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Ontario legislature votes down Fair and Open Tendering Act


September 21, 2013
By Patrick Flannery


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Sept. 21, 2013 – The Ontario legislature voted down Bill 73, The Fair and Open Tendering Act, on Friday. The Act would have amended the Labour Relations Act to prevent municipalities and school boards from being bound by provincially negotiated contracts with construction unions. Whether you agree with the proposed bill or not, the debate in the legislature makes interesting reading for anyone in the construction sector in Ontario:

Sept. 21, 2013 – The Ontario legislature voted down Bill 73, The Fair and Open Tendering Act, on Friday. The Act would have amended the Labour Relations Act to
prevent municipalities and school boards from being bound by
provincially negotiated contracts with construction unions. Whether you
agree with the proposed bill or not, the debate in the legislature makes
interesting reading for anyone in the construction sector in Ontario. The following is the Hansard transcript of the debate:

Mr. Harris moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 73, An Act to
amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995 with respect to certain public
sector employers in the construction industry.

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The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Mr. Michael Harris:
Speaker, I’ll never forget when I got that first call in January of
this year. I wasn’t expecting anything out of the norm, and of course I
wasn’t expecting to hear that a decision made by two individuals would
affect every single person in the region of Waterloo, but that’s exactly
what I was about to hear. After answering the phone that afternoon, I
was told by a local contractor that Waterloo region was about to become a
closed shop. In other words, the region would be required to tender
infrastructure work only to companies represented by a specific union.

My first reaction to
this news was one simple and obvious question: How could this possibly
happen? To my surprise, I was then told that on a Saturday in December
of last year, two workers building a blue garden shed in Wilmot township
had signed union cards with the Carpenters’ Union. Because they had
constituted a majority of the workers on the job site that day, they
were able to file an application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board
to certify the region as a construction employer. There was no local
bargaining. There was no negotiating with the region. There was just an
application to unionize the region under collective bargaining rules
that were designed and only ever intended for construction companies.
Now, if the labour board approves this application, the entire region
will become locked into a collective bargaining agreement that will give
one union a monopoly over regional infrastructure.

If you’re wondering how
any of this makes sense, trust me, you’re not alone. This convoluted
process raises more questions than answers. For example, why can two
people set the infrastructure policy for an entire region? Or why do
municipalities have absolutely no role in this collective bargaining
process? Or why are collective bargaining rules for construction
companies being applied to municipalities, as well as school boards, in
the first place?

Well, for my speech, I
would like to focus on the latter by highlighting the aims and the logic
of my bill, Bill 73, the Fair and Open Tendering Act.

Over the summer, I’ve
had the opportunity to travel across the province and to meet with
municipal leaders and contractors to discuss Bill 73. Everywhere I go, I
have found that everyone can agree that municipalities and school
boards have a different purpose and mandate than construction employers.
We all know that municipalities and school boards are not trying to
make a profit like a business in the construction industry. Instead,
they are trying to provide quality roads, bridges and buildings at the
best possible value for taxpayers.

Unfortunately, when the
Labour Relations Act was amended more than 35 years ago to introduce
new collective bargaining rules for construction companies, the
government forgot to make this very important distinction in law. The
government set up province-wide collective bargaining for the
industrial, commercial and institutional sector, or the ICI sector. At
the time, it was assumed that everyone would recognize that this system
was clearly designed only for the private sector and would be in no way
applied to the public sector.

Well, we all know that
assumption was wrong. Although the spirit of the law is clear, there is
not a bright line distinguishing who is and who is not a construction
employer. As a result, a loophole has been created within the Labour
Relations Act. That loophole has been repeatedly exploited by certain
unions to subject municipalities and school boards to collective
bargaining rules for construction companies operating in the private
sector. Even if the work being performed is as simple as putting
together a garden shed, a municipality can be declared a construction
employer and lose its ability to openly and fairly tender infrastructure
contracts to all qualified contractors.

To date, several public
sector employers have fallen victim to this legal loophole, including
Hamilton, Kitchener, Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie and the Greater Essex
County District School Board. This has happened at great expense to the
taxpayers. The reason is that once a municipality or school board is
unionized under these rules, they become bound to a collective
bargaining agreement that is negotiated at a provincial level by
construction companies and unions for construction companies.

That means that
municipalities and school boards can become bound to a collective
bargaining agreement that they had nothing to do with. What’s worse is
that these agreements include strict subcontracting-out restrictions
that force local officials to hand over a monopoly on publicly funded
projects to build new bridges, water treatment facilities and public
buildings to just one union.

