part in the CMCA’s annual masonry conference in Halifax in June 2017. “This will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the association. It also coincides with the thirteenth Canadian Masonry Symposium, an event that happens every four years in Canada and brings together masonry professors/ researchers and their students from around the world.”
For more information on OMCA, upcoming events, publications and more, visit canadamasonrycentre.com.