March 2021

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

Construction Employment in Ontario Nears Record High Levels – Stats Canada February Survey 
According to the Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey for February 2022 which was released on March 11, 2022: 
  • 584,300,000 people were employed in the construction industry in Ontario in February, 2022, 563,600,000 in January 2022, an increase of 20,700 or 3.7% (standard error 9.0) 
  • 53,400 more people were employed in the construction industry in February 2022 than in February 2021 or an increase of 10.1% 

Here are the highlights copied from the survey report (the full report can be found at ): 
Employment rebounds in February after January losses 
  • Employment climbed 337,000 (+1.8%) in February, more than offsetting January losses. 
  • February employment growth was driven by gains in the number of private sector employees (+347,000; +2.8%). 
  • Gains were most notable in the accommodation and food services (+114,000; +12.6%), and information, culture and recreation (+73,000; +9.9%) industries. 
  • After reaching a record high in January (10.0%), the proportion of employees absent from work due to illness or disability fell to 6.2% during the week of February 13 to 19. 
  • Total hours worked were up 3.6%, exceeding hours worked in February 2020 for the first time (+1.7%). 
  • On a year-over-year basis, average hourly wages increased 3.1% (+$0.92). 
  • Employment in the goods-producing sector rose (+44,000), marking the third consecutive monthly increase. 
  • Employment rose in eight provinces and held steady in Alberta and New Brunswick. 

Unemployment rate falls below its pre-COVID-19 level for the first time 
  • The unemployment rate fell 1.0 percentage points to 5.5% in February 2022, lower than in February 2020 (5.7%). 
  • Among youth aged 15 to 24, the unemployment rate fell 2.7 percentage points to 10.9% in February after increasing 2.5 percentage points in January. 
  • The unemployment rate fell for both core-aged women (-0.9 percentage points to 4.4%) and core-aged men (-0.5 percentage points to 4.3%). 
  • The number of long-term unemployed fell by 51,000 (-19.4%) in February, the fourth consecutive monthly decrease. 
  • The labour force participation rate among the population aged 15 and older increased by 0.4 percentage points to 65.4% in February, fully erasing the decline recorded in January. 
Ontario’s Fiscal Sustainability at Risk in Longer Term – FAO Concludes 

Here are the key takeaways from the Financial Accountability Office’s (FAO) report titled “2022 Longer Term Budget Outlook-Assessing Ontario’s Fiscal Sustainability; 2021-2050” that was published on March 10, 2022: 
  1. Lower deficits result in stable finances in the 2020s  
  2. Ontario’s finances begin to deteriorate over the long term as growth in program spending and interest expense outpace revenue gains  
  3. Ontario’s finances begin to deteriorate over the long term as growth in program spending and interest expense outpace revenue gains  
Here is the summary of the FAO’s findings copied from the report: 
“The Long-Term Budget Outlook provides the FAO’s projection of the government’s fiscal position over the 2021-22 to 2050-51 period. The report provides an assessment of Ontario’s long-term fiscal sustainability based on the analysis of four key budget indicators. This is followed by a discussion of the factors that will affect the government’s program expenditures and revenue performance over the next three decades. Finally, details on the FAO’s economic projection are provided, including an analysis of the underlying demographic trends over the projection period.  

Overall, the FAO expects Ontario’s finances will be manageable as its fiscal position improves over the 2020s. However, the government’s fiscal flexibility will be constrained over the longer term as ongoing health care expenditures boost program spending growth above revenue gains.  
Lower deficits result in stable finances in the 2020s  

  • Ontario’s deficits are expected to improve in the 2020s as the province recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy rebounds strongly. As a result, the government’s budget balance as a share of nominal GDP is projected to remain stable over this period.  
  • The net debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to decline from its current level of 41 per cent in 2021-22 to 35 per cent by the early 2030s. Interest on debt as a share of revenue, a measure of budget flexibility, is projected to decline slightly before returning to its current rate of 7.3 per cent by the end of 2020s.  
  • In the 2021 Ontario Budget1 the government stated its fiscal sustainability objectives. The medium-term (2021-22 to 2023-24) objective is to keep the net debt-to-GDP ratio below 50.5 per cent and to slow the rate of increase of interest on debt as a share of revenue. The FAO projects that the government will meet these objectives by 2023-24.  
Ontario’s finances begin to deteriorate over the long term as growth in program spending and interest expense outpace revenue gains  