Now, you don’t need a
degree in economics to understand that when there’s little to no
competition, prices will go up. Just consider what happened in Hamilton:
After the city was certified by the carpenters’ union in 2005, costs
soon went up. At first, city staff pegged the increase at just 5%, while
the carpenters argued it was only 2%, but a consultant retained by the
city soon determined that costs had actually increased by as much as 40%
and rose even higher in some cases. For example, the first waste water
treatment project tendered after the city was certified came in 83% over
budget, or $24 million more than expected.

In 1998, our party
tried to solve this problem by creating a process for municipalities and
school boards to apply at the labour board to become a non-construction
employer. If approved, this status would free a public sector employer
from a labour monopoly, but unfortunately the process hasn’t worked out
the way it was intended to. In fact, no municipality has ever been
designated as a non-construction employer by the labour board.

Clearly, the system is
broken, especially since 70% of qualified contractors in closed-shop
municipalities are excluded from working on publicly funded
infrastructure. They’re excluded just because they don’t hold the right
union card or they have chosen not to hold one at all. Now, can anyone
say that this practice is fair? Of course not. Discriminating against
qualified contractors on the basis of who they have chosen to associate
with is patently unfair, and it’s unacceptable.

So, to correct this
situation and restore fairness, all we need is clarity in Ontario’s
labour laws, and that’s what my bill, the Fair and Open Tendering Act,
would offer. If passed, Bill 73 would add a very clear definition to the
Labour Relations Act for public sector employers that would exempt
municipalities and school boards from the province’s collective
bargaining rules for the construction industry. By making this
legislative change, we would save Ontario taxpayers hundreds of millions
of dollars every year by preserving and restoring the ability of
municipalities and school boards to openly tender contracts for large
infrastructure projects.

More importantly, we
would reinstate the rights of qualified contractors who have been
unfairly barred from working on public infrastructure in cities like
Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie. Because Bill 73 would exempt
municipalities and school boards from the construction sections of the
act, I took great care to ensure that the bargaining relationship
between workers and their employers would be preserved.

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My bill does this by
transitioning the relationship from the construction sections of the
Labour Relations Act to the industrial sections of the act. If municipal
employees still choose to be affiliated with the Carpenters’ union,
they would be able to do so under my bill, but only sections 1 to 125 of
the act would apply. Carrying out this transition falls well within the
purview of the province’s constitutional authority to shape the
bargaining structure for its workers and it protect workers’ freedom of
association under 2(d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The
Divisional Court, the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of
Canada have all established the precedent which provides the legal
foundation for my bill.

Chief Justice Beverley
McLachlin pointed out as much in Ontario v. Fraser when she said, “The
Ontario Legislature is not required to provide a particular form of
collective bargaining rights…. The affirmation of the right to
collective bargaining is not an affirmation of a particular type of
collective bargaining…. What section 2(d) protects is the right to
associate to achieve collective goals … not a particular process or
result.”

In a lengthy legal
opinion, which I gave to all members of the House, Mark Freiman, a
Lerners law firm lawyer, points out that case law precedent and Supreme
Court jurisprudence establish that Bill 73 is, in fact, constitutional.

Given the sound case
for the proposal and the added provision to protect workers’ rights, I
think it’s quite clear Bill 73 is not a union or a non-union issue. It
is truly an issue of fairness—fairness for municipalities, for
contractors, for workers and, ultimately, for taxpayers. Because of this
balanced and fair approach, Bill 73 has won the support of unionized
contractors, construction associations and municipalities across the
province.

In fact, Bill 73 has
been officially endorsed by the Association of Municipalities of
Ontario. So I would like to thank AMO president Russ Powers for the
endorsement and for being with us here today. I appreciate your support
both in your role at AMO and as a Hamilton city councillor when you
voted to support open tendering.

Now, we have heard some
fear-mongering from a different Hamilton city councillor who
unfortunately doesn’t really understand this issue. He has made some
demonstrably false statements about Bill 73 this summer, to the
detriment of his constituents.

So I would just like to
caution members of the opposite side, listening to one lone voice while
ignoring the voice of 440 municipalities. I think it would be a tragic
mistake to accept the comments of one misinformed councillor at the
expense of alienating and undermining hundreds of municipalities,
thousands of contractors and millions of hard-working Ontarians.

Let me be clear:
Members opposite can stand with one councillor or with the entire
municipal community which includes the mayors and regional chairs of
Ontario and the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario.

