October 2020

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

Skilled Trades Panel Rumoured to Be Launched This Week 

Among the promises made by Doug Ford as he campaigned for election in the Spring of 2018 was winding down the Ontario College of Trades (OCoT). This promise was a holdover from days, then long past, when Tim Hudak was the PC leader and he had promised to disband OCoT if his Tories were elected to form government. The disbanding of OCoT was a particularly polarizing issue in the construction industry. 
Since the election of the Ford government in June 2018, there have been several significant changes made relating to OCoT:  

  • Almost two years ago, Bill 47 promised to close OCoT 
  • Legislative oversight of OCoT was moved from the then named Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to the Ministry of Labour, subsequently renamed the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development  
  • OCoT membership fees were cut in half for journeypersons and eliminated for apprentices  
  • OCoT’s methods of compliance and enforcement softened from an approach of strict enforcement to one of compliance assistance with enforcement only when necessary  
  • OCoT’s 20-member Board of Directors, which had been the target of much criticism because its membership was drawn largely from unions and unionized employers, was reduced to eight members selected mostly based on their competencies and experience   

The Ford government is yet to “stand up“ a new system for the skilled trades and much to the surprise of many, OCoT continues to operate, albeit quietly, under the radar and in a “maintain” mode, awaiting wind down directions from the government. However, in the meantime, OCoT continues to do all the things the skilled trades and apprenticeship system should do such as registering apprentices and journeypersons, updating standards, assisting with compliance, and doing so without attracting public criticism.  
It’s widely rumoured that later this week the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development will announce an expert panel mandated to meet with stakeholders and to make recommendations with regard to the design of the new system that will succeed OCoT.  

It is rumoured that the panel will be chaired by a well-known Toronto lawyer and will also include at least two representatives from the construction industry, one from the electrical trade and one from LIUNA. Although OCoT has not been as contentious among stakeholders in the other three other sectors that OCoT serves, namely industrial, motive power and service, it is assumed they will have representation on the expert panel also.   
Difficult questions that will land in the lap of this panel include: 
  • What can be done to motivate more employers to sponsor apprentices 
  • What can be done to improve the unacceptably low apprenticeship completion rates 
  • What should a new compliance and enforcement approach/policy look like 
  • Do “portable skill sets” or “micro skilling and credentialing” make sense for construction trades 
  • Will there continue to be compulsory and voluntary trades 
  • Will compulsory trades alone be obliged to fund a system that administers both compulsory and voluntary trades 

IO’s September 2020 P3 Update Highlights 

  • The procurement process for the Ontario Line will not be complete until fall 2024 which delays the RFQ, RFP and financial close dates by about six months each.  
  • Progress is being made on several corrections facilities 
  • RFQ dates are set for incoming detention centres in Ottawa, Quinte, and Brockville, as well as several new health-care facilities and redevelopments.  

The full report can be found at the following link: 

Will Tories Call Early Election  

Little more than a year ago, Premier Ford’s popularity was in the basement. His favourability rating was even lower than that of his predecessor, the widely disliked Kathleen Wynne, at her very worst of times. His government had suffered failure after disaster after fiasco after catastrophe.  

But then along came COVID 19 and an opportunity to display a totally new and different Doug Ford, a compassionate, empathetic, and competent leader who is willing to take advice from subject matter experts and lead by example. 

Today his popularity is soaring.  The Tories have already renominated all but a handful of their sitting MPPs and have begun the process of identifying candidates in the other ridings too.  Although the Premier has pledged that he will not call a snap election, the opposition parties are worried.  The next legislated election date is June 2, 2022. Stay tuned.   

Financial Accountability Office Report on Q1 2020-2021 Spending 

The Financial Accountability Office recently published its report on the provincial government’s spending in the first quarter of the 2020-2021 fiscal year (April 1 to June 31, 2021). Here are the highlights copied from that report: 

“This report provides an update on the Province’s 2020-21 spending plan and reviews actual spending by the Province over the first three months of the 2020-21 fiscal year. 

Compared to the 2020-21 spending plan in the March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, in the first quarter the Province reallocated funds to the health sector ($2.1 billion), the children’s and social services sector ($0.2 billion) and the other programs sector ($1.0 billion). 

  • The budget increases to these three sectors were largely offset by reductions in the Province’s three unallocated funds: the COVID-19 Health Sector Response Fund ($1.5 billion), the Support for People and Jobs Fund ($0.6 billion) and the Contingency Fund ($0.4 billion). 
  • Overall, by the end of the first quarter, the Province had increased its 2020-21 spending plan by a net $759 million. This was significantly less than the $12.4 billion increase announced by the Province in the 2020-21 First Quarter Finances, which will be reflected in the government’s accounts in the second quarter of 2020-21. 

The Province spent $37.9 billion in the first quarter, which was $0.7 billion, or 1.9 per cent, more than planned at the time of the March 2020 Update.

