June 2021

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

New Law Enables Creation of New Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship System 
Bill 288, Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act passed third reading in the Ontario Legislature on June 2nd. It enables the creation of a new skilled trades and apprenticeship system that is not dissimilar to the one that currently exists. In the new system, compliance and enforcement will fall under the purview of the Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development and training and certification will fall in the aegis of a new agency to be called Skilled Trades Ontario (not to be confused with Skills Ontario, the province’s leader in promoting careers in the skilled trades as a first-choice option to young people in elementary and secondary schools across the province) and the two will share research, promotion and participation on the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship. 
Steve Dietrich, Chair of COCA’s Skilled Trades Task Force and COCA President Ian Cunningham presenting on behalf of our provincial construction federation offered general support for the Bill allowing that it represented a fair compromise among all stakeholders’ positions that COCA could live with. However, we had two important conditions: 
  1. That all construction trades in the current system must be transitioned into the new system exactly as they currently exist, with their full scopes of practice and classified as compulsory or non-compulsory, exactly as they are now; and  
  2. That there is absolutely no opportunity for portable skill sets to be allowed into the construction trades 
A few very minor amendments were made at the Committee stage before the Bill was reported back to the Legislature for third reading.   
Passage of Bill 288 has the immediate effect of doing away with the previously legislated wind-down of the College. All other provisions in Bill 288/BOSTA will not come into force until they are subsequently proclaimed by the government. The timing of the future proclamation of BOSTA is at the discretion of government—it has publicly announced targeting the end of the year for BOSTA to come into force and for Skilled Trades Ontario to come into existence. Until that time OCTAA is in full force and remains the primary statute regulating skilled trades in Ontario. All OCOT core services must continue to be delivered in support of the transitional system, until such time as OCTAA is ultimately repealed and replaced by BOSTA. 
It is our understanding that OCoT management has been in discussions with the Ministry regarding steps to eventually transition College activities to Skilled Trades Ontario and to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD), respectively—as envisioned by BOSTA. OCoT programs and services are expected to remain ‘as is’ in the immediate future.  
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
Musings About the Road Ahead 

With the next Ontario general election less than a year away, I am often asked what I think the outcome of that contest, scheduled for June 2, 2022, will be. Here are a few random and possibly provocative thoughts: 

