November 2022

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

Finance Minister Delivers Fall Update 

Ontario’s Finance Minister, Peter Bethlenfalvy rose in the legislative chamber on the afternoon of Monday, November 14th to deliver his government’s Fall Economic Statement (FES). The FES is an update on how the government is performing against its budget, and this one prepared Ontarians for some rough waters ahead while offering supports for those most impacted. 
Here are the high points: 

  • Ontario’s net debt-to-GDP ratio for 2022-23 (the current fiscal year ends March 31, 2023) is projected to be 38.4 percent before increasing slightly to 38.7 percent in 2023-24 and then inching downward to 38.3 percent in 2024-25. 
  • Ontario’s projected real GDP growth for 2022 is 2.6 percent, before a projected increase of 0.5 per cent in 2023 in the face of economic uncertainty followed by and increase of 1.6% in 2024 and 2.1% in 2025 
  • Employment in Ontario is up by 324,000 net new jobs in 2022, growth that is expected to moderate considerably in the 2023-25 period. 
  • Ontario enjoyed a $2.1 billion surplus in 2021-22 but is projected to come in with a deficit of $11.9 billion at year end, $6.9 billion lower than budgeted 
  • The government is forecast to deliver a surplus again in 2025-26 
Here’s the full story: 

IHSA Podcast Provides Important Winter Driving Tips 
This week, many of us awoke to flurries, which means we need to get prepared for winter driving. To assist our industry, the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association has relaunched its Winter Driving podcast. In the podcast, the IHSA’s Michelle Roberts provides many important tips to help ensure a winter of safe driving.  
Please share this episode with your colleagues, friends and family and if you are an association leader, with your members. 
Episode 46: Winter Driving Relaunch 
Whether you drive a commercial vehicle or a passenger vehicle, it’s always important to be fully aware of the hazardous road conditions created by winter weather. In this podcast, IHSA’s Ken Rayner and Michelle Roberts discuss winter driving tips and break them down into four basic principles: preparation, planning, patience, and practice. Available free from the IHSA Safety Podcast site, Spotify or Apple Music. 
Ontario Construction Employment Declines Slightly in October – Statistics Canada 
Here are the highlights copied from Statistics Canada’s October 2022 Labour Market Survey 

  • “Employment rose by 108,000 (+0.6%) in October, recouping losses observed from May to September. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.2% in October. 
  • Employment rose in several industries, led by manufacturing, construction, and accommodation and food services. At the same time, it fell in wholesale and retail trade, as well as in natural resources. 
  • The number of private-sector employees rose for the first time since March 2022. Employment was little changed among employees in the public sector and among self-employed workers. 
  • Employment increased among both men and women in the core working ages of 25 to 54 in October. It was little changed among men and women aged 15 to 24 and those aged 55 and older. 
  • Employment rose in six provinces, with gains concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. 
  • Year-over-year growth in the average hourly wages of employees remained above 5% for a fifth consecutive month in October, rising 5.6% (+$1.68 to $31.94) compared with October 2021 (not seasonally adjusted). 
  • After declining 0.6% in September, total hours worked increased 0.7% in October. Compared with October 2021, total hours worked were up 2.2%. 
  • In October, nearly two-thirds (64.3%) of employees with wages above $40.00 per hour had received a raise in the previous year, compared with half (50.1%) of those with wages of $20.00 or less per hour (population aged 15 to 69; not seasonally adjusted). 
  • More than one in three (35.3%) Canadians aged 15 and older lived in households citing difficulty meeting financial needs in October, up from one in five in October 2020 (not seasonally adjusted). 
  • More than 1.7 million Canadians had hybrid work arrangements in October (population aged 15 to 69; not seasonally adjusted).”  
  • Total employment growth in Canada was mirrored in Ontario, up 0.6% 
  • The unemployment rate in Canada was 5.2% and for Ontario 5.9% 
  • Construction employment in the construction industry across the country increased by 24,600 but declined by 3,800 in Ontario 
  • On a year over year basis, construction employment in Canada increased by 7.3% and was up 7.9% in Ontario  
For the full report, click on the following link:   

Ministry Ignores Provincial’s Raised Box Indicator Proposal – Look What happened 

You may have read an article in the last issue of COCA’s monthly newsletter in which it was noted that the Ministry of Labour is sitting on no less than 10 proposals from the construction industry’s Section 21 Committee (referred to as the Provincial Labour-Management Health and Safety Committee, the PLMHSC or just “the Provincial”) which if implemented would improve workplace safety. Some of these proposals are more than five years old. 