  • All sectors spent less than planned in the first quarter except for the education sector, which spent $2.3 billion more than initially projected. This was largely the result of the government’s decision, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to allow municipalities to temporarily defer Education Property Tax payments to school boards. To ensure that school boards did not experience any change in funding timing, the government increased the amount of direct provincial funds transferred to school boards in the first quarter. Note that this is not a permanent increase in provincial funding to school boards but rather a change in the timing of payments. 
  • Other than the education sector, all other sectors spent a combined $1.5 billion less than planned in the first quarter, led by other programs, children’s and social services, and interest on debt. 
  • Spending information for all of the Province’s programs by ministry is available on the FAO’s website and can be downloaded as an Excel file at: https://bit.ly/3mCTGhs. 

At $37.9 billion, spending in the first quarter of 2020-21 was $4.0 billion, or 11.9 per cent, higher than in the first quarter of 2019-20. The vast majority of the year-over-year spending increase (94 per cent) occurred in two sectors: health ($1.5 billion) and education ($2.3 billion). 

  • The $1.5 billion (or 10.6 per cent) increase in health sector spending, compared to the first quarter of 2019-20, reflects the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The $2.3 billion increase in education sector spending is not a permanent year-over-year increase but rather a timing adjustment largely due to the temporary deferral of Education Property Tax payments from municipalities to school boards, as mentioned above. 

The Province’s initial spending plan for 2020-21 included $5.1 billion in unallocated funds through three programs: the COVID-19 Health Sector Response Fund, the Support for People and Jobs Fund, and the Contingency Fund. These funds cannot be spent directly but must be transferred to government programs through Treasury Board Orders. Through the first quarter of 2020-21, the Province transferred $2.5 billion to various programs leaving $2.6 billion in unallocated funds.”  

The full report can be found at the following link  

Fall COVID 19 Preparedness Plan Released 

On September 30th, the government released its long-awaited Fall Preparedness Plan in full. The Plan titled “Fall Preparedness Plan for Health, Long-Term Care and Education: Keeping Ontario Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19”is guided by the following six objectives: 

  1. Maintain public health measures 
  2. Immunize against influenza 
  3. Quickly identify, manage, and prevent outbreaks 
  4. Safely reduce health service backlogs 
  5. Prepare for surges in cases and support delivery of routine health service needs 
  6. Recruit, retain, train and support health care workers, families, and caregivers 

The full report is available at the following link: 

ODACC’s First Annual Report 

The adjudication and prompt payment provisions of Ontario’s Construction Act came into force one year ago, on October 1, 2019. Section 14.(1) of Ontario Regulation 306/18 requires ODACC to issue and make public its annual report no later than ninety days after the end of each fiscal year.

ODACC’s fiscal year ended on July 31, 2020. ODACC has published its first annual report which covers the first ten months since the adjudication and prompt payment provisions of the Construction Act came into force. Some of the report’s highlights are as follows: 

  • 32 notices of adjudication were issued 
  • The total amount claimed was $2,906,514.30 
  • 3 determinations were rendered 
  • 21 adjudications were terminated, 14 because the parties resolved their disputes and 3 because the full amount in dispute was paid 
  • During the 2020 Fiscal Year, ODACC received $3,975 (plus HST) in Adjudication Fees. ODACC kept an Administrative Fee of $1,987.50 (plus HST) and ODACC paid Adjudicators $1,987.50 (plus HST). 

The full report can be found at the following link: https://odacc.ca/en/annual-report/
WSIB Recruits Next President & CEO 

The WSIB’s President & CEO, Tom Teahen, announced that he will be retiring at the end of his term on January 31, 2021. When he completes his time at the helm of the provincial compensation agency, Teahen will leave behind a remarkable and transformative legacy of which he can duly be proud.  

The WSIB is currently in the process of identifying Teahen’s successor. Click on the following link to find the recruitment advertisement:  

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Practical Strategies to Mitigate Employment Risk
Leverage Government Assistance
Join our panel of tax and employment law experts, as we discuss issues arising out of COVID-19.  

Date and Time:    Thursday October 8, 2020 | 1:00-2:00 p.m. EST
Zoom Webinar:    Register  [registrants will receive a link 24 hours prior to the event].
Cost:                     Complimentary

Topics include:

Revised Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)
  • Overview of July 27, 2020 legislative changes.
  • Previously-announced measures.
  • New qualifying periods.
  • New calculations.
  • Asset purchase elections.
  • Key takeaways to maximize claims.
Statutory Leaves
  • How to identify and manage them.
  • When is the duty to accommodate triggered?
  • Must an employer accommodate an employee’s child care preferences?
  • What to do when an employee elects to home-school a child because of COVID-19.
  • What, if any, accommodation is required when an employee claims return to work during COVID-19 causes anxiety and discomfort?
Safety Issues and Work Refusal
  • What are ministries of labour doing with COVID-related reports and inspections?
  • How to manage a COVID-related work refusal. 

Return to Work Plan
  • Key considerations.
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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COCA Staff
Ian Cunningham x224   
Operations & Communications Manager
Martin Benson x222
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