  • During the 2030s and 2040s, the FAO projects a steady deterioration in Ontario’s budget balance, reflecting faster growth in program spending and interest payments compared to revenues. Ontario is not projected to balance its budget over the long term. By 2050-51, the deficit widens to -1.6 per cent of GDP, similar to the rate recorded during the pandemic.  
  • Rising budget deficits are projected to increase Ontario’s debt burden, with the net debt-to-GDP ratio increasing steadily to 41 per cent in 2050-51, close to its current share.  
  • As interest rates rise and the government faces higher borrowing, Ontario’s interest on debt as a share of revenue is projected to increase at a steady rate, reaching 10.4 per cent by 2050-51, well above the 7.4 per cent recorded during the pandemic. This would reduce the government’s budget flexibility as a smaller share of revenue would be available to fund program spending.  
Ontario’s fiscal sustainability is vulnerable to risks  

  • In addition to the lingering effects of the pandemic, Ontario’s long-term economic outlook faces risks, including the impacts of climate change, elevated income inequality and the evolving nature of the labour market with rising non-standard employment.  
  • Ontario’s fiscal projection also faces risks, including potential changes to government revenue or spending policy, upward pressures on capital expenditures, and the outlook for interest rates.  
  • For example, higher-than-projected interest rates would increase the fiscal vulnerability of the province. If government borrowing rates are 100 basis points higher than expected by the mid-2020s, Ontario’s net debt-to-GDP ratio would climb to a record 48.5 per cent by 2050, roughly eight percentage points above the 41 per cent projected in the base case. Interest on debt as a share of revenue would reach 15 per cent by 2050, well above the 10.4 per cent projected in the base case.” 
The full report can be found by clicking on the following link: 

2021 Year in Review
In 2021 we learned how resilient and resourceful we can be as individuals, organizations, industries, and communities. Every time the ground shifted, we all dug a little deeper into our reserves of energy and optimism. Together, we kept moving forward. After all, building for the future is what we do.

COCA’s 2021 Year in Review takes a look back at 2021, and at our accomplishments.

Angus Reid Survey – Canadians Concerned About Lifting Public Health Measures 

The Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the CBC conducted a survey of 2,550 Canadian adults between March 1 and March 4, 2022 about how the pandemic has been handled federally and provincially and about the removal of public health measures. 

Here are some highlights: 

  • 36% of respondents from across the country said the removal of restrictions in their province is too fast, 38% about right, 22% too slow 
  • 73 per cent say they would support continuing masking requirements in public spaces  
  • 64 per cent support proof of vaccination at places like restaurants and theatres in their community 
  • Among Ontario respondents, 39% believed the restrictions are being lifted too quickly, 35% at about the right pace and 26% too slowly 
  • 56% of Ontarians surveyed said they experienced conflict-related to being vaccinated, 47% said they ran into uncomfortable situations where they had to turn down invitations because of restrictions, 38% said masking was a point of contention, 24% experienced conflicts due to other rules-breaking and 25% said they experienced no conflicts. 
  • 65% of Ontarians said they will continue sanitizing their hands in addition to hand washing, 61% said they will continue to practice social distancing, 56% said they will continue to avoid large gatherings, 56% said they will continue to mask indoors, 32% said they will continue to refrain from shaking hands and hugging, 30% said they will refrain from foreign travel 
  • 17% of Ontarians said Prime Minister Trudeau’s performance handling the pandemic was very good, 34% good, 15% bad, 31% very bad and 4% don’t know 
  • 9% of Ontarians said that Premier Ford’s performance handling the pandemic was very goo, 35% good, 31% bad, 21% very bad and 4% don’t know 
  • Ontario’s chief public health doctors fared a little better than the Premier with 10% of respondents saying their performance was very good, 39% good, 24% bad, 17% very bad and 9% don’t know 

The complete survey results can be found at the following link:  

Free Training and Paid IBEW Apprenticeships 
On March 15, 2022 the Ontario government announced an investment of more than $13 million to provide free training and paid electricians’ apprenticeships in the unionized sector for more than 2,500 people across the province who are unemployed or looking to earn bigger paychecks. Here’s where the money is being allocated: 

