April 2021

Welcome to COCA's monthly Newsletter. Unless noted otherwise, all articles written by COCA President, Ian Cunningham.

Chairs Corner
As I start my year as Chair of COCA, we find ourselves overwhelmed with major issues that are dominated by the pandemic. The SARS-CoV-2 virus has paralyzed the province for over a year but fortunately the Construction sector has been allowed to continue to work as an essential service.  

Although things do look promising with the government pledging to vaccinate all Ontarians who wish to be vaccinated by the end of June, the vaccination roll out has been challenging with many appointments going unfilled and hundreds of thousands of seniors yet to be vaccinated.

The government is planning to set up mobile vaccination centers in designated hotspots with residents 18 years of age or older eligible for the vaccine. The government is also committing to going directly to manufacturing and processing facilities where there are higher incident rates to make it easier for employees in high-risk work environments to get the shot. Will the Construction Industry get the same consideration? Will on site mobile vaccination centers be a possibility on construction job sites? We need a commitment and a sense of duty from everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The only significant limitation is the supply of vaccine supplies.  This is the single biggest issue facing all Ontarians today. It is a matter of life and death. 

On another topic, COCA is about to release our Anti-Racism Toolkit. We know that systemic and lasting change won’t happen overnight, but the journey to racial equality must start now. Please take time to read the toolkit and have your respective organizations take note and follow the leadership set out by other organizations such as ECAO, BILD, Tridel, RESCON, and EllisDon. 

And finally, I wish to comment on labour shortages that will befall on our province. The 2021 – 2030 Buildforce Canada Report released on March 23, 2021 made it quite clear that we are heading for a sizeable labour shortage. We will need 116,000 additional workers by the end of the decade. Even with recruitment efforts it is estimated that we will be 31,400 workers short. We need to get more women into the trades, more indigenous people, and more international migrants into the construction labour force. 

I would like to wish you all a very safe spring/summer season. Please do not gather and follow public health recommendations. Get vaccinated as soon as you are able to. 

Romeo Milano 
COCA 2020 Year in Review
COCA’s 2020 Year in Review takes a look back at 2020, at our accomplishments and a glimpse of what lies ahead.

Download/view the Year in Review in Magazine magazine view: https://www.coca.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/COCA_AR2020_Spreads_Final.pdf

Download/view the Year in Review in Magazine single page view: https://www.coca.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/COCA_AR2020_Final-singles.pdf
Be Extra Vigilant on Construction Sites 

We have been asked by the Province’s Chief Prevention Officer to reinforce with contractors the need to be extra vigilant with respect to active screening, masking and Infection Control protocols.  
I don’t know this for sure but I can guess that this advice could be the result of recent observations of practices on some construction sites. As the extremely virulent COVID variants of concern drive daily case counts to record high levels in Ontario, some contractors, supervisors, workers may be letting their guards down. At this time, contractors must be extra vigilant and follow all the prescribed health and safety protocols to combat the spread of the virus.  
The industry has performed remarkably well throughout the pandemic. The number of approved WSIB claims for workplace transmissions of the virus remains low, especially considering about 500,000 people are working in our industry every day. 
That said, we must not rest on our laurels. Now is not the time to let our guard down. With the extremely contagious COVID19 mutations raging throughout the Province, if anything, it’s the time to take every extra precaution possible.  
A word of warning (from me, based on absolutely no inside information, just my personal observation), remember that on Sunday, April 11th the Minister of Education sent a letter to all school boards and parents stating that schools would remain open after the Spring Break. Like construction sites, statistically schools were safe.  Like construction, there had been a small number of localized outbreaks but based on the numbers, schools were safe. The very next day the government reversed course and announced that schools would be closed indefinitely following Spring Break and classes would be conducted online.  
The government’s primary tool in combatting the spread of the virus is limiting personal mobility. The fewer the number of people that are moving around, the less likely will be the spread of the virus. That’s the purpose of the stay-at-home order, to limit personal mobility. The fewer the number of people who are out there moving around, the less is the opportunity for the virus to spread. It doesn’t matter whether it’s farm workers, food processing plant workers, warehouse and distribution workers, electricity generation plant workers, electricity transmission and distribution workers, water purification plant workers, sewage treatment plant workers, sanitation workers, grocery store and pharmacy workers, construction workers, teachers, students, old, young – the fewer people that are out there moving around, the lower the rate of virus spread.  So what will happen if the daily case numbers continue to climb. Will the government reduce mobility even further and if so, who’s next?  
Let’s do everything we can to keep construction sites safe. Hopefully we are nearing  the end of this battle with the virus. Be extra vigilant for a little while longer so that life can normalize a little bit sooner. 
Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act 2021 Passes Into Law 

