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This Week in Construction Law: November 29 – December 3, 2021

In Federal news, a recently published StatsCan building permit report indicates that the total value of Canadian building permits rose 4.3% to $10.1 billion in September, led by an 8.2% increase in the residential sector ($6.9 billion overall), particularly multi-family construction. In context, this represents further cooling from peak permit value in early 2021, but still substantially higher than the stable value range observed between 2016 and mid-2020, when residential permit value spiked from $5 billion to over $8 billion.

In Federal news, the Canadian Construction Association’s annual “Hill Day” occurred on November 30. The CCA lobbied the federal government for increased investment in infrastructure and for a revised approach to procurement.

In Federal news, the Government of Canada and Federation of Canadian Municipalities announced support for energy-efficient affordable housing on November 30. The Sustainable Affordable Housing initiative will invest $1.7 million in 16 plans, studies, and pilot projects that will collectively build or retrofit more than 16,000 housing units across Canada. This relatively minor investment occurs in the context of a $300 million federal endowment in 2019 toward sustainable housing initiatives, and spending on such projects is expected to be ongoing.

In Federal news, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty has published a report titled Managing the New Age of Construction Risk, which explores both acute and long-term risk trends in the construction sector. While the report stresses that the outlook for the sector is strong, challenges will likely include further supply chain hazards, hardening infrastructure in the face of severe weather caused by climate change, and a shift to sustainable and efficient designs, both for new builds and as retrofits of existing structures.

In Ontario, consternation is growing around the transition of the now-defunct Ontario College of Trades inspectorate to the Ministry of Labour. OCOT inspectors have not written a single compliance ticket since 2018, when Premier Ford announced his attention to wind down OCOT. The provincial government has replaced the entire former inspection team and more than tripled the number of inspectors, leading to hope from industry figures that the new team will be able to more effectively crack down on unlicensed tradespeople. However, industry fears remain about the replacement agency, both generally with regard to how the transition will structurally address previous governance issues within OCOT, and with regard to the identity of key figures in the new bureaucracy, as yet unnamed.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has urged municipalities to streamline their municipal construction approval processes, claiming that these processes are a significant culprit in rising real estate prices. Ford announced that the provincial government will soon begin to publish scores for each municipality on the basis of how quickly permits are approved.

In Alberta, a 74,000-square-foot vertical farm under construction in Calgary has been selected as the first recipient of grant money from the provincial government’s new Investment and Growth Fund, to the tune of $2.73 million. The farm, which outwardly resembles a typical warehouse, claims to use 95% less water than traditional agriculture and produces 50 times traditional agricultural output capacity, while also experiencing substantially less risk from adverse weather events and crop pests.


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