Bringing the water sector’s voice to regulatory and legislative decision-makers.
Greeting the New Administration
When a new government takes office, it offers an opportunity to take a fresh look at the priorities and challenges for the water community in the provincial policy.
Municipal water and wastewater infrastructure continue to be chronically underfunded. This is largely because, between the 1970s and the early-2000s, many municipalities across Ontario neglected their core infrastructure assets and left them to decay. During this time, municipal decision-makers were able to keep local water rates stagnant, or increases low, as infrastructure investments were not a priority issue for local taxpayers, particularly investments which were “out of sight, out of mind”. Unfortunately, it remains common practice for many small – and medium – sized municipalities to defer maintenance, rehabilitation, and expansion, as they do not have the necessary capital reserves or tax base to pay for needed work. Instead, often municipalities operate their water and wastewater systems below cost, compounded by the legacy-debt which accrued due to the lengthy period of underinvestment, and ultimately rely on development charges and billions of dollars of annual federal and provincial funding to supplement their system needs.
Maintaining the Voluntary Certification Status of Workers in Our Industry
The skilled trade shortage is a problem facing the construction industry in Ontario and throughout Canada. The Sewer and Watermain is experience a greater labour pinch than most other sectors in construction. These workers are critical to building the core infrastructure needed for new homes, hospitals, and transit. Trades in the Sewer and Watermain sector are generally voluntary certification trades. Which means an individual is not required by law to obtain a certificate of qualification in order to practice the trade. Workers in the sewer and watermain sector have historically been trained in highly specialized on-site instruction and often learn on the job, under supervision. Introducing mandatory (compulsory) certification to any of the trades in our industry could displace thousands of workers and create additional barriers for those seeking a career in this in-demand sector of construction.
Prompt Payment and Adjudication
The Government of Ontario has long recognized that the construction industry is a volatile industry requiring some measure of protection for those companies and individuals supplying labour and materials to job sites. In 1983, the Government enacted the Construction Lien Act to replace the Mechanic’s Lien Act. The effective dates of the new Construction Act (“The Act”) are: • July 1, 2018 – Amendments to liens and hold-back rules • October 1, 2019 – Amendments dealing with prompt payment, adjudication and municipalities The Act represents a complete overhaul of the Construction Lien Act which was enacted in 1983, with only minimal amendments having been made since then. Prompt payment and adjudication are brand new substantive regimes introduced for the first time in the Act. The Act is a creature of the legislature and creates a procedural scheme designed to have disputes resolved in a more summary fashion than is ordinarily available. It allows for those having a direct contract with one another to have their rights and responsibilities defined but also provides rights and responsibilities for those in the construction pyramid, even where a direct contract is not found. The rights and obligations under the Act can be separated into several categories: Under Prompt Payment, payment deadlines are now mandated by statute, meaning the Act tells you the timeframe for payment of invoices and how invoices are to be disputed. Adjudication is a non-court-based system to enforce Prompt Payment and resolve a multitude of other issues that arise on construction projects. The goal of these two new regimes is to ensure that funds flow in a timely manner and to resolve issues on an expedited basis to ensure the timely completion of construction projects.