One of the proposals recommends the use of raised box indicators for dump trucks. It was advanced to the Ministry in 2019. 

During rush hour on the morning of Monday, October 19, 2022, a dump truck was travelling eastbound through Mississauga on highway 401 with its empty box in the up position. The truck cab proceeded underneath the Creditview underpass, but the box was left behind, solidly wedged between the road and the underpass. Needless to say, this caused traffic chaos and significant delays for commuters. Repairs to the overpass were required, and the box was removed with the help of a mobile crane by about 1:30 that afternoon. 

Then again on Monday, October 25th in the late afternoon, a dump truck travelling with its box in the up position in northeast Toronto struck power lines bringing live wires down to the street level and closing streets in the area for hours. 

If the Provincial’s proposal had been acted upon, it’s very likely neither of these incidents would have happened.

The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released a report that provides its projection of the Ontario government’s fiscal position over the 2022-23 to 2027-28 period based on current policies and announced commitments. 
Ontario’s strong economy and accelerating inflation drove extraordinary revenue growth in 2021-22, which led to a $2.1 billion budget surplus. While revenue growth is projected to slow over the outlook, the FAO projects that it will continue to outpace program spending increases, leading to growing budget surpluses from $0.1 billion in 2022-23 to $8.5 billion in 2027-28.  
Ongoing budget surpluses are projected to help Ontario’s fiscal sustainability indicators to improve. The net debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to decline from 39.2 percent in 2021-22 to 31.5 percent by 2027-28, the lowest debt burden since 2008-09. 
The pace of Ontario’s economic growth is expected to slow sharply to just 0.7 percent in 2023, reflecting the impact of higher interest rates and ongoing inflation. However, there are significant downside risks to the economic outlook that could slow growth further and negatively affect Ontario’s fiscal outlook.  
Compared to the FAO’s spending projection, the 2022 Ontario Budget contains funding shortfalls across all program sectors, totalling an estimated $40.0 billion over six years, with the largest shortfalls in health ($23.4 billion over six years), education ($6.0 billion), and children’s and social services ($4.3 billion). However, the FAO estimates that the government’s spending plan includes $44.0 billion in unallocated contingency funds. The Province will need to use these contingency funds to address the program sector shortfalls identified by the FAO, or make program changes to achieve its sector spending plan targets. 
To learn more, read the full report here.  
Quick Facts:  
  • In 2021-22, tax revenues increased by $20.8 billion – a larger gain in a single year than the increase over the previous five years ($19.1 billion). 
  • The FAO projects that the Province will spend $178.9 billion on programs in 2022-23, a 5.0 percent increase from the $170.5 billion spent in 2021-22.  
  • As a share of revenue, debt interest payments are projected to decline to 5.8 percent in 2027-28, the lowest share on record back to the early 1980s. 
  • As the economy slows, Ontario’s job market is expected to cool, with the unemployment rate rising from 5.7 percent in 2022 to 6.4 percent in 2023.