Bill 238 passed third reading on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 and received Royal Assent the next day. The Bill passed in its original form; no amendments were made from the time it was introduced. This Bill does the following: 
  • For the period from January 1-December 31, 2021, the maximum insurable earnings ceiling for employers (which caps the insurable earnings on which an employer pays premiums for each of their workers) will be $97,308, or such other amount as the government may set by regulation.  
  • The government may, by regulation, set an amount for the maximum insurable earnings ceiling for the 2022 calendar year.  
  • The WSIB is required to provide information that the Minister considers necessary for the proper administration of the WSIA to the Minister; the Minister’s powers under this section may be delegated to the Deputy Minister. 
MLTDS Consults on Expanding Mandatory WSIB Coverage 
The Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) has launched a public consultation  soliciting advice about extending mandatory WSIB coverage to employers in workplaces that commonly employ developmental support workers (DSWs) and personal support workers (PSWs) but are not currently subject to mandatory coverage. Examples of such places of employment include private retirement residences and private group homes.  
The MLTSD has prepared a consultation paper that briefly outlines the issues and poses four questions on which it is seeking feedback. The report from the WSIB Operational Review recommended expanding coverage to this group. Complete information and details of how to make submissions is available on Ontario’s Regulatory Registry at the following link:   
The consultation questions are as follows: 
  1. The WSIB covers work-related injuries and occupational diseases (including infectious diseases like COVID-19). Would extending mandatory coverage to all employers of PSWs and DSWs help improve worker protections?  
  2. What benefits and services would WSIB coverage provide to PSWs and DSWs that are not provided under private insurance schemes? 
  3. Would extending coverage to all employers of PSWs and DSWs help with recruitment and retention of these frontline workers?  
  4. The recommendation to extend mandatory WSIB coverage to DSWs and PSWs did not speak to what threshold to consider as a standard to extend coverage (i.e. PSWs and DSWs who make up a significant portion of an employer’s workforce be covered, as opposed to an employer who may employ a single PSW or DSW in their organization). What might be an appropriate threshold (i.e. the proportion of PSWs/DSWs working for an employer) to consider as a standard to extend coverage?  
The consultation paper also notes that if there are additional considerations, issues, or ideas about extending mandatory coverage to employers of PSWs and DSWs that are not addressed through these questions, you are invited to take this opportunity to share those thoughts as well. 
The deadline for submissions to the MLTSD is April 28, 2021
COVID 19 WSIB Claims Increase 

As of April 9, 2021, the WSIB is reporting the following regarding COVID19 claims:  
  • A total of 20,504 claims have been allowed, 2,001 denied and 273 are pending a decision 
  • 6,440 exposure incidents have been received 
  • 18 claims have been allowed in class G6 non-residential building construction 
  • 25 claims have been allowed in class G5 specialty trades construction 
  • 25 claims have been allowed in class G1 Building construction 
  • 28 claims have been allowed in class G1 residential building construction 
  • 33 claims have been allowed in class G3 foundation, structure and building exterior construction 
  • 47 claims have been allowed in class G2 infrastructure construction 
  • 77 claims have been allowed in class G4 building equipment construction 

