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While some leaders in Canada’s construction industry are applauding the federal government’s budget as good for construction workers, the economy and the environment, others caution that infrastructure needs are not addressed enough.

Chris Atchison of the BC Construction Association (BCCA) praised some pieces of the budget, while criticizing the level of support given to critical infrastructure and securing supply chains: “BCCA welcomes investments in labour mobility and training, and improvements in municipal permitting systems, but […] the federal budget falls short on investments in critical infrastructure that is essential for the health and well-being of all Canadians. The budget does not go far enough addressing economic resilience and establishing supply chain and infrastructure protections against current and future threats such as we have seen globally with the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, or locally in B.C. with the devastating environmental challenges of fire and flood.”

Atchison explained the $183.2 million investment in developing construction materials and encouraging low-carbon emissions is welcome, but not broad enough.

The Calgary Construction Association (CCA) gave kudos to Ottawa for helping workers with the mobility funding, putting more funding into union training and committing to more green initiatives. “The looming skill shortage is one of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry and its effects are being felt already,” said Bill Black, CCA president. Baby Boomers with 40 years or more of work experience are retiring and Generation X and Millennials are seeking to step up in their roles. Greater emphasis needs to be made on attracting and retaining skilled workers to fill the looming labour gaps in the local Industry.”

The BC Building Trades welcomed the Labour Mobility Deduction as well as Union Training and Innovation Program (UTIP) funding increases. “We are glad to see a Labour Mobility Deduction for tradespeople in Budget 2022,” said Brynn Bourke, BC Building Trades executive director.

Bourke added UTIP has provided much-needed equipment to its trainers, which has allowed them to deliver training in emerging technologies and increase participation in the trades from traditionally underrepresented groups.

The Labour Mobility Deduction for tradespeople was the big news for Sean Strickland, executive director of Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU). The measure will provide tax recognition on up to $4,000 per year in eligible travel and temporary relocation expenses to tradespeople and apprentices.

“Until this was put into place construction workers were not able to deduct any of their travel costs related to accommodation or meals when they had to travel a certain distance for work. That created a barrier for travelling to where the work is and this removes that barrier.” said Strickland.

Ken Lancastle, chief operating officer of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC), said while some of the initiatives have been included in the budget, the association is stressing the importance of capacity-building, particularly with respect to the skilled trades, to ensure the programs included in the budget are implemented efficiently and effectively. “There is a bit of a disconnect between the initiatives and the programs and the objectives and the ability for the industry to have the capacity to deliver on that […] The government needs to work closely with the industry on building that capacity.”

John Gamble, president and CEO of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada, said while there was a lot of infrastructure investment included in the budget, the association has some questions about the longer-term intentions. ACEC was hoping for recognition of the importance of critical minerals and mining resources in the country. The budget includes $1.5 billion over seven years for infrastructure investments that would support the development of critical minerals supply chains.

“We’re very pleased with the commitment around the support for critical minerals, both in terms of development but also the supply chains that go along with that,” Gamble said. “If we’re going to convert to a low carbon economy then Canada is in a really strong position to be a supplier of critical minerals and precious metals.”

Other notable measures in the budget mentioned by construction stakeholders are the Housing Accelerator Fund to support municipalities in getting more market-rate housing online faster; doubling the Union Training and Innovation Program; bringing labour to the table for a comprehensive review of the employment insurance system, and new green technologies to help the country transition to a low carbon economy.

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