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This Week in Construction Law, May 30 – June 3, 2022

In national news, the House of Commons transportation committee has published a report describing the Canada Infrastructure Bank as a wasteful, “absolute” failure, and calls for its dissolution. According to the report, the CIB has completed no projects, attracted no private-sector investment, and spent $35 billion since its inception in 2017.

In national news, the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and the Government of Canada have launched the Apprenticeship Service, with the intention of investing an initial $247 million to create 25,000 trade apprenticeships across Canada. The construction industry needs to recruit 309,000 workers over the next ten years to avoid a historic demographic labour crunch, as an estimated 259,000 baby boomers (collectively constituting 22% of Canada’s current construction workforce) retire in the same period.

In Ontario, 13 of 25 union labour agreements have now been ratified, including an agreement for the 15,000-strong carpenters’ union, and industry lobby group RESCON believes the worst is over. The “wall-to-wall shutdowns” seen in early May have abated, and six of the nine trade unions on strike have now settled. The strikes and walkouts appeared to arise from last-minute (in the context of the three-year labour agreement cycle in Ontario) discontent, largely motivated by concerns of real wage loss due to recent inflation, including a roughly 50% increase in the price of gas since 2021 and a 60% increase in the cost of Toronto housing since 2020. The change in sentiment seemed to have been unanticipated even by union leadership, which in several cases presented deals to union members for ratification only to have those deals voted down by large margins.

In Ontario, public and private sectors are partnering to conduct a series of fire research tests, collectively named the Ottawa Large-Scale Test. The largest test, which will be conducted at the end of the month, will involve the complete burning of a purpose-built two-storey building. The testing will evaluate the efficacy of the National Building Code standards for timber-built high-rises.

In Ontario, the City of Toronto is holding a property tax sale for properties owing a total of $21.1 million in unpaid property taxes. The sale process begins when a Tax Arrears Certificate is registered against properties with more than two years of unpaid property taxes; often the case because the owner has relocated or is deceased, and neither the owner (in the former case) or next of kin (in the latter case) can be found.

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