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Stakeholders in Ontario and Quebec looking at future of prompt payment

Warren Frey
Stakeholders in Ontario and Quebec looking at future of prompt payment

With Ontario legislation changing prompt payment regulations for the first time in a generation and Quebec moving in a similar direction, industry movers and shakers are looking to change policy across the country.

The Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) recently held its 80th annual general meeting and conference in Vancouver and awarded Singleton Reynolds partner and lawyer Bruce Reynolds the Jock Tindale Memorial award, which celebrates integrity in the industry.

Reynolds was one of the key players in reforming Ontario prompt payment legislation and was cited as hewing to the principles of the award as he worked with stakeholders and the government to change the former Construction Lien Act.

“It’s been a time of great change, but it’s a change that’s only been achieved through a very large group of folks, including the OGCA working together, trusting one another, and dealing with one another in a way that is really fundamentally ground in integrity, honesty and ethics, without which we wouldn’t have been able to make this change, a truly once in a generation change to the law,” Reynolds said.

He and Sharon Vogel worked with the OGCA, the Prompt Payment Alliance, the Ontario government and others to conduct a review of Ontario’s Construction Lien Act. They then generated a report recommending changes to the law and worked with the Ministry of the Attorney General in drafting Bill 142.

The bill included 98 of the 101 recommendations in Reynolds and Vogel’s report and received royal assent last December.

The change to prompt payment regulations in Ontario was a long time coming, Matheson Constructors president Al Youmans said.

“It was a system that was mired in policy, process and procedure from the 1970s,” Youmans said. “It is well needed, it’s fair, equitable and reasonable, and it’s respectful to all parties in the construction process.”

With Bill 142 in place in Ontario, other provinces such as Quebec are looking to update their approach to prompt payment.

“Obviously there were a lot of lessons learned in Ontario with Bill 142, so we’re trying to take that collective learning and be able to apply it, whether on a provincial basis or a federal basis and the next issue up is the federal file,” explained General Contractors Alliance of Canada (GCAC) chair Matt Ainley.

Progress has been made at the federal level, he added, and the GCAC is working closely with Public Services and Procurement Canada as well as Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office.

“We’re supplying feedback to Reynolds and Vogel’s initial (federal) report, and we’ll be there when government forms a committee and they go to draft a bill. Industry will have a voice in making sure it’s practical as well as dealing with the issues identified in the Reynolds and Vogel report,” Ainley said.

GCAC vice-chair Eric Cote said it made sense to exchange information with the OGCA since Quebec has now initiated prompt payment pilot projects and Ontario has introduced Bill 142.

“This happens in other provinces, legislation is coming up, and we can learn from this. We can get some sort of harmonization that can be easily applied and understood for all,” Cote said.

“General contractors (GC) are also in favour of prompt payment, and sometimes we forget to say that. Sometimes the client doesn’t pay the GC, so the sub doesn’t get paid either. We want everyone in the chain to get paid. We want the client to be part of the process, have a straightforward calendar, and be able to have an adjudicator who can intervene and fix problems that were there in the first place,” he added.

The Quebec pilot projects will test use of an obligatory payment schedule and a dispute resolution process using an adjudicator.

The pilots are anticipated to run for one or two years before legislation is adopted by the provincial government.

“We need to get the voice of general contractors throughout Canada, and since we have a dedicated association for GCs in Quebec and in Ontario, this is how it started,” Cote said.

“Through the trades, we can have a dialogue and be part of the discussion there is nationally about prompt payment right now.”

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