Welcome to COCA’s monthly Newsletter. Unless noted otherwise, all articles written by COCA President, Ian Cunningham.
New Government Moving Quickly
Our new government has been productive during the fall 2018 session. A total of eight Government Bills have been passed since Doug Ford and his PC team took control of the provincial government. Those Bills are:
- Bill 57, Restoring Trust Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018
- Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018
- Bill 36, Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018
- Bill 34, Green Energy Repeal Act, 2018
- Bill 32, Access to Natural Gas Act, 2018
- Bill 5, Better Local Government Act, 2018
- Bill 4, Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018
- Bill 2, Urgent Priorities Act, 2018
There are only three Government Bills that didn’t make it through to the finish line before the Legislature adjourned and they will remain on the order paper and addressed in the spring 2019 session. They are:
- Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018 which was just introduced on December 6th
- Bill 48, Safe and Supportive Classrooms Act, 2018 which is at the second reading debate stage of the legislative process
- Bill 31, Efficient Local Government Act, 2018 also in the second reading debate stage
24 Trades to Be De-Prescribed
A Minister’s regulation that proposes to de-prescribe 24 trades has been posted on the Regulatory Registry for public feedback. None of the trades are construction trades and all but two (Alignment and Brakes Technician and Automotive Electronic Accessory Technician) are voluntary.
The full list of trades proposed to be de-prescribed can be found at the following link: https://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/showAttachment.do?postingId=27906&attachmentId=38964
The deadline for feedback is January 10, 2019. For more information and for details on how to provide feedback, click on the following link:
Submissions Ignored; Mini-Budget Bill Passes Quickly
Bill 57, Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018, the legislation that put Finance Minister Vic Fideli’s Fall Economic Statement into action, was introduced in the Legislature on November 15, passed second reading and was referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on November 28th, was reported back to the Legislature by the Committee on December 5th and passed third reading and received Royal Assent on the final day of the Fall session, December 6th.
Because the Bill proposed a number of minor “housekeeping” type amendments to the new Construction Act, COCA made a submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs recommending certain clarifications and improvements to the transition provisions in the Construction Act. However, the Committee, in its haste, ignored our submissions, to our great disappointment.
The speed with which Bill 57 progressed through the legislative process is evidence of the great power we invest in a majority government in our parliamentary system of government.
Working at Heights Refresher
The Ministry of Labour reminds contractors that workers who took the mandatory working at heights training in 2015 are required to take the refresher training now. Their original WAH training is valid for three years only. If the training has expired and a worker hasn’t taken refresher training, he/she cannot work at heights.
Government Welcomes Auditor General’s Annual Report
Normally governments fear the release of the Auditor General’s annual report because it uncovers many of the mistakes and inefficiencies the government in power has made. However our new PC government welcomed AG Bonnie Lysyk’s recent study because it focused on the blunders and missteps of the former government of Kathleen Wynne. Among Lysyk’s findings were the following:
- The government spends too much on consultants and would be better off hiring full time employees to perform the work
- Metrolinx lacks a rigorous planning process and as a consequence is subject to political interference and escalating costs
- The TSSA was ineffective in getting the handful of elevator maintenance contractors in Ontario to bring the majority of elevators in Ontario into compliance with safety standards
- There is a risk of cost overruns at the Darlington refurbishment project
- The new government has not yet restored a broader definition of “partisan advertising” as promised in the election campaign which would have restored the AG’s oversight of government advertising
- Wait times for MRIs and CT scans are longer in Ontario than any other province
- Ontario overpays for assistive devices
- There are considerable privacy issues arising from the Waterfront Toronto-Sidewalk Labs smart-city project; additional studies should be undertaken to see if increased oversight by government is required
Legislature Adjourns Week Early; Meet With Your MPPs
To the surprise of some, the Ontario Legislature adjourned on December 6th for its winter recess, one week earlier than originally planned.
The winter break is a great opportunity for a small delegation from your construction associations to meet with your local MPP to discuss the construction industry’s issues in your area. Some issues you might want to advance include the following:
- Ensure that the new Construction Act is fully implemented as intended and as scheduled
- Modernization of the skilled trades and apprenticeship system to better serve industry
- Ensure Ontario’s workers’ compensation scheme is highly efficient and serves the needs of the workers and employers effectively, gets injured workers back to health and back to work in a timely way, offers competitive premium rates and provides best in class service excellence
- Insist that the government, in consultation with stakeholders, develop a long term infrastructure plan featuring annual investments that ensure Ontario’s public infrastructure supports our economy and our way of life
- If community benefits clauses are to appear in public procurements, insist that they are fair and reasonable for contractors
- Encourage the government, in consultation with stakeholders, to make improvements to the province’s workplace health and safety system with the goal of reducing workplace fatalities, injuries, near misses and illnesses
Phone your MPP’s constituency office and arrange a meeting.
