November 2020

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

WSIB COVID 19 Claims Update 
If you use WSIB COVID 19 claims as an indicator, the construction industry has done exceedingly well at controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus on job sites.   

As of November 13, 2020, the WSIB has made decisions on a total of 7,640 claims and the vast majority, 81.7%, have been approved.  An additional 783 claims are still under consideration and pending a decision.  The WSIB has also received 3,697 exposure incident reports from workers who were exposed to someone with the virus but have no symptoms and have not tested positive.   

As you might guess, the largest numbers of claims comes from: 

  • nursing and residential care facilities (2,744 claims allowed) 
  • agriculture (1,330) 
  • hospitals (732) 
  • schedule 2 employers (probably mostly school boards but perhaps some municipalities – 454) 
  • food, textile and related manufacturing (262)   
  • ambulatory health care (227) 

There have been a total of only 25 claims made by workers in just two construction classes, less than 14 were denied and there are less than 5 still pending a decision. This is a proud record when you consider that there are more than 500,000 people working in our industry.    

Full details are available by clicking on the following link:  

Auditor General Critical of Government’s Environmental Record 
The Auditor General recently tabled her 2020 Annual Report of Environmental Value-for-Money Audits and the Operation of the Environmental Bill of Rights that are highly critical of our provincial government’s record on the environment.   
The report on the Operation of the Environmental Bill of Rights concluded: 

  • Ministries reduced government transparency and accountability, and risked undermining public confidence in government environmental decision-making, by making decisions that were not consistent with purposes of the EBR Act.  
  • The Environment Ministry, as the ministry with primary responsibility for protecting the environment, and responsible for administering the EBR Act and its regulations, did not lead by example when it came to carrying out the requirements and meeting the purposes of the EBR Act. 
  • The prescribed ministries’ instances of non-compliance with their responsibilities under the EBR Act, including best practices to give effect to the purposes of the EBR Act, prevented the effective operation of the EBR Act in 2019/20.  
  • The two ministries with the highest level of activity under the EBR Act, the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, had low compliance—not meeting or only partially meeting 75% and 60% of criteria, respectively—and their level of compliance declined from 2018/19 to 2019/20. 
The Value for Money Audit: Conserving the natural Environment and Protected areas concluded:  

  • Insufficient staffing and funding have impacted the ministries’ compliance with their legal obligations to conserve the natural environment through protected areas. An effective network of protected areas is necessary to slow or stop the loss of biodiversity—particularly critical in southern Ontario—so that Ontarians can more fully realize the benefits that nature provides, including recreational opportunities.  
  • The Environment Ministry did not know enough about the state of biodiversity within existing protected areas to demonstrate that it is compliant with its legislative responsibility to conserve biodiversity in these areas.  
  • The province is missing opportunities to increase the size of its protected areas because it does not work with other parties to manage lands for conservation purposes. One of the biggest opportunities to create new protected areas is in the Far North, but, over the last five years, the Natural Resources Ministry has not made progress on working with First Nations to develop land use plans in the Far North 
The Value for Money Audit: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Energy Use in Buildings made the following conclusions: 

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not yet a cross-government priority, even though it is a commitment in the Environment Plan. This means the province risks not achieving its 2030 emission-reduction target.  
  • While the programs of the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Ontario Energy Board focus on energy efficiency and conservation, they do not specifically target reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This reduces the potential for programs to achieve significant emissions cuts; for example, by encouraging building owners to switch from natural gas to lower-carbon heating sources.  
  • The Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Ontario Energy Board also do not have sufficient systems and processes to effectively oversee, evaluate and improve the performance of programs to support and encourage reducing energy use in buildings.  
The Value for Money Audit: Setting Indicators and targets and Monitoring Ontario’s Environment made these conclusions: 

  • The Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture ministries do not have effective systems and processes to ensure the effective, longterm monitoring of Ontario’s environment, natural resources and agriculture, or progress toward meeting legislated and policy goals.  
  • The three ministries have not set targets to achieve goals in several areas, hindering the ministries’ and public’s ability to gauge progress. Moreover, some targets that are set do not have time frames and supporting rationales, and many performance indicators and targets are not made public and change over time.  
  • Monitoring is inadequate in several areas, such as biodiversity, wild pollinators, protected areas, soil health and species at risk. Additionally, several monitoring programs lack standardized, documented processes for collecting, analyzing and managing data.  
  • Monitoring programs lack requirements to have performance measurement frameworks or undergo program evaluations to ensure that they are effective at meeting monitoring goals 
The work of the Auditor General should inform the government’s decision making as it plots the way forward to preserve our environment. 
Amendment Doesn’t Belong in Red Tape Bill 

Bill 213 is a red tape reduction Bill sponsored by Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, that amends 29 statutes. Most of those amendments make minor changes to streamline government processes and processes of various organizations external to government that are prescribed by statute. However, one set of amendments, the proposed amendments to the Canada Christian College and School of Graduate Theological Studies Act, 1999, has drawn severe criticism from the opposition parties and the media.  

