Small increase in construction investment for November

Investment in building construction
There was a small increase in total investment in building construction for November. Up from October, investment increased 0.1 per cent to $15.5 billion.
Investment in the non-residential sector rose 0.8 per cent to $5 billion, while the residential sector decreased by 0.2 per cent to $10.6 billion. On a constant dollar basis, investment in building construction was largely unchanged at $12.8 billion.
Residential sector investment was down in five provinces. Ontario led the decrease at $17.3 million, with Quebec at $14 million and Manitoba at $11.8 million, coming in close behind. Nationally, investment in single-unit dwellings decreased two per cent to $5.2 billion, while multi-unit dwellings increased 1.6 per cent to $5.4 billion.
In the non-residential sector, investment rose 0.8 per cent to $5 billion in November. The commercial industry increased 1.4 per cent to $2.9 billion, led by Ontario (with 2.8 per cent increase to $1.1 billion) and Quebec (with 3.2 per cent increase to $578.7 million). Offsetting the national growth, British Columbia reports its first decline in commercial investment since May 2018 with a two per cent decline to $533 million.
Investment in the institutional market edged down 0.2 per cent to $1.1 billion, largely due to Alberta which declined 2.7 per cent to $158.5 million. This was the twentieth consecutive monthly decrease in institutional building construction for the province.
In Manitoba, a new $60 million addition to Red River College, Winnipeg, Manitoba, led to the largest provincial gain, increasing 12.5 per cent to $38 million. Nationally, the industrial market rose 0.4 per cent compared with the previous month. Growth in Ontario more than offset the declines reported in six provinces (2 per cent to $394.3 million).

NRC opens second round of code construction consultation

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has launched a public consultation on proposed changes to the national construction codes, including the National Building Code of Canada, National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings, and the National Plumbing Code of Canada, as of the beginning of 2020. This will include proposed changes that were not covered in the fall 2019 consultation.
Ontario code users are being encouraged by the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) to review and provide comments on the national proposals as they are expected to “significantly influence the content of future editions of Ontario’s Building Code.”
This will help streamline the national and provincial code development process. The majority of the changes in the NRC’s consultation are related to energy efficiency, plumbing, accessibility, large farm buildings, earthquake and structural design, and referenced document tables, to name a few.
Consultations run from Jan. 13 through March 13 and can be accessed at the NRC website.

U.S. Senate passes NAFTA 2.0

The United States’ Senate approved the new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement – or more commonly referred to as CUSMA or NAFTA 2.0 – on Jan. 16. The vote was 89-10 in the senate. Canada is the last member of the deal to pass the agreement and is expected to do so within the coming months. It would replace the 25-year-old agreement North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA.
On Nov. 30, 2018, the deal was originally signed as part of the G20 Leader’s Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Canada reportedly was waiting for the United States to pass the agreement before making any steps forward.
The deal includes a “sunset clause” which states that the terms of the agreements will expire after 16 years. The deal is subject to review every six years in which each country can extend. The United States International Trade Commission projected in April that the trade agreement would boost the American economy by $68 billion and add 176,000 jobs, six years after taking effect.

NRC opens second round of consultations on construction codes

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has launched a public consultation on proposed changes to the national construction codes, including the National Building Code of Canada, National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings, and the National Plumbing Code of Canada, as of the beginning of 2020. This will include proposed changes that were not covered in the fall 2019 consultation.
Ontario code users are being encouraged by the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) to review and provide comments on the national proposals as they are expected to “significantly influence the content of future editions to Ontario’s Building Code.”
This will help streamline the national and provincial code development process. The majority of the changes in the NRC’s consultation are related to energy efficiency, plumbing, accessibility, large farm buildings, earthquake and structural design, and referenced document tables, to name a few.
Consultations run from Jan. 13 through March 13. It can be accessed at the NRC website.

CCA slams Supreme Court decision on reprisal clauses

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) is “displeased” that the Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed an appeal by a Canadian contractor following a B.C. Supreme Court decision that upheld Burnaby, B.C.’s “reprisal clause” in tender documents.
It excludes bids from contractors that have been in legal proceedings against the city within the previous two years.
“The clause effectively forces consultants or contractors who may have a dispute with the city to choose between pursuing their legal rights and bidding on city contracts for the next two years,” said Mary Van Buren, CCA president.
There is concern over potential serious implications for contractors in the future over the use of a two-year “blacklist” that bans them from bidding on city projects.
“The inclusion of these types of clauses in contracts essentially allows contractors to be financially punished for exercising their legal rights,” explains Van Buren. “The result is contractors are deterred from accessing the courts to enforce their legal rights because they fear being banned from future participation in projects.”
By upholding the reprisal clause, this means that there is no constitutional barrier to municipalities using reprisal clauses.
The National Trade Contractors Council of Canada (NTCCC) also expressed concern about the legal case. For more information, check out Plumbing & HVAC’s previous article on the topic.

