The leader of one of the industry’s largest trade contractor associations is mostly pleased with the recently unveiled 2019 federal budget.
Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC) CEO Pierre Boucher expressed optimism towards the measures put forth in the budget and highlighted the government’s support of prompt payment measures.
The 2019 budget states legislation will be introduced that “that would ensure that payments flow down the construction supply chain promptly and to provide for an effective adjudicative mechanism when they do not, thus facilitating the orderly and timely building of federal construction projects on federal property.”
“We’re quite convinced it will mirror and perhaps even embellish a little bit what was done in Ontario, given the fact that was a first take and they’ve done it very successfully. You learn from that and you try to improve upon it wherever possible,” Boucher said.
Other priorities for MCAC include continued progress regarding tariff negotiations.
“We would certainly like the government to make sure we remain a place where people want internationally to invest in, and so the tariffs that have been negotiated and continue to be negotiated are big as well, and we’ll see where the government wants to move on that,” he said.
He also expressed approval of the one-time $2.2-billion top-up of the Federal Gas Tax Fund in support of municipal infrastructure.
“We need to be competitive worldwide and we can only do so by having a modern infrastructure that responds to the needs of investors,” Boucher said. “All trades together do 80 per cent of the work and therefore we need to be part of those solutions and we look forward to working with stakeholders on making sure the government moves forward on this announcement.”
The government also pointed to a lack of affordable housing across the nation but particularly in Toronto and Vancouver as a major problem and rolled out several initiatives including a first-time home buyer incentive through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and a boost to the Home Buyer’s Plan, which allows for first time homebuyers to withdraw money from a Registered Retirement Savings Plan to finance a home without paying tax on the withdrawal.
Boucher voiced support for the affordable housing initiatives and said it would benefit his membership and the wider construction industry.
“Anything that relates to construction will impact our large sector, so clearly whatever needs to be done to enable affordability for people who need to continue to live in that space should be seriously considered,” he said.
The Canada Training Benefit, a new program that will invest $1.7 billion over five years in skills training, was also included in the 2019 budget. One component of the plan is a non-taxable Canada Training Credit planned for 2020 for workers between 25 and 64 where credits of $250 are accumulated each year, up to a lifetime limit of $5,000 and can be spent on half the costs of a skills training program.
“They’re announcing credits and new benefits in terms of unemployment insurance (EI), and that’s big for us because people need to be trained according to the new demands in terms of technology, so we very much welcome that. It allows employees to take time off work, get reinstituted in their old positions, get paid through EI and get the skill set required for them to fulfill their jobs,” Boucher said.
The MCAC conducts training through the Canadian Construction Education Council, he added.
While this year’s budget did not contain nearly the amount of infrastructure funding and construction-specific initiatives of previous years, Boucher was equanimous in his assessment of the government’s record.
“I’m not sure the money (from previous budgets) has been spent yet. I think it’s earmarked for ongoing infrastructure development. They’re announcing support for municipalities in terms of further development. To some degree money has been set aside and announced and we’ll be looking very closely at that with government,” Boucher said.
The federal government stated it will put $35 million towards a permanent Global Talent Stream program to avail Canadian companies of skilled overseas workers when no Canadians are available to fill needed jobs.
“That needs more work and we’ll work closely with the government on it. It’s all in the details at this time. We want to be sure we can attract as many skilled people as possible to complement our skill set through education,” Boucher said.
He added while what’s contained in the new budget is good, the true test is what comes after.
“At the end of the day, it’s the implementation of the measures announced by the budget that’s important to us. That’s why with other stakeholders we’re going to work together and help government to deliver on their promises,” Boucher said.
“There are some announcements where you say ‘how does it fit? How is that going to be delivered and what impact will it have on the industry?’ That’s phase two, where we get involved,” he added.