ORBA releases provincial election priorities, looks to keep Ontario moving

ORBA Ontario provincial election priorities.

The Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) has outlined its provincial transportation plan with the release of “Keep Ontario Moving: ORBA’s 2022 Provincial Election Priorities.” The plan sets out the Association’s top five priorities: funding for transportation infrastructure, reducing risk and creating value for Ontarians, addressing the shortage of heavy civil construction labour, 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, 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,” added Hocking.

Second, ORBA 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 create unnecessary volatility in the procurement process,” Hocking adds. More price certainty creates the best possible value for Ontario’s infrastructure dollars.

Furthermore, ORBA calls for a mechanism on all provincial contracts that provides coverage and compensation for pandemic-related impacts. The Association claims that as a designated essential service, the industry has worked tirelessly to deliver important transportation infrastructure projects while keeping the workforce safe.

Also, the ORBA notes that compensation has been provided for additional personal protective equipment (PPE), but that the upfront costs of many other safety measures that limited productivity have not been 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.”

According to the ORBA, 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. The Association believes that an immigration strategy that recognizes the unique workforce requirements of the transportation infrastructure industry is a crucial step toward keeping up with the growing needs of Ontario.

Also, ORBA wants more provincial government promotion and recognition of the non-apprenticeship skilled trades. The building of essential transportation infrastructure requires a multi-skilled workforce with many essential non-apprenticeship type jobs and mentoring opportunities that remain unfilled. Thus, the ORBA sees it imperative that the government work with the industry to promote these opportunities and challenge the perceived stigma around careers in construction.

ORBA’s fourth priority calls on the province to promote the responsible reuse of non-renewable 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 calls for a provision that would prohibit drivers from overtaking snowplows 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.”