Building trades respond to Ontario budget with cautious optimism

“In the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Ontario is well on its way to a stable recovery,” said Patrick Dillon, business manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, an umbrella organization that represents over 150,000 construction workers, adding that he is “cautiously optimistic of our economic future.”

“The province’s pledge to spend more than $35 billion towards building Ontario’s infrastructure over the next three years, including $12.8 billion in 2011/12 alone, is welcome news for workers and their families,” observed Dillon.

“Building on the government’s previous investments in infrastructure is good news for our industry. However, more can be done to invest in post-secondary apprenticeship training in particular, where the construction industry has proven to be an integral leader,” noted Dillon. The budget offers $64 million in operating grants to the province’s colleges and universities; money that will go towards more student and apprenticeship spaces. “The backbone of our apprenticeship training system rests on the partnership between trade unions and private sector employers. There is still opportunity for the government to improve post-secondary training beyond the college sector, by investing in our training facilities that will provide the jobs of tomorrow,” urged Dillon.

“The budget document also mentions the Tony Dean Panel on Occupational Health and Safety which is good news for workers and employers alike, recognizing the need to raise standards.” A significant test for the McGuinty government’s commitment to safety and training for workers will come from its leadership on implementing recommendations from the Dean Panel.

“The recently-introduced legislative amendments are a good start, but the real challenge will be to implement systemic changes that will produce zero occupational deaths and injuries in the province of Ontario,” said Dillon, emphasizing the need for the banking and insurance industries to pay their fair share of contributions towards prevention.

“The budget also calls for a committee of workers and employers to be struck, with the mandate of reviewing potential increases to the minimum wage. This is an encouraging sign for families who are struggling as we emerge from the economic downturn,” concluded Dillon.

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