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Skilled labour shortage could stall infrastructure construction


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March 9, 2016 by On-Site Magazine

A shortage of skilled labour could bring a challenge to delivering infrastructure projects in Ontario, warns the association representing the masonry, block and stone industry.

block workThe industry association MasonryWorx says it is happy to see that the Ontario government committed to spend $137 billion on public infrastructure in the recently released budget document, but cautions that there is not enough skilled labour to do the construction.

“With this huge project before us, the Government of Ontario needs to ensure that there is enough skill in the labour force to build this infrastructure,” said the association in a release. “Currently the labour market capacity is not consistent with the ambitious infrastructure goals of our province’s leaders.”

The association would have liked to see funds devoted to encouraging students to pursue education in the trades. Unless we build up the numbers of skilled trades, the association says the construction process will be slowed in all sectors. And with scarcity, labour costs will rise, putting pressure on construction costs.

“A higher construction cost will then be passed on to the taxpayer, or in the private sector, the average home buyer. Already in the building construction sector, there is a significant shortage of masons and framers. This will only get worse if we do not think about strategic investment in education and training,” the association warns.

Consulting Engineers of Ontario also issued a response to the budget. Barry Steinberg, chief executive officer of CEO, also said that “separate, dedicated funds for infrastructure investment are the most effective tools for providing value to taxpayers.”

The Fraser Institute added its commentary this week, noting that Ontario has accumulated more debt than all the other provinces combined since 2003. It forecasts that in two years Ontario will surpass Quebec in its per-person government debt, which it estimates will $10,292 per person in Ontario, and $9,807 in Quebec. Next in line is New Brunswick at $7,802.

For its part, the Ontario government says that the investment of $137 billion in infrastructure over the next 10 years (“the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province’s history”) will create 110,000 jobs on average each year.

MAJOR PROJECTS

In transportation, the government will spend $31.5 billion. More than half — $16 billion — is for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Among specific ongoing and upcoming projects named in were the following:

Transportation:

  • Hurontario LRT – a 20-km new LRT line in Mississauga and Brampton. Construction is expected to take place 2018-2022.
  • Hamilton LRT – from McMaster University through downtown Hamilton. The environmental assessement process is expected to be completed in 2017, with construction between 2019-2024.
  • Tolled HOV lanes. A pilot project to charge for travelling in high-occupancy-vehicle lanes will be implemented on 16.5 kilometres of the Queen Elizabeth Way between Oakville and Burlington this summer.
  • Widening Highway 400 going north from Toronto. A stretch of the major artery to Barrie and cottage country, between Major Mackenzie Drive and King Road, will be widened from eight to 10 lanes.
  • An extension of the 407 East project, phase 1 from Pickering to Oshawa and Highway 412, will open this spring.
  • Widening of Highway 410 from Highway 401 to Brampton, creating 10 lanes.
  • A four-lane expansion of Highway 69 south of Sudbury and Highway 11/17 east of Thunder Bay.

Hospitals:

  • New Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital in York Region.
  • New Providence Care Hospital.

Education:

  • $11 billion in capital grants for new schools in areas of high growth, and consolidations of under-used schools in other areas. Currently 200 major capital school projects are under way across the province.
  • Markham campus for 4,000 students as a partnership between York University and Seneca College.
  • Confederation College in Thunder Bay.
  • La Cité collégiale in Ottawa.

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