I hope every member of
this Legislature agrees with our municipal colleagues because, at a time
when the province is facing a $60-billion infrastructure deficit, we
need to do everything in our power to stretch our infrastructure dollars
as far as possible. So I’m asking all members of this House to take a
stand for taxpayers today and vote in favour of Bill 73. Thank you for
your time.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Ms. Catherine Fife:
When first approached by the member from Kitchener–Conestoga about the
certification issue and his private member’s bill, I genuinely felt that
he was looking to solve a local problem. But upon further investigation
and research, the bill revealed itself to be quite problematic.

This is a reactionary
and premature bill that will create more problems than it solves. It is
unfortunate that the member from Kitchener–Conestoga has crafted a bill
that tramples and undermines current existing collective agreements in
Toronto, Hamilton, Sault Ste. Marie and the Windsor-Essex school board,
deliberately making it impossible for us to support.

The last time this
Legislature tried to tear up existing collective agreements, we were
talking about Bill 115. The mess that that process—supported by the
Liberals and the PCs at the time—created is ongoing, and the resolution
through the court system will be costly to every Ontarian.

Just as we stood
against the draconian legislation of Bill 115, which, like this bill is
attempting to do, undermined existing contracts, this legislation would
effectively render the current municipal—and one school board—master
agreements, collectively bargained, fairly bargained with the building
trades in Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Essex, and Sault Ste. Marie, null
and void.

Instead of proposing
exemption options for municipalities and perhaps reviewing the current
system, this legislation uses a hammer when careful consideration is
required. The fact that the entire Ontario construction trades sector
strongly opposed this bill and that the construction contractors in the
Kitchener-Waterloo region are split suggests that this bill is not the
answer to a very complex situation.

While in principle
there are valid arguments pro and con as to whether municipalities
should be considered construction employers under the Ontario Labour
Relations Act, Bill 73 is a badly constructed piece of legislation which
is premature. This matter is still before the Ontario Labour Relations
Board. No decision has been made under the relevant sections of the act.
What is needed is an objective and thoughtful look at the process and
consideration potentially for modernization by an objective and
respected voice, perhaps like Harry Arthurs.

To suggest that costs
will go up by hundreds of millions of dollars is false. The numbers
cited don’t add up. I realize it may very well be too late to inject
some facts into this story, but it is worth trying.

Please note that an
exhaustive city of Toronto report on the possible impact of going
non-union estimates savings at 1.7%, and that’s assuming that the
savings would be passed on to the city by a lower bid. This report is a
staff report, Labour and Training Costs in Construction Procurement,
2007. It is a matter of public record. The Toronto report is by far the
best evidence-based study on this issue, but of course it is not
referenced by the member from Kitchener–Conestoga.

While the PC Party
would like to tear up existing collective agreements, we feel strongly
that negotiating contracts on the floor of the Legislature comes with a
cost. We have processes in place in this province, and one is playing
out at the Ontario Labour Relations Board right now. When we ignore the
processes that we have previously agreed to, we end up creating
problems, not solving them.

In this place, in this
House, we need to be talking about the problems facing Ontarians and
coming up with solutions to those problems. I hear from my constituents
about how we can create more and better jobs in Ontario, how we can
build a stronger, more effective health care system, and how we can
implement changes to make life more affordable for people feeling the
squeeze in this province. This bill has been used to divide rather than
unite in a common cause. It is ironic that the member referenced
fear-mongering in his comments.

In summary, Bill 73 is
like using a sword to do surgery, which will significantly alter
existing labour relations in this province. It is not the solution, but I
remain open to exploring options that could modernize what everyone
would agree is an overly complex system of province-wide master
agreements, a function of countless legislative and collective
bargaining compromises going back many decades.

To suggest that this
private member’s bill is a panacea and/or a solution to how provincial
master agreements are struck is false. Legislation is premature. The
matter is still before the Ontario Labour Relations Board, and it would
be premature to legislate on this issue. The last time this assembly
opened collective agreements on the floor of this Legislature, we paid
the price: We compromised trust. In this House and in this process, I
would urge the members of this House to not support Bill 73.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Hon. David Zimmer:
It’s my pleasure to join in this debate. First of all, I’m going to try
to distill very simply what I understand is the intent of the bill and
then tell you why I think it’s a bad thing.

It’s a short piece of
legislation, only two pages long, but there are a couple of difficult
concepts to understand here. I think if we get our heads around those
two or three basic concepts, then right-thinking people will vote the
right way, which is to vote against it.

