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Unpopular Bill 124 set in motion construction-industry changes and cooperation

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by Contractors’ Corner

Our world is in a continuous state of flux and the construction industry reflects the changes. Construction is an industry that must not only change with the times, but also anticipate and prepare for those changes, writes Clive Thurston, president of the Ontario General Contractors Association.
Clive Thurston
Clive Thurston

Clive Thurston

Our world is in a continuous state of flux and the construction industry reflects this reality. Construction is an industry that must not only change with the times, but also anticipate and prepare for those changes,

We adapt and find ways to create the new “wonders of the world” while still providing the basics of roads, sewers, water, energy, homes, offices, commercial and institutional building. With changing markets, materials, codes, and of course the green movement, our industry must deliver. No matter the problem of weather, material shortages, unexpected costs, labour shortages and much more — we, as an industry, find a way to get the job done.

As we face these challenges, there has been an emerging change in the industry here in Ontario. Where once contractors and architects and the other stakeholders often operated in isolation, not trusting each other or sharing information or even working together except in very rare circumstances, today things have changed.

From the OGCA perspective, that change started with an ill-conceived piece of legislation called Bill 124. Alone at first as the only organization at that time to say no, gradually others came to support us, first from the surety world and then the many local construction associations. Together, we succeeded in convincing the government of the day to rethink its stance. From this grew a concept of “consultation not confrontation” and a desire to work more closely with our fellow stakeholders.

We faced a particularly onerous situation at a major municipality. For the first time, we went before a municipal council and took a strong stand. A series of successful meetings with that municipality followed and that brought about a resolution to the issues and created a lasting relationship. There was a change brought about by these events. Instead of the contractors attending these meetings on their own, senior representatives of the Surety Association of Canada (SAC) and the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) joined us to help make our case. It was a continuation of a rapport started by my predecessor Don Cameron and his counterpart at the OAA, Brian Watkinson.

We recognized that no matter our differences, architects and contractors were in the same boat and would sink or swim based on how they worked together. Shortly after, the Consulting Engineers of Ontario (CEO), led by John Gamble, joined us to meet challenges at the Ontario Realty Corporation (ORC). The efforts and results have been well documented on this issue, but the important part is that we acted together. Since that time, our three associations have worked together to face many challenges and have been joined by other industry representatives to work together in resolving issues.

Over the last few years, we have come together to promote the interests of the construction industry. We will no longer be divided and left to be conquered individually. Association representatives share information on a number of issues and meet regularly to address them. The executives meet to bring the discussion to the highest levels in our organizations. Whether a GC or a road builder, a supplier, a mechanical or an electrical contractor, we meet to assist each other on a number of fronts.

Education is one area where the construction associations of Ontario have come together to find ways to deal with a fragmented system of training and education, one that ignores the need for industry professionals. They are working together on issues of law reform, safety and much more.

The industry is growing together and this will bear on future advocacy roles. As an industry, we have not effectively worked together to get our messages to government because we were separate. We were at a disadvantage to those who were organized and could bring the full weight of their memberships to bear on an issue. That has changed as we move closer together using joint action and a unified presence with government. By continuing the joint representation on issues that affect the whole industry, not just one part, we believe we can improve things for everyone.

We are facing a new frontier with new ideas and challenges with ever-changing policies and conditions. By uniting we are making a difference. We are all part of the same house, architect, subcontractor, supplier, engineer, general contractor, road builder, etc. We may be in separate rooms but it is still our house, and while we may not always agree, by continuing to support each other, we can make a better future for all.

Clive Thurston is President of the Ontario General Contractors Association.

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