  • The Ontario Electrical Industry Training Trust Fund is receiving $6,447,553 for two projects aimed at increasing apprenticeship registrations for the network cabling specialist (631A) apprenticeship program, and to encourage more employers to hire apprentices and promote the electrical trades to underrepresented populations. 
  • The National Electrical Trade Council is receiving a total of $4,191,322 for two projects to help the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) upskill 1,050 electricians across the province. 
  • IBEW Local Union 1687 in Sudbury is receiving $467,500 to provide online skills training to 625 registered apprentices in remote Northern regions, including First Nations communities. The online training will help to address barriers that can prevent people in northern communities from pursuing electrical training by making it free of charge and easily accessible from any location in the province. 
  • IBEW Local 105 in Hamilton will receive $303,015 to train 40 electricians through the Welding Recruitment and Retention Program. 
  • The IBEW Local 120 in London will receive $1,186,356 to train 150 people in the electrical trades in the Chippewas of the Thames and Munsee-Delaware First Nations. 
  • IBEW Local 120 will also receive $421,923 for a project that will provide advanced training and continuing education to 260 registered apprentices or journeypersons on emerging technologies in the Electrical trade. 
  • IBEW Local Union 402’s Training and Education Centre in Thunder Bay received $230,213 to provide free training and paid work placements to underrepresented groups to address the skills shortage in the electrical industry. 
The government news release can be found by clicking on the following link: 
Health Minister Elliott Bows Out – Not Seeking Re-Election 

On Friday, March 4th, Ontario’s Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, officially announced that she will not be seeking re-election in the upcoming general election on June 2nd.  Needless to say, this was a blow to Premier Ford.  Elliott has been arguably the government’s best performing minister throughout the two years of the pandemic and she was a key member of Team Ford that in the 2018 general election gave voters who were nervous and unsettled about the competence of the PC leader, the assurance and comfort that he had a team of experienced rational people around him.   

Here's a summary of Elliott’s experience in public life: 

  • She was a lawyer and practised with her late husband, Jim Flaherty, in Whitby, Ontario 
  • She was first elected as the MPP for the riding of Whitby-Ajax in a by-election in March 2006 succeeding her late husband Jim Flaherty who resigned and was elected as MP for the riding and she served on the Opposition benches 
  • She was re-elected in 2007, 2011 and 2014 in the re-jigged riding of Whitby-Oshawa 
  • She sought her party’s leadership in 2009 (won by Tim Hudak) and in 2014/15 (won by Patrick Brown)  
  • She resigned her seat in the Ontario legislature in December 2015 and was appointed by the then Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne as the province’s first Patient Ombudsman 
  • She ran for the PC Party’s leadership again in 2018 (won by Doug Ford); in that contest she won more votes than Ford and won more ridings than Ford but because of the party’s weighted voting system, was unsuccessful (seems to be a recurring theme in elections these days) 
  • In June 2018 she was elected to the Ontario legislature in the Newmarket-Aurora riding and was appointed by the freshly minted Premier, Doug Ford, to the dual roles of Deputy Leader and Minister of Health and Long Term Care 

Although Elliott and Ford were believed to have policy differences, most Queen’s Park observers attribute her decision to retire from elected life to the exhaustion of the last two years.   

Many thanks Christine Elliott  for your life of service to the people of Ontario, congratulations for your numerous significant accomplishments and very best wishes for good health and happiness in the future. 
Post Media Leger Poll Place Tories Out Front 
A Post Media-Leger poll conducted by Leger using computer-assisted web interviewing technology between February 25th and February 27th surveyed 1001 Ontario residents aged 18+ who are eligible to vote.  Here are some highlights: 
QUESTION: If a provincial election were held today which political party would you be most likely to vote? If undecided: Even if you have not yet made up your mind, for which of the following political parties would you be most likely to vote? Base: Decided voters (n=798) 

  • Doug Ford’s PCs - 39% 
  • Andrea Horwath’s NDP - 27% 
  • Steven Del Duca’s Liberals - 27% 
  • Mike Schreiner’s Greens - 3% 
  • New Blue Party - 25 
  • Ontario Party - 1% 
  • Another Party - 1% 
QUESTION: If a PROVINCIAL election were held today, for which political party would you be most likely to vote for? In the event a respondent was undecided, the following was asked: Is there a Party you are leaning toward supporting, even just a little? Base: All respondents/Decided Voters 

  • Doug Ford’s PCs - 31% 
  • Andrea Horwath’s NDP – 22% 
  • Steven Del Duca’s Liberals – 21% 
  • Mike Schreiner’s Greens – 3% 
  • New Blue Party – 2% 
  • Ontario Party – 1% 
  • Someone else – 2% 
  • Don’t Know – 13% 
  • Won’t vote – 6% 
Choices were final for 45% of respondents who said they would vote PC, 34% NDP, 29% Liberal and 51% Green 
51% of respondents who said they would vote PC said they may change their minds, 61% of NDP, 65% of Liberals and 49% of Greens 
With regard to the respondents’ impressions of political party leaders, Premier Ford’s net favourable (the number of respondents who think positively about the leader minus the number who feel negatively) is negative 13, Horwath’s is positive 3, Del Duca’s is negative 6 and Schreiner’s is negative 7 
Leger’s polling also reflects public opinions about the post-pandemic re-opening in Ontario and the recent trucker occupation of downtown Ottawa and Windsor blockade. 