Mits Airconditioning now sole distributor of Mitsubishi HVAC in southwestern Ont. 

 
Mits Airconditioning’s Jack Eliav, left, and Jim Chaters hosted customers at the company’s popular annual barbecue last September in Mississauga, Ont.
Mits Airconditioning Inc., Mississauga, Ont., will be the exclusive distributor of Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada’s HVAC products for Southwestern Ontario as of April 1. Mits will take over the distribution territory from Baymar Supply Ltd., which was recently sold. 
“For more than 33 years, we have enjoyed an excellent and long-standing relationship with Mits Airconditioning,” said Dermot McMorrow, vice president of HVAC products, sales division, at Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada. “We are confident that their product knowledge and reputation of providing exceptional service will help make the transition from Baymar as seamless as possible as we continue to serve this important and growing region.” 
To accommodate its expanded mandate, Mits Airconditioning plans to open new branches in London and Windsor, Ont.  
“We’re honoured that Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada continues to put their trust and faith in our ability to represent their leading-edge HVAC products”, said Mits president Jack Eliav. “Our HVAC experts are specifically trained on Mitsubishi Electric heating and cooling products and available to assist consulting engineers, architects, developers, contractors and MEQ dealers.” 

Ont. launches new program to entice people into trades

The Ontario government has created a new public relations initiative to try and attract more people to the skilled trades.
As part of the government’s “Open for Business, Open for Jobs” strategy, Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training, and skills development, launched a marketing campaign on Jan. 10 to highlight the trades as a career under the slogan “Find a Career you wouldn’t Trade!”
“We need to do a better job at enticing young people and their parents to the skilled trades,” said McNaughton. “For too long, we haven’t viewed these challenging positions as a viable first option. That needs to change and our Open for Business, Open for Jobs strategy, including our new advertising campaign, will go a long way towards making the skilled trades more attractive.”
The government has also invested $75 million in three programs to expose high school students to the trades –  $12.7 million in the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship program, $42 million in the Specialist High Skills Major program and $20.8 million in a pre-apprenticeship program.
“The reality is that the skilled trades offer exciting and challenging careers that often require solid math and problem-solving skills and expose people to the latest technologies such as 3D printing and robotics”, said McNaughton. “When it comes to opportunity, to earning potential, to having a chance to start your own business, the skilled trades come out on top.”
Between January and September of 2019, Ontario had on average 204,000 job openings across all occupations and industries – 13,000 were in the construction sector.
The ad will run online and on social media, in movie theatres, and on television in Tim Hortons locations across the province.