Bill 66 Proposes to Open Tendering for Public Work
Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018 was introduced in the Legislature on December 6th, the final day of the fall session, by the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Todd Smith. Schedule 9 of the Bill amends the Labour Relations Act, 1995 to deem municipalities and certain local boards, school boards, hospitals, colleges, universities and public bodies to be non-construction employers. Once the Bill is passed into law, trade unions that represent employees of these employers who are employed, or who may be employed in the construction industry will no longer represent those employees. Any collective agreement binding the employer and the trade union will cease to apply in so far as it applies to the construction industry.
The net effect of this change, if passed, will be to open up the tendering to more competition in places where the municipality and certain local boards etc. have been designated as construction employers.
The Bill is believed to be a high priority of the government and will likely pass through the legislative processes very quickly once the Legislature resumes sitting on February 19th.
Provincial Controller and Auditor General At Odds Over Deficit
Provincial Controller, Cindy Veinot, left her position on September 27th due to a disagreement with the new PC government over its accounting practices. The job of Provincial Controller includes responsibility for preparing the consolidated financial statements of the province and Veinot, a former partner at Deloitte’s, had served in the role only since December 2016. The focus of the conflict is the way the new government calculated the province’s deficit, increasing it from the $6.7B projected by the previous Liberal regime to $15B.
However, siding with the PCs is the Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, who from the get-go took issue with the way the Liberals had treated Hydro One debt and had allocated pension assets in their deficit calculations.
Despite the urgings of the NDP members, the Select Committee on Financial Transparency
refused to call Veinot to appear to give her side of the story. Committee chair, PC MPP Ross Romano said the committee there wasn’t enough time. The Committee’s report is expected to be finalized on Thursday, December 13th.
Hydro One Acquisition of Avista Denied By US Regulator Citing Government Interference
The State of Washington’s electricity regulator denied approval of Hydro One’s $5.3B takeover of Spokane-based Avista reasoning that the proposed merger fails to serve the public interest. In its decision, the regulator stated, “The proposed transaction cannot be said to be consistent with the public interest when it is evident that decisions affecting Hydro One’s and Avista’s business operations and financial integrity are subject to political considerations that may motivate one provincial leader or another to make decisions and take actions in the future that may cause harm instead of promoting the best interests of Avista, its customers, and Hydro One’s non-government shareholders.”
The value of Hydro One shares has declined since the Washington regulator blocked the deal and it’s believed that Hydro One could suffer more than $150M in sunk costs and penalties. The regulator’s decision may be appealed.
Privacy and Surveillance: Understanding an Employer’s Rights and Obligations
As arbitrators and courts continue to struggle to balance an employer’s right to manage its business with employees’ right to privacy, employers are often left wondering what they can and cannot do. Join us at this HReview, as we address employer rights and best practices in the world of privacy, monitoring and surveillance, social media and IT-related misconduct:
1. Is there is a “Right” to Privacy?
Privacy legislation and its impact on your workplace
Unique considerations for unionized employers
2. Employee Monitoring and Surveillance
Can an employer monitor an employee’s email, internet and smartphone use?
When can cameras be used in the workplace?
Surveillance outside the workplace – is it ever appropriate?
3. Privacy and Social Media
What is an employer permitted to learn about a job applicant?
Can an employer require access to an applicant’s social media account(s)?
Is an employer permitted to act on what it sees on the social media account(s) of an existing employee?
4. Addressing IT-Related Misconduct
Recent trends in discipline and discharge for IT-related misconduct.
5. What does the future hold?
Wednesday February 27, 2019, 7:30 – 9:30 a.m.
(Breakfast at 7:30 a.m.; program at 8:00 a.m.)
Hazelton Manor, 99 Peelar Road, Concord, ON L4K 1A3
By Monday February 18, 2019 (spaces limited)
Details, including how to register, can be found on the back page of our newsletter and on our website.