October 1, 2010


Is a single, united voice still possible for Ontario’s construction industry?

Has the dust settled after a tumultuous period on the Ontario construction association landscape and where has it left construction?

When the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) left the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) in July, a domino effect of stakeholder positioning was set in motion, illustrating Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of physics: “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.”

Statements and counter arguments over changes in direction and how best to represent construction industry issues soon followed. OGCA’s move was on the radar of many industry stakeholders for some time.

When COCA then chose to leave the WSIB Construction Industry Task Force, in mid-September, and it decided to not support the fledgling Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario, the construction lobbying landscape was rattled further. A lack of progress by the task force and dilution of the industry voice were cited by COCA in its rationale.

The Interior Systems Contractors Association left the task force soon afterward, raising concerns about the task force’s leadership and direction. The Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario also removed itself from task force and reconfirmed its support for COCA’s plans to reclaim the WSIB file.

The Mechanical Contractors Association of Ontario then noted that COCA’s withdrawal from the task force showed a change in direction it could not agree with and left COCA, while firmly stating its support for the task force.

COCA states it is the unified voice of construction. The task force states it speaks for the industry on WSIB issues. The yet to be formed alliance says it is not meant to be a threat and that COCA could take the reins of if it wishes. COCA considers the alliance a replication of its mandate.

One thing is clear after some discussions with Queen’s Park representatives who have sought some insight on the matter: the construction industry is better served with a single voice of some kind.

Regardless of the dance partners, the industry’s common issues are important enough to require egos checked at the door along with hurt feelings. Everyone admirably wants to represent the best interests of their members. Everyone wants progress and to be heard at Queen’s Park.

Where do we stand now? When COCA and the task force were asked about the possibility of working together on common issues in the future here is what they said:

“The OGCA thinks it is time we got back to the table and get working for the best interest of our members, that is why we are here,” said Clive Thurston, president of OGCA. “We can stop all this commentary which is beneath all of us. As chair of task force and an alliance member we would certainly welcome the opportunity to sit down with COCA and see how we can work together in a collaborative manner.”

“We will have to wait and see,” said Ian Cunningham, president of COCA. “We are in a transitional period. COCA is contemplating establishing some new policy priorities. We will wait see. We believe the industry is best served by a single strong united voice and we believe COCA is best positioned to be that single strong voice.”

Is a single strong united voice possible after everyone is done staking their claims?

We would like to think it is possible. Ultimately, every association involved operates in the same hard working industry which has both built Ontario and provided an honest and proud living for the very members they represent and it is their needs that matter most.

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