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Infrastructure, Labour

Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: Constructing a 21st century hospital requires fully trained, qualified tradespeople

John Bourke
Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: Constructing a 21st century hospital requires fully trained, qualified tradespeople
SUBMITTED PHOTO — A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Building Trades Council (BTC) and The Ottawa Hospital. This charter was signed by the executive of the BTC and The Ottawa Hospital Board of Governors on Sept. 3, 2020. Pictured in the photo are Richard Hayter, director, community relations, Building Trades Council; Joanne Read, executive vice-president, planning and support services, The Ottawa Hospital; Cameron Love, CEO, The Ottawa Hospital; John Bourke, president, Building Trades Council; Katherine Cotton, chair, The Ottawa Hospital Board of Governors; Tony Sottile, chair, development committee, The Ottawa Hospital Board of Governors; Rod Thompson, The United Brotherhood of Carpenters' and Joiners of America, Local 93; Graham Bird, president GBA Group and new civic development project Adviser.

In 2028, The Ottawa Hospital will open its doors to a new state-of-the-art, specialized health and trauma centre in the heart of the Nation’s Capital. 

The new hospital campus, to be built 400 metres southeast of the existing Civic Campus, is of enormous importance to eastern Ontario, in its focus on complex injury and illness, and as a major economic driver for a new health village.

In all regions in Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of our health system and the frailties of our economy. 

The original Civic Hospital was in fact built 100 years ago by the area Building and Construction Trades, because of the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Ironically, here we are again building the new Civic hospital, bringing the latest construction technology, and building sciences to a facility that will meet the highest standards in infectious disease control, prevention and management. 

The Building Trades Council (BTC) is committed to creating partnerships and local engagements that will ensure a successful implementation of the new Civic development.

One of these partnerships began with a Project Labour Agreement (PLA) with the local BTC that will guarantee a 21st century workforce of trained and certified construction professionals.

A guarantee of a qualified labour supply is important given that the Ottawa region is experiencing its greatest infrastructure and construction boom.

This PLA, which includes a pre-hire initiative, reduces the potential risks to the successful completion of the project. The first step was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the BTC and The Ottawa Hospital. This charter was signed by the executive of the BTC and The Ottawa Hospital Board of Governors on Sept. 3, 2020.

This PLA guarantees:

  • An abundant supply of trained, certified tradespersons.
  • A commitment to no-strike, no walkout, or lock-out for the entire implementation of the new Civic development.
  • A generous philanthropic commitment to the local share during construction.
  • The training of the next generation of building and construction skilled trades workers, with a focus on the recruitment of Indigenous people, youth, women, new Canadians, individuals with disabilities and other under-represented populations.
  • A partnership with Algonquin College, among others, to share in the training of the new workforce of tradespersons, and a commitment to a top quality, best-in-kind facility.
  • The initial construction of the parking garage onsite for tradespeople during the early works and hospital construction.
  • The right of non-signatory contractors to work on the project.

The BTC has deliberately sourced a certified labour supply to ensure that the construction workforce is competent and qualified to build a 21st century hospital.

Each tradesperson will hold one or more of the following certifications: a certificate of apprenticeship, or a certificate of qualification, or a university or college degree; or a college certificate in addition to the certificate of qualification; or the Red Seal Endorsement which is the universal standard of excellence.

The PLA with the BTC aligns and reinforces The Ottawa Hospital’s commitment to health and safety on the job.

As one of the most significant and critical infrastructure projects in the province, The Ottawa Hospital will deliver a fair, open, transparent procurement process to ensure that all successful bidders establish fair wages and benefits, and all contractors pay their required Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board contributions, etc.

We believe the PLA partnership brings out the best of the local building and construction trades, affiliates and their respective members, to build the new Civic development with pride of workmanship and with excellent standards.

This is the new hospital for our growing region, our families and their future descendants. A hundred years after the Spanish Flu pandemic, the local building and construction trades are proud to follow in the footsteps of our ancestral brothers and sisters, to resume their important work, and to build the best hospital of this century. 

John Bourke is president of the Building and Construction Trades Council and IBEW Local 586 business manager. Send comments and Industry Perspectives op-ed ideas to

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