10% of NDP Caucus Bowing Out of Re-Election 

The NDP under the leadership of Andrea Horwath currently hold 40 seats in the 124 seat Ontario legislature and form the Official Opposition.  However, 10% of the NDP’s current roster of provincial legislators has chosen not to seek re-election in the June 2nd general election.  They are: 

  • Ian Arthur (Kingston and the Islands) first elected in 2018 in an electoral district that traditionally votes Liberal.  The riding hasn’t been won by the Tories since 1981 and it was in the hands of the NDP during the days of the Rae government from 1990 to 1995.  A strong campaign by the Grits could find this seat back in their hands. 
  • Rima Berns-McGowan (Beaches-East York) another first-termer elected in the 2018 general election in a riding that is traditionally held by the NDP but was held by the Libs from 2014 to 2018 (Arthur Potts).    
  • Percy Hatfield (Windsor-Tecumseh) was first elected in a by-election in 2013 (succeeding five time elected Liberal MPP and former finance minister Dwight Duncan) and was re-elected with significant majorities in 2014 and 2018.  This could be a riding to watch on the night of June 2nd as results come in. 
  • Taras Natyshhak (Essex) first elected in first elected in 2011 (succeeding five-time election winner, Liberal Bruce Crozier) and re-elected in 2014 and 2018.  Like Windsor-Tecumseh, the Liberals must be targeting Essex; this riding could be in play. 
Free Practical WSIB Webinars for Employers 

The Office of the Employer Advisor (OEA) is hosting a series of FREE (OEA services are paid for through your WSIB premiums) webinars on various WSIB topics. Join us for these informative sessions by registering on the OEA website:

SIEF and Cost Reduction Tools 
Mar 22, 2022    |  Time: 10:00 am ET This webinar explains the tools available to employers to reduce their accident costs and, in some cases, have them removed entirely. 
A Practical Guide to Return to Work for Employers (Non-Construction
Mar 24, 2022    |  Time: 2:00 pm ET This webinar explains the benefits of having a return to work program, your legal obligations under the WSIA, key steps for implementing a return to work program and plan, as well as resolution strategies for disputes in return to work.  
Rate Framework 
Mar 29, 2022    |  Time: 2:00 pm ETThis webinar outlines the new ‘Rate Framework’ and how your company will be assessed going forward. Learn how these changes will affect your company. This webinar is a general level presentation intended for all employers who have some experience dealing with the WSIB from a premium/assessment perspective.   
Mental Stress 
Mar 31, 2022    |  Time: 2:00 pm ET This webinar outlines the legislative modifications that have changed the handling of mental stress claims, and how mental stress entitlement, both traumatic and chronic, is determined by the WSIB.
Skilled Trades Emphasized in New Science and Math Curriculum  
An updated science curriculum for Grades 1 through 8 will be introduced starting in the fall of 2022.  It’s  the first update of this curriculum since 2007.  There will also be a new de-streamed Grade 9 science course that will place emphasis of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), coding and climate change. The curriculum will also feature a strengthened focus on the environment and climate change.  Learnings about the skilled trades will be introduced in grades 4 through 9.   
The provincial government’s  news release can be found at the following link: 

Tory Victory in Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston Now More Likely 

Altogether too much has been written about MPP Randy Hillier in this space.  Regular readers will know that he is a disrupter who has never served in any serious decision-making capacity since he was first elected to the Ontario legislature as a PC member in 2007. 

He was booted out of the Tory caucus in 2019 for his disgraceful behaviour.  Hillier currently represents the riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston as an Independent member aligned with the right-wing Ontario First Party but has been barred from entering the chamber by the legislature for even more despicable behaviour.  

He recently announced that he will not be seeking re-election in June.  This pretty much assures that Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, a traditional Tory riding, will return to the PC fold.  Had Hillier run again, some believed he might hive off enough conservative votes to give the Liberals a chance at victory.  Those hopes now seem dashed.   
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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
926 - 123 Edward Street
Toronto ON M5G 1E2
COCA Staff
Ian Cunningham
Operations Manager
Martin Benson
COCA Website        WSIB          Ministry of Labour        
926 - 123 Edward Street
Toronto ON M5G 1E2
Phone: (416) 968-7200