By my calculations, construction classes in total account for 1.23% of all allowed WSIB claims. Relative to the approximately 391,000 cases of COVID19 recorded in Ontario, the number of transmissions on construction sites is remarkably small especially when you consider that there are estimated to be more than 500,000 people working in the construction industry today.   
Public Support of Ford’s Pandemic Performance Plummeting 
 Here are selected highlights taken from a self-commissioned and self-funded online poll conducted by the not-for-profit Angus Reid Institute between April 5 and April 8, 2021. The poll was taken among a randomized sample of 1,577 Canadian adults, 431 from Ontario, who are members of the Angus Reid Forum:  
  • “Canadians are increasingly disappointed in their provincial leaders. At least half in Saskatchewan (50%), Manitoba (59%), Ontario (65%), and Alberta (75%) now say that their premier is doing a poor job handling the pandemic. 
  • Overall, half of Canadians (48%) say that their communities need tighter restrictions to stem rising infections, while 28 per cent disagree. One-quarter (24%) say their community has found the right balance. 
  • Two-thirds of Canadians say they are concerned about becoming sick with COVID-19. This is a four-point increase from March. Four-in-five (81%) worry about a friend or family member. 
  • One-in-three Canadians (34%) say that their mental health is poor or terrible. This rises to half among those under the age of 35. 
  • Two-in-five Canadians (43%) say that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done a good job of handling the pandemic, while 52 per cent say he has done a poor job. 
  • In Ontario, the sense that the government took too long to implement new restrictions drives negative views. Indeed, 61 per cent of Ontarians called for tougher restrictions in their province while this public opinion survey was being conducted 
  • Positive assessments of (Ontario Premier) Ford’s performance are at less than one-third, a 46-point plunge in 12 months.” 
Only 32% of Ontario respondents to the poll said Premier Ford has done a good job handling the pandemic (only Alberta’s Premier Kenney was lower at 23%) and 46% said that Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr David Williams, has done a good job (tied for lowest with his counterpart from Alberta).   
Complete poll results can be found at the following link: https://angusreid.org/covid-restrictions-ford-kenney/ 
The poll surveyed public opinion relating to the handling of the pandemic. It was not a voter intention survey. It will be interesting to see if how the  handling of the pandemic plays into the outcome of the June 2022 Ontario general election. 

Stream of Consciousness 

  • Where’s the Phase 1 report of the Expert Panel on the Skilled Trades? We understand it was submitted on schedule in December 2020. Some say it will never see the light of day. When will Phase 2 get started? Isn’t Phase 2 supposed to be completed in June 2021? 
  • What’s the status of the work of the Apprenticeship Youth Advisors? We seem to recall their work is scheduled to be completed in May, 2021 
  • In the meantime, the Ontario College of Trades continues its work quietly in the background, unnoticed and in a holding pattern, doing what it can to make the system function, but not able to undertake any initiatives to update and modernize such as bringing the trades curricula into the 21st century 
  • Meanwhile there’s a multi-ministry initiative to attract more young people into an antiquated apprenticeship system 
  • May 3 – 7, 2021 is Falls Awareness Week. Look for the IHSA to provide a comprehensive tool kit for contractors to deploy on their construction sites during the week 
  • To date 2,196 companies have registered in the WSIB’s Health and Safety Excellence Program (HSEP) of which 617 are from the construction industry. We encourage construction companies to learn about the program and consider registering. Earn financial incentives as you learn how to make your projects safer 
  • Mark April 28 in your calendar to commemorate this year’s Day of Mourning. The WSIB will be holding a ceremony online starting at 10:45 am 
  • The announcement by the Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development of the first three or four employers to achieve the Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers designation (the designation formerly known as Accreditation) has been pushed back again to late April or possibly sometime later in May 
  • Don’t expect to see the new Provincial Workplace Health and Safety Strategy until sometime this summer. The preparation of this strategy is the first of all the functions of the Chief Prevention Officer listed in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The last strategy was a five year plan that expired more than a year ago.  
  • Look for the Ministry of Labour Training and Skills development to undertake a review of the Notice of Project (the $50,000 threshold and high hazard activities) and a consultation soliciting advice on the harmonization of the hard hat requirements (all sectors, other provinces. CSA standard)   
  • In a multi-ministry briefing held immediately following the government’s declared State of Emergency and Stay at Home Order on April 7th, the only construction-specific reference stated “MLTSD will enhance education and outreach a to the construction sector and will continue to issue tickets for non-compliance with COVID safety requirements on construction projects”. Much of the additional information given at the briefing dealt with enhanced compliance and enforcement initiatives and since that time Minister McNaughton has warned employers and workers about the consequences of noncompliance.  We think there will likely be more enforcement activity in the industry 
  • Opposition members have questioned whether, in the midst of a third wave of a pandemic, the government should be turning its mind to doubling the contribution limits individuals can make to politicians and political parties as Bill 254 proposes to do and expanding the per vote subsidy it previously called political welfare. Is this something that people in ridings across Ontario have been crying out for? 
  • Opposition parties have also asked the government for virtual sittings of the legislature. Legislative standing committee hearings are being held virtually. Court proceedings are being held virtually. Corporate AGMs. So, should MPPs and their political aides be required to risk exposure to the virus and attend at the Legislature to do their legislative sausage making. Do Ontarians expect their political leaders to conduct their work at the Pink Palace? Or would they prefer them to work virtually from home? 
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Council of Ontario Construction Associations
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COCA Staff
Ian Cunningham x224
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Martin Benson x222
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