Ontario College of Trades future up in the air 

Education is critical in keeping up to date on equipment. An apprentice technician installs a thermostat under the watchful eye of a judge at Skills Ontario 2019.
By Leah Den Hartogh 
When Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Conservative government were elected in June 2018, a key promise was to shut down the Ontario College of Trades, the body set up to manage trade apprenticeship and licensing by the previous Liberal government. Today, the College is still operating and still performing that function, but it faces an uncertain future. 
“We’ve already moved to simplify the system by winding down of the College of Trades and reducing the journeyperson to apprentice ratio. My goal is to have a simplified apprenticeship system that has businesses across the province engaged and taking on apprentices,” Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development and Conservative MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, told Plumbing & HVAC in an exclusive interview.  
One of the new government’s first pieces of legislation was Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018 – which includes provisions for the College to begin winding down.  
But doing that and then developing another system to replace it has proven difficult. The trades remain a heavily regulated sector and some type of regulation is needed, explained Dorothy McCabe, government relations specialist for Ontario at the Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI). “We believe that significant consultation with our sector is required to ensure the transition to the next (version) of the program is successful.” 
Industry consultation was expected to begin early in 2020 and take a couple of years. 
But last fall the ministries were re-aligned. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities became the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, and the Ministry of Labour became the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (where the trades now fall under). The responsibility of the trades was subsequently transferred from Ross Romano to McNaughton. 
Trying to get it right 
The new minister has delayed industry consultation to “take the time to get this right to make sure that we’re doing the wind–down in an orderly fashion.” McNaughton plans a province-wide tour to visit with “frontline” tradespeople – including colleges, apprentices, businesses, and union training centres. The hope will be to get input on how a better system can be created that will encourage more apprentices and encourage employers to hire more apprentices.  
In Ontario, only six per cent of businesses are taking on apprentices while elsewhere in Canada, the rate is as high as 19 per cent, reported McNaughton. The goal will be to develop a world class apprenticeship system.  
Changes are expected to the current system, but at this point little is known about what those actual changes will entail. Under the previous minister, there were recommendations written into the legislation specifically about things like portable skill sets. 
“A portable skillset model will help apprentices get trained and working faster – without compromising health and safety,” said the government in a press release. “Apprentices will be able to train in the exact skills that an employer or job requires. They can also choose to continue their training for the full trade or in other skills later.” 
There is concern in the industry about adopting this – specifically the idea of “de-skilling” the trades.  
A college model 
The college model established by the Liberal government in 2009 was set up as a self-regulated and funded entity. It was intended to be run and paid for by the industry, like the College of Physicians or College of Teachers. The new Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprentices Act, 2019, introduced in April 2019, shifted authority over the trades back to the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development. 
Membership fees, long a sore point in the industry, were reduced or eliminated last April. “We moved decisively to reduce the fees that trades pay because we’d heard over the last number of years about OCOT’s membership fees,” said McNaughton.  
In late September, two training skills advisors were designated to set up a consultation framework. However, those appointments were made under the previous minister. 
As of now, there are no guarantees on what the system will look like until McNaughton has a better understanding of the entire sector. 
A Construction Advisory Panel was also announced at the end of September, which will provide an opportunity for the minister to hear the different perspectives and concerns from construction industry partners. 

Building permits down in November 

Value of building permits for the residential and non-residential sectors.
Fewer building permits were issued in November than the previous month with a reported decline of 2.4 per cent to $8.1 billion in construction intentions across Canada. 
However, Quebec was up significantly with a total increase of 10.3 per cent to $1.9 billion. On the other hand, building permits in Ontario dropped 5.7 per cent to $3.2 billion. Ontario was one of six provinces to report declines.  
Permits were down in all provinces for multi-family dwellings, except P.E.I, decreasing a total of 11.3 per cent to $2.5 billion. The total value of permits for single family dwellings offset some of this decline – rising 5.6 per cent to $2.3 billion, led by Ontario and British Columbia.  
Non-residential permits were largely unchanged in November. However, the value of industrial permits did rise 24.5 per cent to $753 million. The majority of the gain was due to a high value permit for an organic waste management facility in Quebec City. Meanwhile, the value of institutional permits rose 14.5 per cent to $894 million – largely due to gains in Quebec, resulting from building intentions for healthcare and education facilities. A decline in commercial permits offset those gains.   
In Nunavut, the total value of permits issued jumped from $500,000 in October to $16 million in November. The increase was largely due to a mixed-use residential and commercial project in Iqaluit. This was the largest increase in the value of residential permits in Nunavut since Dec. 2018.  

Interprovincial gas tech ticket in the works 

Andrew Charteris of Haven Home ClimateCare, Kingston, Ont. performs a precision furnace tune-up. New gas furnaces will have to be 95 percent AFUE.
Certification and training standards for gas technicians have taken the first step towards Canada-wide harmonization. The Standards Council of Canada is leading the initiative under provisions laid out in the Canada Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).  
The CFTA established a regulatory reconciliation process, overseen by the senior-level Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table (RTC). The RTC is designed to reconcile existing regulatory measures identified by parties to the CFTA that act as barrier to trade, investment, or labour mobility within Canada.  
The RTC’s 2019-2020 work plan contained 29 new measures – one of which seeks to facilitate trade and the ability of gas technicians who are licensed in one province to work in others.  
The Provincial-Territorial Advisory Committee (PTAC) was identified by SCC as the appropriate working group to explore this issue. The committee is expected to deliver a reconciliation agreement by the end of 2020.  
 A meeting was held in December with industry stakeholders to help develop the reconciliation agreement. However, participants were not optimistic that the goal can be achieved by the Dec. 2020 deadline, reported the Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI).