Roads & Paving
Thousands of construction jobs at risk if governments fail to provide infrastructure funds, RCCAO says
Vaughan, Ont. – Thousands of construction workers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas could lose their jobs between now and spring if senior levels of government fail to provide funding so municipalities can get working on state-of-good-repair infrastructure projects.
That’s the stark message from Peter Smith, chair of the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) and executive director of the Heavy Construction Association of Toronto, in a new podcast released on Monday by the unique coalition of construction labour and management groups.
“That’s a lot of jobs,” he says in the podcast. “They’re good-paying jobs and there’s a lot of families that are going to be facing a pretty bleak winter if we don’t do something about this now.” The podcast, called Investing in Infrastructure, features Smith in conversation with Dave Trafford, host of the Weekend Morning Show on Newstalk 1010 in Toronto. It is the 10th instalment in a thought-provoking series called Conversations About Construction, that is aimed at raising awareness about issues affecting the residential and civil construction sectors across the province.
Smith says that municipalities have numerous maintenance and repair projects that are ready to go to tender, but they don’t have the money now because COVID-19 hit and decimated their budgets. As a result, municipalities are putting off projects that were scheduled to go ahead in 2020.
The City of Toronto, for example, is going to defer almost $400 million worth of work that was slated for this year. Even more concerning, though, is that the city doesn’t know what it’s going to do in 2021, he said.
“It looked like a fantastic year for the construction industry. There was all this maintenance or state-of-good-repair work that we were looking at seeing come out for tender. On top of that, there were all these mega-projects, mass transit like the Ontario Line, so it was going to be a great year. Unfortunately, COVID hit and when that happened municipalities had a raid on their piggybanks.”
It now falls mainly to the federal and provincial governments to step up to the plate and provide the funds, he said, because the Municipal Act in Ontario forbids municipalities from raising money through debt.
Smith noted the urgency of the matter, as a recent survey commissioned for RCCAO indicated that 61 per cent of civil and engineering contractors in Ontario are anticipating revenue declines in 2020, compared to 2019, and 25 per cent report that they will need government support to stay afloat.
In past downturns, both federal Liberal and Conservative governments have invested in infrastructure stimulus and the present government needs to do the same, he said.
“It’s time for our federal government to step up again and follow those leads and do a similar thing to make sure that our infrastructure is as good as a first world country’s should be, and we invest in Canadians and get them back to work and give us an infrastructure system that we can be proud of.”