New provincial cabinet wins positive reviews from industry leaders

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Prompt payment legislation proponent Steven Del Duca becomes transportation minister

Ottawa Construction News staff writer

Ontario’s new provincial cabinet includes several ministers who have had solid relationships with the construction industry, including new transportation minister Steven Del Duca, who previously introduced Bill 69, the Prompt Payment Act.

That legislation died earlier this year shortly before the recent election campaign started, largely because of objections by several general contractors and owners’ groups. However, while Del Duca won’t have direct responsibility for a related initiative to update and revise the Construction Lien Act, he will have influence at the cabinet table.

Despite differences on the prompt payment legislation and other issues, both Ian Cunningham, president of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) and representatives of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), have given initially positive reviews of the new cabinet make-up following the June election.

“OGCA has a strong relationship with the premier and many of her cabinet and caucus members,” the association reported in its weekly newsletter. “We have congratulated the new cabinet ministers and we will soon be meeting with many of them.”

Meanwhile, Cunningham described several cabinet ministers as being “competent and known to COCA.”

Transportation minister Steven Del Duca is “fair and balanced,” he said.

Del Duca has roots with the carpenters union, which has led the initiative to establish the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), undeniably one of the government’s most controversial initiatives. He had been the union’s public affairs director before his election in 2012 as MPP representing Vaughan.

Reza Moridi, Minister of Trades, Colleges and Universities and Minister of Research and Innovation, will have responsibility for the OCOT, including the appointment of a special advisor to review the OCOT’s contentious compulsory certification process. Several employer groups and the labourers’ union have expressed concerns about jurisdictional issues and conflicts arising from proposals to add new trades, including general carpentry, to the list requiring compulsory certification.

“The OGCA will be working closely with the minister and the government to make sure that it has a broad scope and independent leadership to assure the flaws are identified and acted upon,” the OGCA newsletter said.

Attorney general Madeleine Meilleur will have responsibility for the Construction Lien Act review.

Meanwhile, the OGCA has observed that “the realignment of the Infrastructure Ministry to become the focus of the industry portfolio is a significant change.”

In an interview, COCA’s Cunningham said the province “has committed to significant spending over 10 years through transit in and outside the GTA, (including) new schools.”

“There is a fear though if the government is under pressure from rating agencies,” he said. “If there is a downturn in the economy or a loss in revenue, this spending may be considered as discretionary and cut.”

Deb Matthews, the deputy premier, will have to handle the fiscal challenges as president of the Treasury Board (and Minister of Health).

The “focus on spending and (the) deficit is a challenge,” Cunningham said.  “Based on how she withstood the assault on health care, she can handle this.”

Other ministers include:

Kevin Flynn, Minister of Labour; Mitzie Hunter, Associate Minister of Finance (Ontario Retirement Pension Plan), Dr. Helena Jaczek, Minister of Community and Social Services; Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change; Bob Charelli, Minister of Energy: Dipika Damerla, Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care; and Jim Bradley, chair of the cabinet and deputy government house leader.

In a published report, Del Duca said he looks forward to working with stakeholders and partners “and together we’re going to make some fantastic stuff happen.”

“I remain firmly committed to the general principle that if you have completed your work and it’s been certified as being complete, you should get paid in a timely fashion and there has to be a better system in place in order to deliver on that,” he told the Daily Commercial News.

“From the premier on down, people understand that there are improvements that are required in the system because the construction industry is too vital and too crucial to Ontario’s economy and we can’t afford to have an inefficient payment structure within that system.”

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