COCA’s recent Construction Day at Queen’s Park was the perfect forum to hit home the message to Ontario MPPs that prompt payment legislation needs to be top of mind, says the association’s president.
"This elevates the profile of COCA at the provincial legislature," explained COCA (Council of Ontario Construction Associations' President Ian Cunningham. "The biggest issue on COCA's plate is prompt payment. It doesn't appear to be a priority of the government this time."
COCA intends to make it a priority, especially since the Prompt Payment Act, 2013, or Bill 69, died on the floor of the legislature on May 2, 2014. At the time, the minority Liberal government's proposed 2014 budget was rejected by NDP and Conservative members of the Ontario legislative assembly and, as a result, Bill 69 was not tabled for third reading.
"It had all party support in the last parliament," Cunningham added. "We just have to convince MPPs that it's a top priority and that's what we're doing today."
Cunningham also stated COCA "would like to disconnect the Construction Lien Act from prompt payment" as the two seemed to be linked in government discussions. The Attorney General of Ontario had announced in late March that it would begin a review of the Construction Lien Act, under an independent party, in response to feedback from earlier public hearings on Bill 69.
MPP Brad Duguid, Ontario's minister of economic development, employment and infrastructure, spoke at COCA's Construction Day, but didn't directly address the matter of prompt payment. Instead, discussed the province's focus on investments in infrastructure and its commitment to working with those in the industry.
"We're very enthusiastic about where this province is going economically. We still have work to do, and we still have investments to make, and we still have infrastructure to build, and we still have jobs to create," he said. "(There are) ways that we can help you continue to do business in this province. There are many things we can do. That even includes taking advice from the opposition from time to time."
And members of the opposing parties did offer some words during the COCA event after Duguid spoke.
Progressive Conservative MPP and Labour Critic Randy Hillier stated he was disappointed Bill 69 didn't go through, but was hopeful the Liberal majority government will take action this time.
"We are looking forward to working with the government and assisting and helping in a constructive fashion to make sure that legislation that benefits the people of Ontario gets through this house, gets enacted," he said.
NDP MPP and Natural Resources Critic Gilles Bisson echoed Hillier's comments.
"The government has a chance here. They have a majority. They can do it. We think it's important that if you work, you should get paid, and you shouldn't have to wait forever in order to get that money," he said.
Since Bill 69 died at Queen's Park, leaders from a variety of segments of Ontario's construction industry launched Prompt Payment Ontario (PPO), which will advocate for the passing of prompt payment legislation.
According to COCA Board Chairman Don Gosen, events like Construction Day and organization's like PPO help spread the word and advocate for change.
"We can remind them (MPPs) of the things that are important to us in the construction industry," he said of Construction Day. "It provides another opportunity to further our agenda for raising the bar, so that our contractors in the province get paid in a timely manner."