  • As the old saying goes, “A week is a lifetime in politics” and a lot can happen between now and June 2nd 
  • The recent polls show the PCs with a small lead but their popularity with voters in a steady decline 
  • Doug Ford’s negatives continue to increase making him among the most unpopular premiers in Canada. Tory operatives have kept him out of the limelight 
  • All politicians, regardless of party, share one priority and it is their highest priority, to get re-elected 
  • Leaders are the identity of political parties, they are their brands. Governing parties, when they sense they face the possibility of losing power, often turn on their leaders and throw them into the political garbage bin. The Ontario Tories have made a tradition of this practice going back to the days of John Tory Tim Hudak, and Patrick Brown. Could the same fate befall Doug Ford? 
  • The Legislature rose for summer recess on Thursday, June 4th and was scheduled to resume sitting on Monday, September 13. However, the parliamentary calendar was disrupted when the Ontario Superior Court ruled that a campaign finance law passed by the PCs that limits third-party spending, is unconstitutional. The PCs must fear the third-party organization called the Working Families Coalition so much that the Legislature was recalled for an emergency session and as never before in the history of Ontario the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution invoked to pass the campaign finance law again. This is not likely to win favour with voters beyond the Tory base.   
  • It is not yet known if Christine Elliott, who currently serves as the Deputy Leader and Minister of Health, will seek re-election in the next provincial election scheduled for June 4, 2022, less than a year away. She has been a steadying hand and a mainstay in the PC's pandemic response. If she chooses not to seek re-election, then the cabinet dominos will start to tumble 
  • Will Premier Ford shuffle his cabinet and if so, when and who will be dumped and who will be promoted. Elliott’s decision will weigh into this calculation. We think he will make the changes over the summer to give new Ministers time to become acquainted with their files in advance of the last session of the 41st Parliament and to get ready for the general election. Possible Ministers on the chopping block might be Merrilee Fullerton, Stephen Lecce, Lisa Thompson, Ross Romanow. Possible newcomers that would put a younger fresher face on things might be David Piccini and Stan Cho. 
  • Has Rod Phillips served his penance on the backbenches and earned his way back into the inner circle?  There is no shortage of possible combinations and permutations but the composition of a new cabinet must take into account urban/rural, regional, gender, age and ethnicities, and be designed to win an election. (notice that competency isn’t one of the criteria) 
  • Considering that the Grit leader Stephen Del Duca is widely unknown, his Liberals seem to be polling surprisingly well. But can they make up enough ground in the next eleven and a half months to win? Highly unlikely 
  • The polls show the NDP on the rise. However, their leader, Andrea Horwath, while a steady reliable hand is less than inspiring and has never been able to gain any real traction with voters.   
  • Where will the votes on the left coalesce? With the current Opposition NDP or with “the natural governing party”, the Liberals? 
  • Some pundits have observed that neither Doug Ford nor Stephen Del Duca, is a superstar, both are awkward and clunky 
  • Recounting how Premier Ford told the story of how he took advice from a young man named Arthur in making his decision not to re-open schools, will this lead to a series of “What would Arthur do?” opposition campaign advertisements belittling Ford’s decision making? He asked Arthur whether he would prefer to return to in-class school or go to summer camp. Duh!    
  • At this point in time, many observers are predicting that the PCs will cling to power and form a minority government 
  • But as the old saying goes, “ A week is a lifetime in politics.”
What the Polls Are Saying 
Latest Leger Poll Results 
Here are the highlights of a Leger poll conducted from May 21 to May 23, 2021: 

  • Voters are losing confidence in the PC government which has been seen to hesitate before making its most important decisions 
  • Before the third wave began, just under two thirds of Ontarians thought Ford personally was doing at least a “somewhat good” job managing the pandemic, and just one third thought he was doing a bad job. 
  • Ford’s approval suffered in April and stabilized into May 
  • When asked to consider Ontario’s management of the pandemic in terms of access to hospital care and emergency services, Ford’s personal numbers have tanked. The total of “somewhat good” and “very good” is 44%. The total of “somewhat bad” or “very bad” is 53%. 
  • In June 2018, the PCs won a majority government with slightly more than 40% of the popular vote. Today, voter intentions are PCs 34%, Liberals 26% NDP 25% and Greens 9% 
Latest Angus Reid Poll Results 
Here are the highlights of a recent Angus Reid Institute poll published on June 9, 2021:   

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford has seen his position of relative political strength in the eyes of Ontarians disintegrate. 
  • Ford’s approval levels stood at 50 per cent three months ago and has fallen 15 points over the spring to 35 per cent. 
  • Ford’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic – complete with perceived delays in imposing pandemic-related restrictions as cases surged, challenges with communications over vaccination rollouts, and flip-flops over the closing then re-opening of children’s waterparks – has been widely criticized. 
  • Average number of Ontario residents that say their provincial government has done a good job across 13 issues including COVID-19 response, healthcare, the economy, education, government spending, employment, the environment, pipelines, seniors cars and others is 22%, the lowest of all provinces 
  • Decided voter intentions are as follows: PCs 37%, NDP 33%, Libs 22%, Greens 6% and Other 3% 
Still Very Few Adjudications 
  • 72 adjudications have been started since the very beginning; 
  • 30 determinations have been made so far;  
  • Of the 30 determinations, only 6 were in cases where the parties asked ODACC to appoint an adjudicator.  
  • 36 are in the single-family home sector;  
  • 16 are in the transportation sector, mostly municipal;  
  • 14 have been in the commercial sector; 
  • 5 have been in the public sector;  
  • 1 has been in the industrial sector. 
  • Approximately 12 adjudications have been commenced since March 
  • the low volume is most likely the result of the application of the transition provisions meaning that most ICI jobs are still grandfathered under the old rules. Contracts are still being drafted for buyers where the architect was retained long before July 1, 2018, so the old rules prevail. So grandfathered projects will be with us for some time to come. 
  • The absence of adjudications in the home reno sector is most likely the result of the simple lack of awareness of adjudication 
  • an uptick if not a surge of adjudications is possible in the last six months of the year 2021  
  • some are beginning to question the financial viability of having separate ANAs in each province and wondering if a national approach with a single roster of adjudicators with greater critical mass, might be the best approach. However, getting agreement on a national ANA would be challenging if not impossible 
  • there could be the need for the government of Ontario to provide financial support for ODACC 
FAO Assesses Ontario Budget 

