When the Tony Dean review of the Ontario College of Trades was released recently, it didn’t mean that all the hot-button issues in the Ontario construction industry had been addressed. There is another — prompt payment — that has been around for more than a decade, that still awaits resolution.
Although there were dissenters, the Dean report met with generally favourable reviews. Among them was one from Dan Reymer, president of the Canadian Farm Builders Association (CFBA).
Reymer said in a recent interview that, on balance, Dean did a "very good job" in his comprehensive review of the college of trades.
"We’ll see how the implementation rolls out, and how it’s received in the industry. But, overall, I would say (the CFBA) is pleased.
He said he found it interesting that the responsibility for determining a trade classification would be taken away from the college and handed, instead, to a review panel, and he likes the idea. But he’s a bit concerned about how enforcement of the college’s various activities will be carried out, and what the levels of enforcement will be.
"I’m sure (Dean) knew ahead of time that he wasn’t going to make everyone happy…but at least he gave us all a fair level playing field to speak our piece about what concerned us."
The other key subject that the industry is watching is the review of Ontario’s construction lien act, and how it deals with the problems surrounding the issue of prompt payment.
Prompt payment is such a hot topic that a single-purpose lobby group was formed early this year to push for legislation that would eliminate the long wait that sub-trades often have to endure before they receive payment.
Construction law expert Bruce Reynolds, of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, is leading the review, which will include other things, an examination of payment problems within the industry.
When the Ontario government announced last February that Reynolds would conduct the review of the Construction Lien Act, the lobby group, Prompt Payment Ontario (PPO), had already been in existence for four months, and had been working to get the issue of prompt payment handled separately from any lien act review. PPO revised its policy after Reynolds was named to head the lien review, since that review would pay attention to the issues of prompt payment and effective dispute resolution.
Prompt payment had been the subject of a private member’s bill in the legislature before the last provincial election. But when the election was called, the bill died on the order paper without ever receiving third reading.
It has been noted that the lien act is not a payment law, said Gary van Bolderen, of the CFBA. "It is a form of protection of funds, while prompt payment is about being paid on time," he said in an email exchange.
At present, he wrote, there are "a lot of projects where the trades are waiting 90 and 120 days to get paid for work completed."
Reymer echoed that. At present, "as a sub-trade, for example, I submit my bills to the general contractor, the general then presents his bills to the owner."
"Then when the owner pays the general, the general distributes the money down to the subs and the sub-subs. It can take weeks; it can take months, and it has.
"Some of those small firms don’t have the financial resources to wait (that long) for their payment. They can become desperate. So prompt-payment legislation is supposed to be addressing that. And how they do that, that’s going to be one thing we’re going to be watching."
Will the CFBA be making a presentation to the Reynolds committee, or will its concerns be addressed through its affiliation with the Council of Ontario Construction Associations?
"We’d do it in conjunction with COCA," Reymer said. "Or, as was the case with the Dean report, if we’re invited we would, absolutely, provide input to the process."
Reymer said he’s not sure when the next edition of the Farm Building Code will be released. The last version, he said, was dated 1995.
In the meantime, there has been growing concern about farm fires, something that is dealt with in the Farm Building Code.
The provincial ministry of agriculture, food and rural affairs has issued information pamphlets regarding fires and the prevention of fires on farms. But, Reymer said, that was three years ago, "and the severity of these fires just continues to grow."
"A typical pig farm would once have perhaps 100 of 200 sows. Now we’re seeing operations of 2,500 to 3,000 sows. We’re talking here of 80,000-square-foot buildings that house livestock, so fire in those is quite a concern."
It’s not just pigs, but beef, dairy, and poultry farms. Seeking economies of scale, such operations get larger and larger.
Recently, Reymer said, "just north of Lucan (near London, Ont.) a large beef operation went up in flames. The building was lost, although, luckily, not many animals were lost."