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It’s passing strange
that today the member opposite—the PC Party—is bringing this legislation
forward, and it’s designed to do this: Right now, there is a provision
for province-wide bargaining in certain municipalities and school boards
for the construction industry in Ontario. So the construction trades
hammer out a contract, and it applies to all the municipalities and all
the school boards. That’s the way the law stands today. This bill is
designed to change that law to say that province-wide bargaining in the
construction industry does not apply across the board in the public
sector throughout Ontario, but it should be left up to individual
municipalities or individual hospitals or other public institutions to
say, “We want to opt out of the province-wide agreement.” So those are
the two choices: province-wide agreement and a bill that is designed to
let everybody in the public sector opt out, if they want.

Now, what’s really
interesting is that the legislation the member opposite’s bill is trying
to attack is legislation that the Conservative government brought in in
the year 2000 and then refined a little later while they were still in
power. In effect, they brought in the bill and then brought in some
amendments to make it even stronger, so that there was province-wide
bargaining in the construction trades with public sector
entities—hospitals, school boards and so on.

It’s passing strange
that here we are—we’ve been in government 10 years—10 years later. Their
legislation has been in place. They brought it, they introduced it in
the year 2000, we’ve lived with it through their years and through our
years, and now they want to amend it. They say this is necessary because
there are some hospitals, some municipalities and other public sectors
that want to opt out of these province-wide agreements in the
construction trades.

But here’s the rub: The
provision to opt out of these province-wide agreements already exists. I
take the example of the member opposite, from the riding of
Kitchener–Conestoga. Take the city of Kitchener. Frankly, I don’t know
what the situation is there, but let’s take the example that the city of
Kitchener wants to opt out of the province-wide agreement regarding
construction contracts that the city of Kitchener is engaged in; they
don’t want to be a part of that province-wide bargaining regime. There
is provision in the Ontario Labour Relations Act, and in other
legislation, where the city of Kitchener can come down to Toronto, file
an application before the Ontario Labour Relations Board and say, “We,
the city of Kitchener, do not want to be part of across-the-board public
sector construction; we don’t want to be caught by these broad
agreements.”

Interjection.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, if you wish to heckle, I would ask you to sit in your seat.

Hon. David Zimmer:
Then, what the Ontario Labour Relations Board quite fairly and quite
properly says to the city of Kitchener, because this is its job: “All
right. The existing regime is that these collective agreements involving
the construction trades and municipalities, hospitals and other public
sector things apply across the board province-wide. But if you tell us
why and it’s a good argument, and it makes sense and meets some other
criteria, we will give you permission to opt out.” That’s what the city
of Kitchener could do: come down, make the application, make their
argument why they want to opt out—the trade union would probably make
the argument why they should not be allowed to opt out—and the
independent members of the Ontario Labour Relations Board would hear
both sides of the argument and make their decision: “Yes, Kitchener, you
can get out,” or, “No, Kitchener, you can’t.”

That provision exists
for every municipality, every hospital and every public sector entity
that has to deal with the construction trades. So I scratch my head on
one side, I scratch my head on the other side and I say, “Why is the
member bringing forward this bill, because what he wants to achieve by
this bill is already possible in the Ontario Labour Relations Act?” So
it doesn’t make any sense. I can only suspect that there is some local
political issue there that the member is trying to deal with.

In short, this is a
piece of legislation that is unnecessary because what the member is
trying to achieve by the legislation is already possible under the act.
All the municipality or the hospital or the other public sector entity
has to do is make an application to the Ontario relations board, make an
argument why they should be opted out, let the construction trade
respond why they shouldn’t be opted out, and the independent members of
the Ontario Labour Relations Board will decide the issue.

Members of the Ontario
Labour Relations Board are made up of representatives from the private
sector, the union sector, the public sector and so on. They usually
strike these panels—it might be a panel of three labour relations board
members. It might be someone—typically they have someone representing
the private sector, they have someone representing the public sector and
they have someone representing the union sector. They’ll hear the
arguments and they’ll make their decision.

So, this is a piece of
legislation—with this provision to go to the Ontario relations board and
make an argument to opt out—that is something that the Conservative
government brought in. They brought it in because they thought that was
the fair way to do it: province-wide agreements for the construction
trades in all the public sector and municipalities, with a provision
that any municipality or public sector entity has a mechanism to opt
out.

I just stand to be
corrected; I gave the wrong date there. The original legislation was
brought in by the Conservative Party in 1998. They brought the original
legislation in in 1998 and they refined it and amended it in the year
2000.