On June 10th the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario released a report titled “ Economic and Budget Outlook Spring 2021; Assessing the Spring 2021 Budget” Key takeaways copied from the report are as follows: 

  • Ontario’s economy is expected to rebound strongly over the next two years, fueled by continued COVID-19 vaccinations, improving global demand and ongoing monetary and fiscal policy support. The FAO projects Ontario's real GDP will rise by 5.8 percent in 2021 and 4.0 percent in 2022. 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic caused a decline in revenue and a significant increase in program spending, leading to a record budget deficit of $35.8 billion in 2020–21. As the economy rebounds, rising revenues are expected to help lower the budget deficit to $11.1 billion in 2023–24. In contrast, the government projects an $18.7 billion deficit in 2023–24 mainly due to its significantly weaker revenue outlook. 
  • The budget’s revenue forecast is lower than what the government’s economic outlook would suggest. The FAO estimates that the budget’s revenue projection would be higher by about $1.4 billion in 2022–23 and $2.2 billion in 2023–24, based on the usual relationships between tax revenue and economic growth. Although not announced in the 2021 budget, these revenue shortfalls might be explained by potential planned tax cuts. 
  • Excluding temporary COVID-19 funds, planned program spending growth increases sharply in 2021–22 and slows significantly afterwards. The FAO finds the budget’s planned program spending growth in key sectors, including health and education, will not keep pace with the underlying demand for public services over the medium-term projection. 
  • In the 2021 Ontario budget, the government presented a recovery plan that projected a path to a balanced budget by 2029–30. However, the government’s recovery plan relies on prolonged spending restraint that would require $17.8 billion in permanent cost savings. The budget provided no details on how this would be achieved. 
  • The government is not expected to achieve a balanced budget by 2029–30 under current policies. The FAO’s projection shows a deficit of $6.9 billion in 2029–30, which is $9.3 billion below the government’s projected $2.4 billion surplus. 
  • Even with ongoing budget deficits over the recovery plan, the FAO expects Ontario’s fiscal indicators, including the province’s net debt-to-GDP ratio and interest on debt as a share of revenue, to improve over the projection. However, if interest rates rise above the expected growth in the economy, these indicators could be adversely impacted. 

For the full report, click on the following link:   
Former WSIB CEO Lands at Greenfield Global 

Many of our readers will know or know the name Tom Teahen. A lawyer by training, Tom served very capably as President & CEO of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board from February 2016 to January 2021 and before that as Chief of Staff to Premier Kathleen Wynne.   

Tom has taken on the role of Senior Vice President, Advanced Fuels with Greenfield Global effective June 14, 2021.   

According to the company’s website, Greenfield Global’s mission is “to unlock the potential of people, partnerships and nature to accelerate sustainable solutions for the health of the planet”. From its inception in 1988, it “has grown from a single plant in Tiverton to a global leader with manufacturing and packaging facilities in the US and Canada that can reach the world.” 

Tom is no stranger to new challenges and we wish him well as he opens the next chapter in his impressive career. 
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COCA is the voice of our membership at Queen's Park.

We want to hear from you. All questions, ideas and comments are more than welcome.

Council of Ontario Construction Associations
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