The Canada Christian College is a private degree granting institution and is permitted to grant degrees in religious studies.  The amendments, if passed, would give the College university status and expand its degree granting authority.  In addition to the degrees it is already allowed to grant, it would be allowed to grant Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees.  
Here’s the 101: 

  • Canada Christian College and School of Graduate Theological Studies and its predecessor organizations have a rocky history; at various times, its degree granting powers were revoked and the College was ordered to close 
  • In its current iteration, it was given degree granting authority through a Private Members Bill (PMB) sponsored by PC MPP Frank Klees in 1999; another PC MPP’s PMB with the same intent and introduced in 1998 died on the order paper  
  • The degrees which the College currently grants are not universally accepted by other institutions of higher learning 
  • The Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board has not yet completed its consideration of the College’s application to change its name to Canada Christian University and School of Theological Studies and to grant Bachelor of Arts and bachelor of Science degrees, a process that would normally precede amendments such as those proposed for the College in the Bill 213 
  • The President of the College is Charles McVety, an evangelical Christian and political activist and a person of questionable character who has made racist and homophobic statements  
  • The College is a charity yet McVety and his son (also an employee of the College) have taken loans from the College in the hundreds of millions of dollars while leading from all appearance very comfortable and enviable life styles 
  • McVety is a friend of Premier Ford and made donations to Ford’s campaign for the leadership of the Ontario PC Party and to his 2018 election run 

All of this has many loyal PCs wondering: 

  • Why are these amendments in a Red Tape Reduction Bill? 
  • Why doesn’t the government let the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board complete its work before moving ahead; what’s the urgency?; is yet another BA going to make Ontario more prosperous? 
  • Are we beginning to see signs of the Premier Ford’s pre-pandemic former self (remember Premier Ford 1.0 whose government focused on buck-a-beer, gas pump stickers, licence plates and appointing less qualified friends to high positions)  
Construction Employment Down 5.6% from 2019 

According to Statistics Canada, there were 547,300 people working in the construction industry in October 2019 and only 516,500 in October 2020. Despite an industry that’s working full-out, employment in construction is down 5.6% from a year ago.   

I received a call recently from a senior official in the Ontario Public Service asking me why this is so. My best explanations were: 
  • Some construction workers themselves have underlying health conditions and don’t want to return to work for fear of getting sick 
  • Some former construction workers have found other work and have moved on 
  • Some construction workers may have elderly parents or grandparents living at home with them and they don’t want to risk bringing the virus home 
  • Some construction workers may have to stay home while their spouse goes to work, to care for elderly parents or grandparents or to look after their younger children who are doing online learning 
  • Some former construction workers got onto CERB and learned to like not working 

Can this account for 5.6% of the construction workforce from one year ago? If you have some other ideas, let me know. 

Province Creates Procurement Super Agency 

On October 19, 2020, our provincial government announced its Ontario Onwards Action Plan.  The goal of the plan is to make public sector services more customer-focused and digital- and data-driven, while increasing the speed of government operations and decision-making.  

One of the Plan’s four primary focuses is “Improving government purchasing by leveraging the combined bulk-buying power of the province, while taking advantage of the world-class capabilities of local Ontario businesses, to transform how the government purchases goods and services, so the province can have the supplies it needs.” For more information about the Ontario Onwards Action Plan, click on the following link: 

So on November 16, 2020 our provincial government announced the creation of Supply Ontario,” a new centralized procurement agency that will enable a whole-of-government approach to purchasing goods and services, saving taxpayers money. Supply Ontario will ensure that schools, hospitals, and the entire public sector always have the critical supplies and equipment they need to keep individuals and families safe, while supporting job creation and economic growth.” Supply Ontario will provide procurement services to the Ontario Public Sector, the Broader Public Service and the hospital sector and will operate under the aegis of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. 

The government’s News Release announcing the creation of Supply Ontario can be found at the following link: 

More information about Supply Ontario is available at: 

Ranked Ballot Municipal Elections No Longer Possible in Ontario 
Prior to the passage of Bill 218, Supporting Ontario’s Recovery and Municipal Elections Act, 2020 on November 16, the Municipal Elections Act, 1996  provided a framework for conducting ranked ballot elections  for offices  on a municipal council. Bill 218 changed all that. It removed that framework making ranked ballot municipal elections no longer possible in Ontario.   
London Ontario is the only municipality in Ontario to have used the ranked ballot voting system although several others were considering it and some at an advanced stage, planning referendums to let their voters decide.     
The ranked ballot voting system is the one that the PC Party of Ontario uses to elect its leader and the one by which Doug Ford was chosen leader.   
This is all very confusing to me.  I don’t recall the issue of the elimination of ranked ballot municipal voting being in the government’s election platform. Nor have I heard about the voters of Ontario rising up and demanding this election system be eliminated. Is this simply the pet peeve of an influential Tory supporter or official? Is it just a distraction like buck-a-beer and gas pump stickers? 
The government’s arguments in favour of eliminating ranked ballot voting are twofold: 
  1. To make sure municipalities deploy as much of their resources as possible to fight the coronavirus pandemic 
  2. To move closer to a standardized system of  municipal elections across the province  

Sherrard Kuzz Logo
Out with the Old, In with the New: Lessons Learned from 2020 and What to Expect in 2021

Date: December 2, 2020 @ 9:00 am - 10:30 am

Venue:Zoom Webinar (You will receive a attendee link 24 hours before the event)

Cost: Complimentary

RSVP: November 30,2020

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unexpected change and upheaval to workplaces across the country and around the world. Join us as we discuss the most significant changes from 2020, including those likely to continue to impact employers, and pressing issues that may come down the pipe in 2021. Topics include:
  1. Termination and Closure 
  • Does a requirement to permanently work-from-home or return to the office constitute a constructive dismissal?
  • Can an Ontario employer terminate an employee on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave?
  • What is a “mass termination” and how does it impact an employer’s obligation to its employees?
  • Recent case law on the enforceability of employment agreements.
  1. A Return to “Normal”
  • Managing a request for accommodation related to mental health and COVID-19 fears.
  • Can an employer require an employee to be vaccinated from COVID-19?
  • For how long can an employer remain on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave either due to the employee’s own health status or need to provide “care and support” to a family member?

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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Ian Cunningham x224
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Martin Benson x222
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