So I ask why, after all
these years, they suddenly want to wreck a piece of legislation that
has worked well across the province. It has got that safety provision in
it that it is possible to opt out of it. So I say to my friend opposite
from Kitchener–Conestoga: If your municipality wants to opt out of it,
if they’re the ones that are encouraging you to bring forward this
private member’s bill, you should go to them and refer them to the
Ontario Labour Relations Act. I’ll dig up the section number and the
subsection numbers. I’ll even give you some case law on it, and you can
take it in a folder, give it to them and say, “Go to the Labour
Relations Board and make your application to opt out, because that’s
what the safety mechanism is for.”

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Steve Clark:
As the Ontario PC critic for municipal affairs and housing, I’m pleased
to have a few moments to speak about Bill 73. I first want to commend
the member for Kitchener–Conestoga for the tremendous amount of work
that he has done prior to bringing this legislation forward.

In the finest
traditions of this place he has identified a long-standing problem
facing municipalities and school boards across the province, and he has
drafted a very reasonable bill, I suggest, to deal with those issues.
Open tendering gives municipal councils the tools to ensure that they
can go out and get the best possible price for infrastructure projects.

I’m so proud to stand
in support of this bill, which protects local taxpayers by giving them
the highest quality and the best bang for the buck. But my colleague has
done much more than that prior to bringing this excellent bill forward.
I’m so proud at how he has worked to reach out to municipalities and
school boards to earn their support, and it’s this tremendous amount of
support that he has received from those municipal leaders in every
corner of the province that I’m going to focus my comments on today.

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It’s important, as
legislators, that we listen to our municipal partners. What the member
has done today with this legislation is really something that I suggest
the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing should have done, as she
was out having a conversation with our municipal leaders. If she’d done
that, then I think she would have been able to walk across to the
Minister of Labour and get those reforms that the member has proposed
into a bill. But I did notice that we’ve got some good news that perhaps
we can get both those ministers on the record today. I saw the minister
over in the west members’ gallery speaking to the AMO president. I hope
he talked some sense in to you, Minister, and I hope you will support
this legislation.

The member for
Kitchener–Conestoga did have a meeting at the AMO conference regarding
Bill 73. I had the pleasure of attending that meeting and met with a
number of municipalities about the subject. I can tell you, Speaker,
that mayors and councillors across this province spoke in the hallways
at AMO and spoke very favourably of that.

Speaker, I don’t want
you to take my word for it. I want to put some comments on the record. I
mentioned AMO, and I want to quote the letter from Russ Powers, the AMO
president, who is here with us in the west members’ gallery. I might
want to remind members that AMO represents the 444 municipal governments
that are in the province. This letter says:

“Dear Mr. Harris,

“At its August board of directors meeting, the AMO board supported a private member’s bill that you tabled….

“Municipalities should
be able to tender construction work in a free and open competitive
environment to gain the most value for construction expenditures.

“We agree with your
approach…. Thank you for recognizing the fiscal constraints under which
municipalities operate and for tabling this bill.”

That’s a pretty resounding letter of support, and I’m far from finished with the endorsements.

MARCO, the Mayors and
Regional Chairs of Ontario, of single-tier cities and regions, endorsed a
motion supporting Bill 73 in a letter. MARCO chair and Waterloo region
chair Ken Seiling writes, “We wish to emphasize that this is not a
question of being anti-union. Rather, it is a question of what best
serves the public interest….

“Given the substantial
number of capital works projects undertaken of municipalities in Ontario
every year, the implications are staggering. Our concern is that the
cost escalations resulting from this situation may very well delay the
implementation of key infrastructure projects that are critical to
Ontario’s economic success.”

You know, Speaker, I
could go on and on, but I have to wrap up in a few moments. Let me just
give you a list of some supportive municipalities, including LUMCO, the
Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario; cities like Hamilton, Kitchener,
Stratford, Woodstock; the towns of Orangeville, Kirkland Lake,
Penetanguishene; as well as committees at the regions of Waterloo and
Niagara. Municipalities recognize that reforming the Labour Relations
Act in the manner set out in Bill 73 is a critical part of addressing
our infrastructure needs in the province.

Yes, we do need funding
for these projects, but we also require a level playing field that
ensures that every penny is spent wisely. Bill 73 does it. Again, I want
to commend the member for Kitchener–Conestoga, and I want to encourage
every MPP to support Bill 73.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Essex.

Mr. Rob Leone: He’s going to vote yes.

