ORBA releases priority list ahead of provincial election
By Adam FreillConstruction Infrastructure Roads
Ontario Road Builders’ Association unveils a list of key issues it would like addressed as Ontario goes to the polls.
With a provincial election campaign underway in Ontario, the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) has outlined its list of items that the organization views as key transportation-related initiatives for the province.
In its Keep Ontario Moving: ORBA’s 2022 Provincial Election Priorities report, ORBA sets out the association’s top five priorities, namely: transportation infrastructure funding, reducing risk and creating value for Ontarians, addressing the shortage in the heavy civil construction workforce, sustainable transportation infrastructure projects, and enhancing safety for all road users.
ORBA’s first priority calls for sustained or increased highways and transit capital funding.
“Infrastructure, such as Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass, needs to be built as part of a multi-modal strategy to keep Ontario moving,” says Bryan Hocking, CEO of ORBA. “Congestion costs us all. Time spent in traffic keeps us away from spending time with family and friends and costs Ontario’s economy $11B in lost productivity in the GTA alone.”
The second priority calls for the creation of a price index for key construction materials on all public contracts, and for the government to work with industry to bring further clarity to essential project material specifications.
“Currently, Ontario does not have a mechanism to deal with the hyperinflation of construction materials such as steel, lumber and ready-mixed concrete,” says Hocking. “Price uncertainty for these important construction materials and specifications such as asphalt increases risk for both contractors and public owners and create unnecessary volatility in the procurement process.”
The association is also calling for a mechanism on all provincial contracts that provides coverage and compensation for pandemic-related impacts. It says that, as a designated essential service, the industry worked tirelessly to deliver important transportation infrastructure projects, while keeping its workforce safe, and while compensation was provided for personal protective equipment, the costs of many other safety measures that affected productivity were not recovered.
The third priority calls on the provincial government to work with its federal partners on a more robust immigration strategy to attract more heavy civil construction workers to Ontario.
“We know that Ontario faces a growing shortage of construction workers,” says Hocking. “Recent projections indicate that we will require tens of thousands of new workers in the industry, including general labour and apprenticeship and non-apprenticeship trades over the next decade.”
The association believes that current provincial and federal programs, such as the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) and the federal Express Entry programs, are unable to deal with the current labour shortage challenge. It wants an immigration strategy that recognizes the unique workforce requirements of the transportation infrastructure industry, seeing that as a crucial step to keeping up with the growing needs of Ontario.
ORBA also wants more provincial government promotion and recognition of non-apprenticeship skilled trades, such as those that are present in the teams that build essential transportation infrastructure. It says that the construction sector requires a multi-skilled workforce, but that many essential non-apprenticeship type jobs, as well as mentoring opportunities, remain unfilled.
Its fourth priority calls on the province to promote the responsible reuse of nonrenewable construction materials on more transportation infrastructure projects.
“Our industry has demonstrated a clear commitment to a circular economy through the use of recycled construction materials such as recycled asphalt pavement and aggregate. Together with governments, we can do more,” says Hocking. “As proud Ontarians and responsible industry leaders, we want to continue to deliver the highest quality projects in the most sustainable way.”
Lastly, ORBA is calling for a prohibition against drivers overtaking snowplows that are working on provincial highways.
“When a collision involves a snowplow, it doesn’t just affect the drivers and vehicles involved, it interrupts the vital safety function that the snowplow was providing and potentially makes driving in winter conditions more dangerous,” says Hocking. “A provision under the Highway Traffic Act is needed to guard against these dangerous incidents, keeping traffic and trade moving and enhancing the safety of the travelling public.”
The ORBA transportation plan is available on the association’s website.