Is the 2016 Ontario budget “forgetting the trades?” asks MasonryWorx

Last week, Finance Minister Charles Sousa released the Ontario budget for 2016. The masonry industry is happy to see that the Ontario Government is willing to continue investing in the province through pragmatic, balanced policy.

The commitment to invest $139 billion in public infrastructure will no doubt be the legacy left by this government which will be enjoyed by Ontarians for years to come, says MasonryWorx, an association representing industry professionals across Ontario. “With this huge project before us, the Government of Ontario needs to ensure there is enough skill in the labour force to build this infrastructure. Currently, the labour market capacity is not consistent with the ambitious infrastructure goals of our province’s leaders,” said the association in a release.

“The Ontario Government is moving in the right direction to ensure post-secondary education becomes more accessible for Ontarians with a lower income. However, the approach put forward in the budget does nothing to encourage Ontario students to pursue an education and career in the trades. This is concerning for a number of reasons. Primarily, the skills gap will slow the construction process in all sectors which require skilled tradespeople. Secondly, as the demand for skilled tradespeople continues to rise while the supply of skilled tradespeople drops, this will cause the cost of the skilled labour required to build to rise. 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.”

MasonryWorx is encouraged to see that the 2016 budget includes significant spending plans for institutional buildings (schools, hospitals, etc.), but has concerns about how these buildings will be completed with the shortage of skilled trades people in Ontario. This is not only a concern for public projects, but also the private residential construction sector, where there is a similar demand for skilled labor. “When investing in Ontario’s future, we must consider strategic investment in education to ensure the long term goals we strive to achieve are supported by a homegrown and diversely-skilled labour force. Investing in infrastructure means investing in trades.”

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