Mr. Taras Natyshak:
No, I am not going to vote yes, as many of my colleagues to the right
of me would probably have already guessed. But I do appreciate all the
comments.

Interjection.

Mr. Taras Natyshak:
I do, and I wear it proudly. Maybe that’s the perspective that has not
been brought to this debate today that I hope to offer members in the
gallery and my colleagues here in the House: the perspective of the
worker.

Prior to being elected
in this House, I was and still am a proud card-carrying member of the
Laborers International Union of North America, a construction worker. I
worked in the heavy sector for about 10 years. I worked on the roads and
bridges and sewers and water mains and in the ditches—a great field of
work. I was proud of the work that I did and accomplished. To this day,
whether it’s a municipal project or a provincial project, when we go
over those projects, I tell my kids, “Daddy worked on that bridge,” and I
enjoyed it.

What that did for me
was it afforded me, really, a wonderful living. It afforded me the
ability to be married, to buy our first home, to raise two kids, to
purchase vehicles and to make ends meet.

Now, the workers that
sign a card to become unionized: They don’t do that arbitrarily, Mr.
Speaker—at least the ones who did that prior to me coming on board—to
ensure that the company that I worked for was signatory to a union. They
made a conscious decision to elevate, to raise, the standards of their
working conditions. They knew that within that jurisdiction, within that
scope of work, there was a fair wage that they should be compensated
by.

This goes to the heart
of the debate: that we have unions in this country, we have legal
representation and the right to be represented by a collective agreement
and by a bargaining unit. And those rules have never changed and will
never change—I hope, I trust. That’s one of the reasons why I do not
think that this House should intervene in that long-standing,
well-nuanced process.

Now, I certainly have
some compassion for municipalities. The member from Kitchener–Conestoga
had mentioned that there are 440 that are supportive, and I can imagine
why. The massive amount of downloading that has happened historically to
municipalities, whether in social services or infrastructure needs, has
created such an enormous burden that municipalities would be scratching
at every opportunity to save a nickel there or a dime here. Yet, the
argument put forward by my friend the member from Kitchener–Conestoga is
not one that is convincing. By and large, in the aggregate, union
contractors are competitive with non-union contractors. They’re doing
the same scope of work. The margins on these jobs are really not that
wide. So when the member mentions that in—

Interjections.

Mr. Taras Natyshak:
Member from Renfrew, forgive me for speaking while you were
interrupting. I’ll continue on in my speech, but I certainly extended
the same courtesy—

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon):
Member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, this is your last warning. I
have asked you to relocate to your seat if you’re going to heckle. I
would just like to carry on business.

Mr. Taras Natyshak:
Thank you, Speaker. I certainly didn’t mean to get him in that much
trouble. I quite often enjoy the interjections by the member.

Needless to say, some
of the facts that he presents almost sound like an infomercial. I had to
scratch for that word. It really sounds as though, “If you get rid of
or dismantle this collective agreement right now, things are going to be
cheaper across the board, day one.” That is implausible. He has no
facts or figures to back that up. In fact, what he is quoting, I
believe—I will quote him: “‘As soon as closed tendering began in
Hamilton, infrastructure costs spiked by as much as 40%,’ Mr. Harris
said at the Construction House of Hamilton.” What Mr. Harris was
referring to, I believe, was the Ivor Wynne Stadium project with
Infrastructure Ontario for the Pan Am Games 2014.

Interjection.

Mr. Taras Natyshak:
He’s saying, “No,” but these are the facts that are related to your
comments. The original staff and aldermen had confirmed that $80 million
of the Ivor Wynne Stadium was approved. Infrastructure Ontario was not
satisfied that the renovations to the existing structure would be
sufficient and they decided to build a brand new stadium which was
estimated at $140 million. So of course, when you’re using ambiguous
facts like that, it’s going to sound like an infomercial: 40% more.
Well, in fact, Mr. Speaker, it was a totally different scope of project.
It’s not fair to make that comparison.

Ultimately, I
understand. Again, back to the constraints that municipalities and
school boards have these days. It’s well known. We debate those issues
in this House each and every day. One of the requirements for a healthy
community and healthy municipality is a good base of good-paying jobs to
contribute to the tax base of that municipality. What I’ve seen in this
House is a valiant attempt not only by the Conservatives—it’s in your
DNA; it’s something that you’re preprogrammed to do, ideologically
driven, and I get it. That’s why we get along sometimes. I get you; you
get me; we get where we’re coming from—but joined by the Liberals. We’ve
seen a bill come through this House similar in its intent to dismantle
or circumvent a collective bargaining agreement between EllisDon and
several building trades. That’s going to happen; you’re going to do
that. But today, they’re going to say, “We’re not helping with you this
one.” Tomorrow, they’re going to say, “We’ll help you with Bill 74,” as
you did—and a piecemeal approach with Bill 115, to circumvent the
bargaining rights of teachers in this province.

1500

In this party, the New
Democratic Party, we don’t make a habit of doing that, and we’re not
going to start now, because the equation that you’re—

Interjection: Social contract.

Mr. Taras Natyshak:
The social contract was a guy named Bob Rae, and if I’m not mistaken,
he’s on your team and should have always been on your team.

I want to tell you that—

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Order.

Mr. Taras Natyshak:
When the social contract was enacted, I was 13 years old. I’ve grown up
since then. I would hope the two other parties would have grown up
since then as well, and understand that you can’t continue to bash the
workers in this province and expect any menial increase in our quality
of life. You can’t do it. Stop doing it. You’re going to continue to do
it, but we’re telling you here that you’re making a mistake.

We proved that you made
a mistake with the teachers. This, again, is a cautionary tale, a
slippery slope that I would caution members before embarking on.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Bob Delaney:
Why is this debate happening here in the Legislature and not before the
Ontario Labour Relations Board? The answer comes down to one word and
just one word, and that word is “ideology.” The fact of the matter is
that this is just another piece of right-wing union-bashing. This is
just part of the right-wing agenda to see what they can do to take apart
unions in the province of Ontario.

The member for
Kitchener–Conestoga, as my colleagues have explained, has made no case
for why we need Ontario-wide legislation to hammer away at an issue that
hasn’t even been resolved within the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Why don’t you leave it to the Ontario Labour Relations Board? The
so-called solution would have the effect of imposing a Wild West legal
status on province-wide labour agreements, and the member offers up a
case that a matter before the Ontario Labour Relations Board may be
imbalanced, thus trying to pre-empt the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
However, he doesn’t offer any solutions using the existing remedies
that, the member from Willowdale pointed out, exist aplenty.

His solution basically
says that if his type of thinking and his party have their way and you
get unionized—while today they say “construction,” tomorrow it could be
anything and everything—if you get unionized, you can simply just opt
out. I just don’t think that’s much of a solution. If you’ve got a
problem with whether a particular agreement is balanced, then resolve it
using the tools available to you at the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
This is somewhat similar to saying, “Why don’t we just use a paint
roller?” when what you really need is an edging brush.

This is a government
that does believe in fair and balanced labour negotiations. The fact of
the matter is that when you’re bargaining a collective agreement, the
parties are free to negotiate terms that do restrict the employer to
contract only with unionized employees. However, if a party feels they
should not be bound to a province-wide collective agreement, then they
have the options that the member from Willowdale set out very clearly.

Speaker, this is not
the answer to any problem. This is just an expression of right-wing
ideology, and I’m urging members to vote against it.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Douglas C. Holyday:
There are only a couple of points I want to make here. One: This is not
about ideology at all. This is about fairness and it’s about what’s
right and what’s wrong.

Is it right to treat
municipalities—who build bridges, provide public service, and do it all
at taxpayer expense—that they’re treated the same way as for-profit
construction companies? It certainly is not, and it was never intended
that that would happen. But the result of making that happen costs
millions and millions of dollars. I know at the city of Toronto alone
it’s been estimated that we lose $100 million a year because of limited
tendering.

I’ll make my point
quite quickly here. If the people on that side of the room over there
were the only ones in this room that could bid—if we were all
contractors and all of a sudden only those people could bid—are we going
to get the best prices? We’re not, because certainly someone on this
side at some occasion is going to have a better price than those people.
But because we don’t get the benefit of that, the taxpayers have to pay
more.

This is only about
saving and protecting tax dollars. This is a way for the province of
Ontario to help municipalities cut their costs without reducing service
and without spending any tax dollars to do it. It makes common sense,
and if you people can’t see it, I don’t know what the heck is wrong with
you.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Monte McNaughton:
It’s a pleasure to rise in the House as the PC labour critic to support
my colleague’s bill, Bill 73, the Fair and Open Tendering Act. This is a
government—and we’re seeing it again today—supported by the NDP, that
refuses to ensure that public infrastructure contracts are negotiated in
a fair and unbiased way. That is something that my colleague’s bill is
seeking to remedy.

A fair, open tendering
process will ensure that projects are being funded as efficiently as
possible, allowing municipalities and school boards to undertake
additional projects, creating even more jobs for the people of this
province. Of course, I don’t need to remind anyone in this House that we
have nearly 600,000 men and women today out of work, so it is vitally
important that we make changes to allow companies and businesses to hire
more people and to start growing our economy.

Recently, the London
and District Construction Association conducted a month-long vote which
culminated with their endorsement of this bill. The London and District
Construction Association covers all aspects of the industry, from
suppliers to contractors, and both unionized and non-unionized workers.
The result of their vote was a unanimous show of support for this
important bill today. What the LDCA said was that for public
infrastructure projects, the process should be opened up to as many
contractors as necessary to get the best price and best value for
Ontario taxpayers. As the member from Etobicoke–Lakeshore said, this is
total common sense.

This bill is about
making sure that hard-earned tax dollars are spent wisely. It is about
making sure that we, as elected representatives, put in place the
framework to build an open tendering system that gives more contractors
the right to bid for public infrastructure jobs. The unnecessary red
tape that is inherent in our labour laws and costing us jobs will be
reduced by removing the barriers from contractors that they’re facing
when attempting to offer their services to the public sector. A
government that truly wants to see a stable and prosperous Ontario would
know that removing these barriers and streamlining the process for
contractors—getting behind Ontario workers instead of standing in their
way—must be a top priority.

I am pleased to join
with the member from Kitchener–Conestoga today to support this bill. I
hope that all members will make sure that job growth, fairness,
transparency and efficiency will be a top priority in this House when we
are making decisions.

I know that I am
supporting this bill because my constituents in Lambton–Kent–Middlesex
have told me loud and clear that they are tired of having their tax
dollars wasted, spent ineffectively by the McGuinty-Wynne-Horwath
government. This is just a government—again, supported by the third
party—that is refusing to put forward good ideas. In fact, they are
holding back important infrastructure projects here in the province of
Ontario. I encourage all members—hopefully the third party will have a
rethink before the vote shortly.

I’m proud to support this.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Kitchener–Conestoga, you now have a total of two and one.

Interjection: Three-thirty-five.

Mr. Michael Harris: Three-thirty-five? All right. Thank you, Speaker.

I’d like to thank the
comments from my colleagues, but I will especially thank those on this
side of the House who have stood up for the public purse and taxpayers
today: Steve Clark, our municipal affairs critic; Doug Holyday from
Etobicoke–Lakeshore, former deputy mayor of Toronto; and, of course, our
new labour critic, Monte McNaughton.

1510

Speaker, the
reactionary responses by my honourable colleagues are both over the top
and misinformed. I am saddened and deeply disappointed to see that
certain members have resorted to fear-mongering and a deliberate
campaign of misinformation.

For the record, Bill
73 does not tear up any collective bargaining agreements. It would
simply transition the collective bargaining relationship from the
construction sections of the Labour Relations Act to the industrial
sections of the act. In other words, it would remove municipalities and
school boards from existing province-wide agreements that apply to
construction companies and require that public sector employers
negotiate contracts with their workers under sections 1 to 125.

As my honourable
colleagues should have realized after reading the lengthy legal opinion I
provided them with, it is well within the purview of the province to
shape the bargaining structure for workers. With all the due diligence
done on this bill, I find it unbelievable that any of the members
opposite could be confused with its contents. In fact, when I met with
the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, I would have been happy to take into
consideration any of her suggestions, but she offered none.

So it’s clear that the
NDP and the Liberals have chosen to reject the interests of their
constituents, their contractors that are here today, their
municipalities and, of course, Ontario taxpayers—first and foremost,
Ontario taxpayers, the folks whom this party have stood up to protect
today. And the NDP and the Liberals have decided to oppose restoring
fairness in the construction industry simply to appease the demands of
the special interest groups who support them. Shame on you.

So we will continue.
We respect the right of people and workers to work on public
infrastructure. That is their right here in Canada. We talk a lot about
rights. If they’re a qualified contractor, like many folks in the
Legislature today, it is their right to work on public infrastructure,
but you’re denying that right. You’re saying no. It’s not fair. Well,
today I have proposed a sound, logical, clear bill that would protect
fairness in Ontario and give workers their rights back—the ones who have
lost that right to work on public infrastructure. Today I am proud to
stand up, on behalf of my colleagues and our leader, Tim Hudak, to
restore that fairness, to stand up for hundreds of municipalities across
the province, thousands of contractors and millions of taxpayers. We
have done that and will continue to do it.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): We’ll take the vote on that item at the end of private members’ public business.