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This Week in Construction Law: April 11 – 15, 2022

In national news, Dan Strand of WorkSafeBC recently represented Canada at a meeting of experts hosted by the International Labour Organization in Switzerland in order to revise the 1992 Code of Practice on Safety and Health in Construction, which sets global standards for construction safety.

In national news, the federal government’s plan to double current house construction rates has met with considerable skepticism and criticism. According to critics, housing starts are already at the highest level in a decade, skilled labour is in low supply, and municipalities are likely to contest necessary rezoning, among other issues. Critics have observed that Canada’s education system is geared primarily toward preparing young Canadians for university, not the trades, and that Canada’s immigration system currently targets white collar workers and temporary foreign workers (typically unskilled), leaving a gap when it comes to supply of skilled tradesmen. In B.C., the Georgia Straight reports that according to B.C.’s Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, 76% of their 3,600 members cannot currently find enough tradesmen for the work they already have, and that to even maintain current levels of annual housing starts in B.C., the province requires another 50,000 construction workers.

In national news, industry groups disagree about the benefits to the construction industry in the recently-announced federal budget, which contains a multitude of initiatives. The lobby group Canadian Construction Association has criticized the budget for failing to go far enough to meet infrastructure needs, which it claims lacks a consistent, long-term infrastructure investment plan, among other issues. However, the lobby group Canada’s Building Trades Unions claims that the new budget shows that the federal government “has worker’s backs,” particularly the new labour mobility tax deduction for tradespeople and apprentices relocating across Canada.

In national news, the federal government states that it has no plans to institute a fuel inefficiency tax on trucks, despite rumours to the contrary.

In Ontario, plumbers, pipefitters, and welders have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate. Union negotiators had asked for a raise of approximately 20% over three years; contractors are currently offering an 8% raise.

In B.C., Vancouver’s mayor reports that the city’s vacant property tax, tripled last year, has raised $32 million in revenue and led to a decline in vacant properties.

In Manitoba, the provincial government has announced a three-year, $2.4 billion infrastructure strategy that will include at least $500 billion per year dedicated to road construction.

In commentary this week, Avesta Alani and Richard Yehia discuss strategies to grow a skilled workforce when demand is high and supply is tight, including the use of interprovincial movement, new immigrants, and temporary foreign workers.

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