It would be difficult to imagine warmer words of praise for Ontario’s construction industry than those spoken by provincial Labour Minister Monte McNaughton at the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) recent 81st AGM and Conference in Muskoka.
McNaughton’s keynote address, at the conference’s opening dinner, lauded the industry for its contribution to Ontario’s economy and infrastructure and promised continued collaboration with his government.
“You’ve built the hospitals where we care for our loved ones, the power plants that keep the lights on, and the schools where our children grow. You’ve helped shape the skylines, the waterfronts and the heartland of Ontario. I have a lot of respect for you and everything you do”
McNaughton also made it clear that he wishes to create a co-operative relationship with the construction industry going forward.
“I am establishing a Construction Advisory Panel,” he announced.
“The issues discussed by the panel will be wide ranging. They will include labour and employment law, the emergence of new equipment and technologies, as well as health and safety, and injury prevention. It will be an informal opportunity to have meaningful conversation, and for my office and ministry to directly engage with the construction sector. Bring your emerging trends. Bring your concerns. I want to hear your best ideas on how we can strengthen this sector so it can continue to grow and thrive.”
McNaughton explained that the eight to 12-member panel, composed of both management and labour, will be formed over the next few weeks and will meet three times a year.
“There will be no surprises out of my office,” he said.
McNaughton moved to the labour ministry from Infrastructure only this past June but has already initiated several actions welcomed by the industry across the province.
The Minster drew the audience’s attention to the direct positive impact of the WSIB premium reduction for Ontario construction workers — a total saving of $607 million dollars — and congratulated Eastern Construction and its President and CEO Bryan Arnold for issuing $600 rebate cheques to employees as a result of the announcement. McNaughton said Eastern’s actions underscore the message that, “good health and safety saves lives and it saves money.”
“Every employee wants to know what makes their boss happy,” Arnold later told the Daily Commercial News. “At Eastern, safety makes us happy. If we show our employees that safety is our priority, they will make it their priority too.”
McNaughton also made it clear that he appreciates the ongoing efforts of the OGCA to improve workplace safety. He repeated his commitment to have ministry officials work with the industry to harmonize the COR standard with the CPO standard.
“I understand discussions have been productive. We are close to achieving this,” he said.
In turn, the OGCA recognized McNaughton’s willingness to improve safety and working conditions in conjunction with the industry by presenting him with a League of Champions hockey jersey, signed by the OGCA Board of Directors. The League of Champions is the association’s symbol of its commitment to build a safe work culture, and to recognize the leadership achievements of OGCA members.