COCA Friend Named to Order of Ontario 
We were pleased but surely not surprised to see Dave Levac’s name on the list of new appointments to the Order of Ontario. Always a good friend of COCA, Levac:
  • Was a distinguished educator and school administrator prior to seeking public office 
  • Served as the MPP for the riding of Brant from 1999 to 2018; he did not seek re-election in 2018 
  • Served as Speaker in the Ontario legislature from 2011 to 2018, making him the province’s longest-serving Speaker in history 
  • On June 1, 2011, he introduced the first prompt payment Private Member’s Bill, Bill 211, Protecting Contractors Through Prompt Payment Act, 2011. While it was full of flaws, Bill 211 marked the start of serious advocacy that eventually led to Bill 142, Construction Lien Amendment Act, 2017 
The official citation also states,He was recognized as Brantford Citizen of the Year for being a strong advocate for children with special needs, firefighters, veterans, the CNIB, and Special Olympics Ontario.” 
Congratulations Dave on your life of service to others. 
Former Ontario Finance Minister Running in Federal By-Election

Former Ontario cabinet minister in the Liberal governments of Premiers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, Charles Sousa, will carry the Liberal banner into the federal byelection in Mississauga Lakeshore scheduled for December 12th. The by-election was caused by the resignation in May of Liberal MP Sven Spengemann who accepted a position with the United Nations. 

  • Sousa earned a bachelor’s degree in business admin at Laurier and an executive MBA at Ivey, completed the ICD program at Rotman and is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Bankers  
  • Prior to seeking elected office, Sousa was an executive with RBC for more than 20 years 
  • Sousa was first elected to the Ontario legislature in the riding then called Mississauga South in 2007 and was reelected in 2011 and 2014 
  • He served as Minister of Immigration and Citizenship in the McGuinty government and Minister of Labour and then Minister of Finance in the Kathleen Wynne government 
  • He was Labour Minister when the reforms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act recommended by Tony Dean, which, among other things, created the Prevention Office within the Ministry of Labour and the role of Chief Prevention Officer, came into being 
  • He was defeated in the 2018 election by PC Rudy Cuzzetto, an election that saw the highly unpopular Liberals swept out of office and reduced to a mere handful of seats in the Ontario legislature   
  • More recently, Sousa has served on several boards and as a consultant with Valorem Insights and Loyalist Public Affairs 
  • On October 28th, he was appointed by the Ford government to the Greenbelt Council 
  • The NDP candidate is Julia Kole who has served in several administrative roles including a short stint as a Brampton MPP’s constituency assistant and was a candidate in the June 2022 Ontario general election 
  • The CPC standard bearer is Ron Chhinzer, a member of the Peel Regional Police Service and formers member of the Toronto Police Service 
Government Quickly Repeals Bill 28 

I watched with interest the proceedings in the Ontario legislature on the afternoon of Monday, November 14th to witness the repeal of Bill 28, Keeping Students in Class Act, 2022. It’s the government legislation that preemptively deployed the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to strip the province’s education workers of their right to collective bargaining. I took no glee in the repeal but, as something of a political junkie, I just wanted to see how all of this would unfold. 

With respect to the passing of Bill 28, I’m not sure where the government was getting its advice. According to an Abacus poll, public sympathy was significantly on the side of the education workers who, on average are believed to be compensated very poorly. Also, possibly not contemplated by the government was the impact Bill 28 would have on the union movement. When Bill 28 was passed into law, preemptively using the notwithstanding clause, often referred to as the legislative “nuclear option” it had the effect of unifying and solidifying the worker movement across the province and the country. Both public sector and private sector unions joined the cause. And unions that under normal circumstances despise one another, they came together. All in the cause of protecting and defending their right to collective bargaining which had been read into the Charter by the courts. A provincial, if not national, strike was looming that would have locked down our economy. 

So, in the end, our government agreed to repeal Bill 28 and the education workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, agreed to call off their strike.   

On Monday afternoon, Paul Calandra, in his role as Minister of Legislative Affairs, introduced Bill 35,  Keeping Students in Class Repeal Act, 2022. It is all of four short sentences long and annuls Bill 28 as if it never happened. It passed first, second and third readings all within half an hour’s time and was given Royal Assent the same day. 

Some tell me that the passing of Bill 28 and its subsequent repeal through the passing of Bill 35 were nothing more than bargaining tactics on the part of the government. Others maintain that the government misread things badly, made a terrible mistake which they had to walk back. I’ll let you be the judge.   
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Ian Cunningham
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Martin Benson
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