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This Week in Construction Law: December 6 – 10, 2021

In Federal news, Employment and Social Development Canada has announced that in light of recommendations made by the Auditor General, it is rebuilding the compliance regime for temporary foreign workers in order to better protect them, and released a summary of its efforts to date.

In Federal news, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has released an online course titled Substance Use in the Workplace: Addressing Stigma. The free 30-minute course is recommended by CCOHS for both employers and employees to learn about substance use and how to support those affected without using stigmatizing language.

In Ontario, representatives of the Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario will soon publish a report addressing what the organization believes to be a trend of increasingly poorly-drafted contract documents damaging business relationships, especially with regard to public sector projects. The report suggests that owners and stakeholders need to spend more time and resources on adequately scoping projects before they go to market, and on design reviews, checks, and verifications at each phase of the design process.

In Ontario, the provincial government’s program to compensate workers for sick days is being extended to July 31. The Worker Income Protection Benefit is a COVID-19 measure that the government intends to keep in place until COVID-19 is defeated, and the extension arrives as daily COVID-19 cases in Ontario are at their highest rate at any point within the last six months.

In Ontario, the trend continues of developers cancelling or delaying residential construction projects due to increased costs associated with COVID-19 supply chain issues. In Barrie, Pace Developments cancelled agreements to build approximately 70 condos, offering to return the deposits to the buyers or continue with construction for those willing to buy back in for an additional $100,000, leading to outrage that has even attracted comment from the premier. Nine condo projects were cancelled in the Greater Toronto Area in 2020, and another four in 2021 to date.

In Ontario, the Hintonburg Community Association appeared before Ottawa’s city planning committee to urge them to hire more housing inspectors to fill 17 vacancies for the role. A local councillor observed that building code violations seemed to have grown much worse over the preceding 18 months, in which 11,000 planning applications have been reviewed by only 34 staff. The city’s general manager of planning, infrastructure and economic development responded that it wasn’t a budget question, since inspectors are paid through permit fees, but rather a difficulty with recruiting qualified inspectors.

In B.C. news, COVID-19 regulations that allow private employers to individually determine vaccine rules for their staff has led to the creation of a new recruitment company, Jabless Jobs, which aims to connect the unvaccinated with employers who don’t require it. There are currently 70 listings on the website, mostly in construction and the trades.

In Quebec, a municipal road construction project a decade in the making has been indefinitely halted in order to protect the threatened western chorus frog, which is protected by the Species at Risk Act. This is the second such federal injunction handed down in this matter, and environmentalists hope that it will be followed by permanent protections to a species that has lost 90% of its former habitat in the region.

In New Brunswick, road construction that reduced traffic to one lane led to violence against a man who employed the “zipper merge”, in which drivers stay in the soon-to-be closed lane until it ends, then take turns merging into the remaining lane. As the man discovered, the zipper merge is common in Europe, where it’s treated as a more efficient use of the roadway, but considered profoundly offensive by Canadian motorists, among whom the culture is to immediately vacate the closed lane upon seeing warnings of its closure ahead. In response to the incident, the province’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure has said that the effectiveness of zipper merging is “very clearly established” but isn’t currently widely known in Canada. A public information campaign is planned.

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