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.
The 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.
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: