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OPENMIND SPRING 2013 3
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ON THE COVER
Construction Ownership
Evolution
Leadership styles and ownership
transitions set the stage for a
company’s success or failure
By Carissa Halton
Illustration by Dushan Milic
42 Quiet Revolution
Quebec’s corrupt construction industry takes
the country’s headlines by storm
By Ben Freeland
47 Alberta’s Key Players
This year’s Contractor of the Year Awards
acknowledge innovative minds
By Alexandria Eldridge
and Michelle Lindstrom
51 The Demographic Cliff
The federal government retools its former
programs, addressing the country’s shortage
of skilled tradespeople
By Bill Stewart
54 By the Numbers
Canadian construction statistics
42
5 Executive Editor’s Column
By Stephen Kushner
6 The State of Labour Law
Construction labour laws vary by jurisdiction
and current government
By Peter Pilarski
11 A Test for Ethics
The pros and cons of onsite drug and
alcohol testing
By Kelley Stark
17 Women in Trades
WBF helps change the face and statistics
of the construction industry
By Michelle Lindstrom
22 Charter Challenge
Rights in the construction industry are
challenged when mandatory union
membership conditions are enforced
By Nicholas Malone
34 National Agenda
Bill C-377 makes waves across the country
and Merit Canada’s role in levelling the
playing field
By Terrance Oakey
40 Productivity and Purpose
It’s about more than working harder.
Companies are realizing the benefits of
investing in efficiency
By Elizabeth Chorney-Booth
28
6
Volume 21 • Issue 1 • Spring 2013
17
Contents
34
OPENMIND_13_p02-05.indd 3 4/4/13 1:28:52 PM
SOLUTION FIRST R
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lÄImprove collaboration with onsite workers and suppliers so you can reduce
downtime and stay on schedule
lÄRemote access to your corporate intranet or the Internet while out of the
NEÆBDÄENQÄADSSDQÄE@RSDQÄCDBHRHNMRÄ@MCÄQD@KSHLDÄHMENQL@SHNM
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lÄ1NFDQRÄ+HUDÄFDMSÄNTQÄ@V@QCVHMMHMFÄRDQUHBDÄÄlets you speak with a Small
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*See store or online for details. ™Rogers & Mobius Design are trademarks of Rogers Communications Inc. ©2012
ROGERS PROVIDES THE TIME-SAVING WIRELESS
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES YOU NEED
WEB www.rogers.com/smallbusiness VISIT your local Rogers Small Business Specialist
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Executive Editor’s Column
Publisher Ruth Kelly
Executive Editor Stephen Kushner
Associate Editor Suzanne Pescod
Editor, Contract Magazines Michelle Lindstrom
Production Manager Betty-Lou Smith
Production Technician Brent Felzien
Production Technician Brandon Hoover
Circulation Manager Sharlene Clarke
Vice-President Sales Anita McGillis
Advertising Representative Shane Kelly
Sales Assistants Karen Crane,
Jennifer Rush

Art Director Charles Burke
Associate Art Director Andrea deBoer
Assistant Art Director Colin Spence
Contributing Writers
Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, Alexandria Eldridge,
Ben Freeland, Carissa Halton, Nicholas Malone,
Terrance Oakey, Peter Pilarski, Kelley Stark, Bill Stewart
Contributing Illustrators and Photographers
Steve Adams, Michael Byers, Isabelle Cardinal,
Dushan Milic, Kelly Redinger, Heff O’Reilly
Open Mind is published two times per year by Venture
Publishing Inc. for Merit Contractors Association.
Venture Publishing Inc.
10259-105 Street,
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 1E3
Tel.: (780) 990-0839
Fax: (780) 425-4921
admin@venturepublishing.ca
www.venturepublishing.ca
Merit Contractors Association
103-13025 St. Albert Trail,
Edmonton, Alberta T5L 4H5
Tel.: (780) 455-5999 or 1-888-816-9991
Fax: (780) 455-2109
meritedm@meritalberta.com
www.meritalberta.com
Merit Contractors Association is a non-profit
organization that offers human resource services
to the open shop construction industry.
Printed in Canada by Transcontinental LGM Graphics
The opinions conveyed by contributors to
Open Mind magazine may not be indicative
of the views of Venture Publishing Inc. or
Merit Contractors Association. While every
effort is made to ensure accuracy, neither
Venture Publishing Inc. nor Merit Contractors
Association assume any responsibility or
liability for errors or omissions.
Canadian Publications Mail Product Agreement
#40020055
Copyright © 2013 by Merit Contractors Association
No part of this publication should be reproduced without
express permission of Merit Contractors Association.
Volume 21 • Issue 1 • Spring 2013
OPENMIND SPRING 2013 5
SOLUTION FIRST R
E
A
D
Y
NETWORK
PEACEOFMIND
TEAM
RELIABLESHARE
N
E
W
SOLUTION
SMARTTEAM
TOOLSNEXT
NEXT
SECURE
S
P
E
E
D
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A
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A
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SMART
access
F
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S
T
N
E
W
UTION
NECT
SECURE
PEACE OF MIND
T
E
A
M
FAST
TEAMCONNECT
RELIABLEFAST
TOOLS
Boost productivity,
reduce costs and
keep projects on track.
lÄImprove collaboration with onsite workers and suppliers so you can reduce
downtime and stay on schedule
lÄRemote access to your corporate intranet or the Internet while out of the
NEÆBDÄENQÄADSSDQÄE@RSDQÄCDBHRHNMRÄ@MCÄQD@KSHLDÄHMENQL@SHNM
lÄRogers One Number
TM
Ä lets you talk, text and video call from your computer
or tablet using your wireless number
*
lÄRogers TechXpert with extended support for your wireless device. Get the
extra help you need, when you need it
lÄ1NFDQRÄ+HUDÄFDMSÄNTQÄ@V@QCVHMMHMFÄRDQUHBDÄÄlets you speak with a Small
!TRHMDRRÄ2ODBH@KHRSÄQHFGSÄ@V@XÄAXÄOGNMDÄHMRSNQDÄNQÄNMKHMD
*See store or online for details. ™Rogers & Mobius Design are trademarks of Rogers Communications Inc. ©2012
ROGERS PROVIDES THE TIME-SAVING WIRELESS
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES YOU NEED
WEB www.rogers.com/smallbusiness VISIT your local Rogers Small Business Specialist
000OM-Rogers-FP.indd 1 3/20/13 9:53:59 AM
On behalf of Merit Contractors
Association, welcome to
Open Mind magazine.
Stephen Kushner
PRESIDENT
MERIT CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION
We are pleased to provide you with the 21st
edition of Open Mind. While Merit has been
providing human resource solutions, like
benefit, retirement and training plans for some
27 years, we are also very excited about our 21st
edition of Open Mind.
Over many years, Open Mind has been a
vehicle to discuss issues not dealt with in the
mainstream media. This year is no different
as we discuss the shifting political landscapes that affect labour legislation
and union financial disclosure requirements under tax legislation and
immigration reform.
It’s estimated that tens of thousands of skilled tradespeople will retire in the
upcoming decade, as well as thousands of construction executives; Open Mind
looks at the changing face of contractor ownership. From large companies
to the family-run business, how are the organizations handling a shift in
ownership? We explore buyouts, family succession and mergers that change the
way a business operates.
As the demographics of the construction industry shift, women are entering
the trades at higher numbers than ever before. Open Mind profiles a graduate
of Women Building Futures (WBF) and examines the ways WBF helps women
gain a foothold in what has previously been a male-dominated arena.
It’s no secret that unions have a close relationship to government leaders; how
do these relationships affect the industry and the individual worker? This topic
is explored through the “Charter Challenge” article by Nicholas Malone and
“The Coming Quiet Revolution” article by Ben Freeland.
Alberta’s weather-affected construction season will always push the need for
increased productivity. FMI provides insight into efficiency and productivity
targets. Dr. Janaka Ruwanpura discusses the dynamics of creating more
effective construction outcomes, giving tips on how to improve business.
For the third consecutive year, we celebrate the achievements of Alberta’s
top contractors with the Contractor of the Year Awards. We are pleased to
announce the winners in this edition.
Thank you for your interest in Open Mind, and as always we welcome
suggestions for future topics.
We wish you the best in 2013!
OPENMIND_13_p02-05.indd 5 4/3/13 10:58:15 AM
OPENMIND SPRING2013
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OPENMIND_13_p06-10.indd 6 4/3/13 8:33:05 AM
OPENMIND SPRING 2013
By Peter Pilarski
Provincial and federal politicians
determine the future of the local
industries based on the priorities
and laws for which they lobby
anada’s labour laws are different provincially and
federally, with the construction industry generally
falling under provincial jurisdiction. As such, laws are
subject to change depending on the shifting political
priorities of the government of the day. It is not unusual
to see labour laws change significantly when a new party is elected
and forms government.
When the House of Commons debated and eventually passed
Bill C-377, the issue of union financial disclosure became a hot
topic in Canada. The bill, “An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act
(requirements for labour organizations)” was a private member’s
bill introduced by Russ Hiebert, Conservative MP for South Sur-
rey – White Rock – Cloverdale. Assuming its approval by the
Senate, Bill C-377 makes it mandatory for unions and related
organizations to file an annual standardized set of financial
statements and schedules with the Canada Revenue Agency.
This degree of transparency will allow Canadians access to
crucial information in a manner similar to that found in the
U.S., U.K., Australia and many other countries where unions are
held to higher degrees of accountability. Canadians will finally
be able to see, in online statements, how more than $4 billion in
tax-free dues are spent.
BRITISH COLUMBIA
B.C’s political fluctuations have jeopardized the province’s posi-
tive advancements made in its labour code provisions. Although
we don’t know which party will form the next B.C. government,
Adrian Dix, the leader of the B.C. NDP, said in a November 2012
speech, “I want to make it clear that I am proud of the work I’ve
done for years, side by side with labour unions.” He continued,
“The labour movement and NDP have done great things, but our
best days are still ahead of us.”
In December 2012, Dix supported eliminating the secret bal-
lot when workers vote on whether to join a union. Abolishing
this practice eliminates a worker’s ability to fairly express his
opinion without fear of intimidation.
ALBERTA
The Alberta government has not changed its labour code since
2008 when Bill 26, the Labour Relations Amendment Act was
passed. It dealt with unfair union organizing and job targeting
bid-subsidy schemes.
Since then, a group of Alberta’s leading industrial contractors
formed the Construction Competitiveness Coalition (CCC) to
analyze Alberta’s labour environment and provide recommen-
C
OPENMIND_13_p06-10.indd 7 4/3/13 8:34:04 AM
OPENMIND SPRING2013
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bargaining in construction and health-
care sectors.
The “Saskatchewan Employment Act”
has yet to be passed.
MANITOBA
A group of construction workers support-
ed by Merit Manitoba is currently taking
Manitoba Hydro to court to challenge the
legality of project labour agreements being
imposed on all major hydroelectric con-
struction projects.
The court challenge argues that the
Manitoba Hydro agreements violate the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
by requiring workers who have not selected
a union, to join a union and pay union
dues as a condition of employment.
The court proceedings are at an early
stage, and it will take time before they ren-
der a decision.
ONTARIO
Liberal leader and Premier Dalton
McGuinty announced his resignation
shortly after winning a minority gov-
ernment, and prorogued the provincial
legislature. His government is supported
by Working Families, a coalition of unions.
It brought in legislation that revoked the
secret ballot vote on unionization elec-
tions for the construction industry. The
Ontario Liberal Party selected Kathleen
Wynne as its new leader. At this time, it’s
too early to know her planned approach
on labour legislation.
The Ontario Liberal government, also
at the behest of unions, introduced leg-
islation creating the Ontario College of
Trades – perceived by industry as turning
control of apprenticeship over to the prov-
ince’s unions.
Ontario’s Official Opposition Pro-
gressive Conservative caucus released a
white paper in June 2012 titled “Paths to
Prosperity – Flexible Labour Markets,”
which contained a series of compelling
recommendations on labour reform. It
suggests that no clauses in any provin-
cial legislation, regulation or collective
agreement, should require a worker to
become a member of a union or pay union
dues as a condition of employment. Also
included is that union leaders should be
more accountable for how union dues are
spent. Further, employers should no lon-
ger collect union dues through paycheque
deductions and should not have to collect
dues on behalf of the union. The paper
recommends amendments to legislation
ensuring unions provide transparent
disclosure on union revenues and union
spending.
The PC white paper encourages the res-
toration of secret ballot voting to ensure
workers are shielded from potential
intimidation from union organizers and
employers – a right taken away in construc-
tion by the provincial Liberal government
in 2005.
QUEBEC
It is still illegal in Quebec to operate a
non-union construction company, even
though the province’s high-profile Char-
bonneau Commission conti nues to
expose the corruption and scandal that
defines the way organized crime operates
in the construction industry.
The Charbonneau Commission is
scheduled to hear evidence for years to
come, and it seems unlikely that any
changes will be introduced before the
commission concludes its work.
NOVA SCOTIA
In 2011, Nova Scotia’s NDP government
passed Bill 100 and 102. Bill 100, an “Act
to Establish a Unified Labour Board,”
effectively guarantees successor rights to
public sector unions. And Bill 102 allows
an arbitrator or the Nova Scotia Labour
dations to reform Alberta’s l abour
relations rules, improving the competi-
tiveness of its construction industry.
Some of these recommendations formed
part of the PC election platform.
During the 2012 provincial election,
the PC party’s election campaign pro-
posed amending Alberta’s Labour Code.
This included introducing the “Paycheque
Protection, Transparency and Freedom
to Choose Act”, making it mandatory for
unions to provide members with annual
financial statements disclosing union
spending, providing members the ability
to opt out of paying the portion of dues
spent on activities unrelated to collective
bargaining and grievance administration.
The PC party platform promised to
amend the Labour Code banning the
imposition of fines against members
who work for non-union employers or
employers with a non-signatory union
and enabling parties to negotiate single
collective agreements for all company
workers or projects, rather than separate
agreements for each trade group.
Since the election, the PC government
has not implemented any of these pledges.
SASKATCHEWAN
On May 2, 2012, the Government of Sas-
katchewan issued a call for submissions,
in response to a consultation paper on
reforming provincial labour legislation.
The government’s consultation paper
asked stakeholders for feedback on 15
pieces of legislation, governing every-
thing from employment standards to
occupational health and safety to collec-
tive bargaining legislation and the “Trade
Union Act.” The government received
more than 3,800 submissions.
On December 4, 2012, the Govern-
ment of Saskatchewan introduced the
“Saskatchewan Employment Act,” which
consolidated 12 acts into one updated and
comprehensive act. The new act included
the ability of employers or employees to
decertify a union that has been inactive
for three or more years and made it more
difficult for a union to fine a member for
crossing a picket line. Following an unsuc-
cessful application to decertify a union,
and after waiting 12 months, employees
could apply to decertify the union again.
The new law will maintain province-wide
TheStateofLabourLaw
Assuming its approval by the Senate, Bill C-377
makes it mandatory for unions, and related
organizations, to fle an annual standardized
set of fnancial statements and schedules with
the Canada Revenue Agency.
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000OM-CustomTruck-FP.indd 1 3/20/13 12:10:18 PM OPENMIND_13_p06-10.indd 9 4/3/13 8:35:40 AM
quickly passed Bill 37 in July 2012, which
denies workers basic democratic rights to a
secret ballot vote in a unionization election.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s new card-
check certification removes the requirement
for a secret ballot vote if the union submits
evidence that 65 per cent or more of employ-
ees in the bargaining unit sign a union
membership application.
Bill 37 included a one-time final offer bal-
lot option, giving an employer the right to
request that its final offer be put to the mem-
bership in a provincially supervised vote.
The bill introduced potential access to first
contract interest arbitration at the labour
board’s discretion. Section 25 of the code
was changed to give employers the right to
engage in non-threatening and non-coercive
speech, and to give the labour relations board
remedial powers to deal with unfair labour
practices.
These changes came as a surprise to
employers in Newfoundland and Labrador
and were introduced quickly after very little
consultation.
CONCLUSION
Employee or employer rights can be easily
stripped with changes to legislation. Gov-
ernments need to take time to listen to all
stakeholders before considering labour
law reform. As we have seen, an election
can mean costly changes, and the ever-
shifting political priorities of those in
power have a significant affect on indus-
try and the individual.
Relations Board to impose a first col-
lective agreement. Merit of Nova Scotia
fiercly opposed both pieces of legislation
as did the rest of Nova Scotia’s business
community.
Nova Scotia’s business community is
united in its opposition to first contract
arbitration and has urged the NDP gov-
ernment to reconsider its legislation.
Progressive Conservative Party leader
Jamie Baillie promised that, if elected, he
would focus on economic and job creation
measures while eliminating the harmful
labour legislation brought in by the NDP.
Liberal leader Stephen McNeil stated
that first contract arbitration is “against
the spirit of the collective bargaining pro-
cess, slanting it in favour of the union,”
but he has not committed to any changes
should his party form government after
the next election.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Newfoundl and and Labrador Con-
servative Premier Kathy Dunderdale
The State of Labour Law
It is not unusual to see labour laws
change signifcantly when a new party is
elected and forms government.
OPENMIND_13_p06-10.indd 10 4/3/13 8:36:44 AM
OPENMIND SPRING 2013 11
BY KELLEY STARK
magine you are sitting in your office, quietly doing the same job you’ve been
doing for 25 years when out of the blue your supervisor walks in and says: “You need to
be drug tested. Please go pee in this cup.” Would you be offended? What if the scenario
was different and you were injured on the job because an impaired co-worker caused an
accident? Would your concerns be less about offending anyone and more about why a safety
issue involving impaired employees wasn’t solved before someone, possibly you, got hurt?
We trust our employers to protect both our privacy and provide us with a safe work environ-
ment, but alcohol and drug testing can mean that one of those rights diminishes. So which
one is more important?
Canada’s construction industry
weighs all that comes with onsite
drug and alcohol testing
I
ETHICS
A Test for
OPENMIND_13_p11-15.indd 11 4/3/13 8:40:30 AM
12 OPENMIND SPRING 2013
The Irving Pulp and Paper plant in New
Brunswick tried to implement a random
alcohol testing program in 2006. The CEP
union, unimpressed with the new policy,
took the company to court and, by Decem-
ber 2012, the case had gone all the way to
the Supreme Court of Canada. A decision
still awaits. Irving says it has a safety-sen-
sitive workplace because the mill has had
many alcohol-related inci-
dents versus what the union
claims: that random drug
testing is unfair and invades
the employees’ privacy.
Mo r e r e c e nt l y , i n
Alberta, a two-year ran-
dom drug testing project
was launched. The Drug
and Alcohol Risk Reduc-
tion Pilot Project (DARRPP), which found
encouraging outcomes in other jurisdic-
tions, gathered a group of companies in
the oilsands to try out the new policy. Since
drugs and alcohol are prevalent in the
industry, the project’s success relies heavily
on the deterrent-value of random testing.
Suncor, one of the first oilsands compa-
nies to jump on board with trial testing
was stopped by the CEP union before even
starting because the tests were considered
invasive. The decision on Suncor’s case also
has yet to be heard.
“It all comes down to balance between
privacy of the individual and safety in
the workplace,” Walter Pavlic, partner at
MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP, says.
“They’re always pushing the safety-in-the-
workplace issue: ‘we can’t have people that
are impaired; we can’t have people who use
drugs’; and on the other hand it’s intrusive
to ask people to pee in a cup, take blood or
a breathalyzer if there’s no basis for it.”
There are different times that a com-
pany can choose to test its employees: pre-
employment or pre-placement testing is
widely accepted, as is post-incident testing.
It’s common to randomly test individual
employees after they re-enter the workplace
following a rehabilitation program, or if
there is cause to believe that an employee is
currently impaired.
“Random testing is a bit of the issue,”
says Pavlic. “When and why and how
depends on the circumstances. It becomes
a problem when the employer random tests
just because they can.”
All provinces can do random testing;
it just seems more prevalent in Alberta.
“Every province is looking into it, but
Alberta is the most inclined to allow it
because we have these massive job sites,”
Pavlic says.
Sean Evans is the safety manager for
Enbridge and chair of the committee of
the Construction Owner’s Association of
Alberta’s (COAA) model
for alcohol and drug test-
ing. He has seen a real
effort “to establish a fair
and consistent approach
to alcohol and drug test-
ing programs, at least in
the construction industry.”
The committee found that
its model was adopted by
other industries because it is well-tested
and fair. It ensures that a number of checks
and balances are in place so that people are
treated in a manner that’s consistent with
their human rights. “While it may have
originated with a group that was centred in
the construction industry in Alberta, we see
that model being applied across Canada,”
he says. (The entire model can be viewed at
www.coaa.ab.ca.)
The model explains in detail the expec-
tations of the employee, employer and
union. It also offers resources for educa-
tion and rehabilitation, and spells out
what is considered to be above the limit of
drugs or alcohol in an employee’s system.
Descriptions are also included of where
and how random testing should be admin-
istered, based on guidelines set out by the
United States Department of Transporta-
tion Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing
Programs.
It’s interesting to note that random
drug and alcohol testing is very common
in the United States. “At Enbridge,” says
Evans, “we operate pipelines that cross the
border. Our employees that operate that
pipeline, some of them based in Edmon-
ton, have to be part of the random testing
because the pipeline crosses the border and
operates in the U.S.” The Canadian govern-
ment has yet to force drug and alcohol test
regulation on companies as the American
government has.
“It all comes down to balance
between privacy of the individual
and safety in the workplace.”
- WALTER PAVLIC, PARTNER AT
MACPHERSON LESLIE & TYERMAN LLP
A Test for Ethics
OPENMIND_13_p11-15.indd 12 4/3/13 4:10:46 PM
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Tom Ross, partner at McLennan Ross
LLP adds, “It frustrates (American com-
panies) when they are sometimes told in
Canada ‘that may not be legal or enforce-
able here in Canada.’ With construction,
that’s certainly the case. In transporta-
tion, you have drivers that operate in both
countries; they have to comply with the
U.S. rules and it affects them in Canada,
whether they like it or not. But for people
who work in Canada on a major construc-
tion project, they’re subject to the rules of
Canada, regardless of where their employer
is from.” The U.S. influence impacts policy
in companies that also operate in Canada.
Employees have issues with the actual
data from drug testing. A breathalyzer,
used for alcohol testing, is conclusive. If
an employee blows over a certain number,
there is little room to argue that he is not
impaired. Drug testing is a different story.
“Dealing with drugs in the workplace is
more of a technical issue, a scientific issue.
The problem with some drugs is they have
the capacity to stay in your system for
some period of time,” Ross says, “You may
have used drugs a couple of weeks ago, and
you’re capable of working but you’re going
to test positive on a random, or any kind of
drug test. That’s been one of the challenges
of drug testing in the workplace.”
“Even still, it’s a relevant piece of infor-
mation; it just may not be a conclusive
piece of information. And that’s the gen-
eral issue with drug and alcohol testing,” he
says, “You should not rely upon that as the
sole answer to everything. It should only be
a component of a comprehensive approach
to safety in the workplace.”
Addiction is another major issue affect-
ing companies and their decisions on drug
testing. The Human Rights Commission
of Alberta treats alcoholism and drug
addiction as a disability. That means that
an employee suffering from a dependency
cannot be terminated without accommo-
dations first being made by the employer.
Does a disability excuse the fact that an
employee showed up for work drunk and
caused an accident at the workplace?
“Many programs provide the opportu-
nity for people to be rehabilitated,” Ross
explains. “And if people can rehabilitate
OPENMIND_13_p11-15.indd 13 4/3/13 4:10:17 PM
14 OPENMIND SPRING2013
themselves then they have an opportu-
nity to return to the workplace. And if
they can’t, or they don’t make the effort to
rehabilitate themselves, then there’s only
so much an employer can
or should do.”
Pavlic is unequivocal.
“Bottom line, firing some-
one who dr i nks al co-
hol and shows up drunk
is fine if it’s an onsite pol-
icy,” he says. The problem
arises when you fire some-
one who’s an alcoholic,
because it’s his or her dis-
ability. Alcohol and drug
addiction is treated like
cancer. It’s a recognized
disability and it’s hard to wrap your mind
around.”
Employers then have to figure out how
to avoid being sued for either breach of
privacy or discrimination against a dis-
ability. “You have to be prepared to take
a certain amount of risk. You have to say,
‘I’m going to take the position that I will
take on whatever litigation might be out
there, because it serves my greater pur-
pose of having a safety-sensitive work-
place, a drug-free workplace,’ ” says Pavlic.
And that works right up until someone
complains. “If it’s not a safety-sensitive
position, you’re going to have a prob-
lem justifying having that kind of testing
because there’s a balance that the courts
put into place between the rights of the
individual and the right of the employer to
have a safe workplace. It’s a fine dance that
goes on back and forth between them and
the problem is the consistency of the posi-
ATestforEthics
“The problem arises when you fre
someone who’s an alcoholic, because
it’s his or her disability. Alcohol and
drug addiction is treated like cancer.
It’s a recognized disability and it’s hard
to wrap your mind around.”
– WAlTer PAvlIc
tions,” he says. The case decisions can go
either way based on peculiar facts.
The real concern then becomes the
balance between safety and privacy. Ross
concludes that the answer
really would be a program
that has safeguards in it,
such as the ability for peo-
ple to have the opportunity
to rehabilitate themselves or
have their disability accom-
modated, then there’s a
good argument that ran-
dom t est i ng ought t o
be permitted.
It’ s uncertai n where
the whole industry stands
on the subj ect, but the
upcoming Supreme Court decisions
may sway a lot of companies. Pavlic says,
“The trend seems to be shifting towards
allowing more intrusive testing, more
random testing.”
Workplace impairment is much less
tolerated than it was in the past, but the
decision to test or not is still currently
made company by company.
The Government of Alberta estimates
114,000 people will be needed to fll
trades positions by the year 2021—and
SAIT Polytechnic’s blended learning
apprenticeship programs are leading the
way in providing fexible, innovative
training to close that gap.
“Blended learning is designed for the many
Albertans eager to advance their careers in
these high-demand felds who simply can`t
afford to take a leave from their job—and
their paycheque—to attend on-campus
apprenticeship training,” said David
Roberge, Dean, School of Manufacturing
and Automation at SAIT Polytechnic. “It’s
also for the many business owners who are
too busy to send their employees away to
school.”
Apprenticeships are three or four-year
training periods, with about 1,500 on-
the-job hours and six-to-eight weeks of
classroom learning each year. Blended
learning allows apprentices in selected
programs to complete theory training
online, during evenings and weekends,
while continuing to work during the day.
SAIT Polytechnic launched blended options
in three high-demand trades—electrician,
welder and plumber— last year.
Carpenter was recently added to the list.
“Taking the blended program enabled me to
keep a full paycheque,” said Rob Milton, a
plumbing apprentice who opted for blended
learning. “Being a father of three, I do have
a lot of expenses at home with the kids.¨
How blended learning works
“It’s the best of time-tested apprenticeship
training blended with the benefts of
technology,” Roberge said. “We’re seeing
a high success rate among motivated
apprentices with the self-discipline
to manage their time and complete
assignments by the deadlines.”
Interactive graphics and videos complement
reading materials to make theory easier to
understand and can be watched again and
again, at the learner’s pace. Knowledgeable
SAIT instructors are only a click or call
away, while online practice questions help
with exam preparation.
Blended learners have full apprenticeship
privileges, including use of the campus
library and recreation facilities as well as
online and in-person instructor support.
Not all learning is completed off-campus.
“Apprentices still need to come to SAIT for
labs, but it provides them with additional
weeks on the job,” said Scott MacPherson,
Dean, School of Construction. “We’re
excited to make this fexible learning option
available to aspiring carpenters.”
A win-win-win situation
Blended learning has benefts for
apprentices, employers, and the economy.
For learners from outside Calgary, it cuts
down on travel costs and living expenses-
while reducing the fnancial strain faced
by all apprentices, regardless of where
they live, with up to ffteen fewer weeks
in the classroom over the course of their
apprenticeship.
Employers are also on board.
“The blended learning program allows
me to not lose my manpower for so much
time. Time is valuable,” said John Swan,
owner of Triple J Mechanical. In addition,
apprentices can apply their learning to the
job the very next day.
“By providing apprenticeship training
when, where—and how—it’s needed, SAIT
is making it easier for people to achieve
their career goals, helping to prevent the
projected labour shortage and fuelling our
provincial economy,” said MacPherson.
For more on apprenticeship blended
learning, visit sait.ca.
SAIT Polytechnic’s Apprenticeship Blended Learning blends the best of both worlds.
“Taking the blended program enabled
me to keep a full paycheque,”
~ Rob Milton, plumbing apprentice
“By providing apprenticeship training
when, where—and how—it’s needed,
SAIT is making it easier for people
to achieve their career
goals, helping to
prevent the projected
labour shortage and
fuelling our provincial
economy,”
~ Scott MacPherson,
Dean, SAIT School
of Construction
000OM-SAIT-FP.indd 1 3/20/13 9:57:11 AM OPENMIND_13_p11-15.indd 14 4/3/13 4:09:34 PM
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OPENMIND_13_p16-21.indd 16 4/3/13 8:57:31 AM
OPENMIND SPRING 2013 17
New Career
Trade In for a
ust a few years ago, Charlotte Doerksen lived in and worked just outside
of a small town south of Camrose called Ferintosh. Yes, Ferintosh.
“People always ask, ‘Where?’ when I say Ferintosh,” says Doerksen. The
small town nestles in a neat grid between Little Beaver Lake and Highway
21. But it was a pit stop for Doerksen in a few ways. She worked in housewares
at a local tire and general goods store – a job really meant to just pay the bills.
Her boyfriend lived in Edmonton so there was a commute to see each other.
And Doerksen wanted to provide a world of opportunities to her daughter
Emilie, then four years old.
J
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h
o
t
o
g
r
a
P
h
y

B
y
:

K
E
L
L
y

r
E
D
I
N
g
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r
Women get a better
chance at success
in the construction
industry with
specialized training
By Michelle lindstroM
OPENMIND_13_p16-21.indd 17 4/3/13 8:57:05 AM
concerned about the number of women
in Edmonton living in or near poverty,
founded WBF, a not-for-profit organi-
zation, in 1998. The group arrived
at the idea of pairing these women with
an industry that paid well and was in
need of skilled workers. Archer joined the
organization around 2002 and helped
expand the founders’ ideas and build the
organization to what it is today:
a growing and trusted source for
employers to fnd knowledgeable,
hardworking tradeswomen.
Employees from WBF travel
throughout Alberta and talk to
women at scheduled group infor-
mation sessions. Last year, 3,000
women in 40 communities heard
what WBF had to offer. These types
of sessions show women what
opportunities are out there in the
trades that they may not consider
otherwise. The information session is
followed by career decision-making
workshops for those women who want
to take the process to the next level and
learn more about the trades. “The work-
shop helps women take a close look at
the good, the bad and the ugly and really
make an informed decision about coming
into this type of career.” Archer says.
“We accept women into our programs
In a moment of serendipity or maybe
it was just time, but Doerksen’s mother
told her about what she’d found in an
Alberta Works office while on her own
personal job hunt: a posting about the
Journeywoman START Program, offered
through Women Building Futures (WFB).
“She knew I wasn’t happy in my job and
she thought trades might be something
I’d think of doing,” says Doerksen.
It wasn’ t a far stretch since
Doerksen had some experience in
the trades before enrolling in WBF.
“My frst job ever was cleaning the
machines in my dad’s shop,” she
says. Her dad is a machinist and
her brother is an electrician. “I like
jobs where you can think but they
also keep you physically active; I
think sitting behind a desk all day,
I’d get really bored.”
Of he r r e t ai l e xpe r i e nc e ,
Doerksen says she worked really hard and
got little in return. The jobs she could
attain after completing just some of the
Journeywoman START program started
her pay at four dollars more per hour
than she was earning in retail. Hard-to-
please customers, willing to voice their
opinions loudly, were job perks Doerksen
was happy to leave behind as well.
Having a young child made Doerksen,
now 33, acutely aware that her career
decisions affected more than just her. She
needed to switch gears. She had taken
English and theatre at the University
of Alberta, Lethbridge and Ottawa.
“Why three universities?” she asks. “Life
happens.” And, she tended to move
around a lot. She also did night classes,
primarily, at the U of A Camrose campus
after having Emilie, but left the degree
with one semester still to complete. She
didn’t know then that it would be rele-
vant to her future career, but the basic
electrical knowledge she gathered during
her university theatre tech experience
helped Doerksen choose a trade at WBF.
“The trades are not for everybody,”
says JudyLynn Archer, president and
CEO of WBF. A group of social workers,
Field Law is a registered trade mark of Field LLP.
eldlaw.com
Ready for lawyers who understand that a stud
isn’t just the best looking guy in the room?
“I lIke jobs where you can
thInk but they also keep you
physIcally actIve; I thInk
sIttIng behInd a desk all
day, I’d get really bored.”
– charlotte doerksen, 2011 wbF grad
Trade In For a New Career
OPENMIND_13_p16-21.indd 18 4/3/13 8:58:24 AM
Continued on page 20
KRAWFORD
CONSTRUCTION
Specializing in:
º New Buildihgs
º Buildihg PehovaIiohs
º Commercial CohsIrucIioh
º ÌhdusIrial CohsIrucIioh
8055 Argyll Poad NW
EdmohIoh, AB T6C 4A9
Tel: 780-436-4381
Fa×: 780-437-2766
E-mail: edm@krawIord.com
Bay 2, 11166-42 SIreeI SE
Calgary, AB T2C 0J9
Tel: 403-203-2651
Fa×: 403-203-2657
E-mail: cgy@krawIord.com
VisiI us aI:
krawford.com
Construction Managers
General Contractors
Design Builders
who have thought it through, who are
committed to this type of work and who
have the right stuff to do it.”
Women fill less than 10 per cent of
Canada’s trades workforce, and Doerksen,
now a second-year electrical apprentice
with Muth Electrical Management Inc., is
among that percentage.
It’s still a predominantly male industry,
but “non-traditional” doesn’t mean the
roles are impossible to fll. An employer
like Muth, an electrical company for
multi-family residential, commercial and
industrial projects as well as a recipient
of the Merit Contractors Association
Employer of Excellence Award, willingly
hires competent tradespeople regardless
of their gender. The company currently
has eight female employees out of
about 75 total in the field. Anecdotally,
Doerksen says the ratio of women on the
job is higher at Muth than she sees with
other trades-related companies.
Gender has not been a challenge for
Doerksen on the job. She’s more concerned
about fnding enough space to work with
so many trades milling about on one site.
And, of course, the cold can be an issue
since most job sites are not in fnished or
heated spaces – all common workplace
challenges most electricians face.
Lenora Forseth, WBF student employment co-ordinator, and Charlotte
Doerksen are no strangers to the trades and hard work.
OPENMIND_13_p16-21.indd 19 4/3/13 11:14:25 AM
training and in the field after graduation.
“Most of the trades are anywhere from three
to four years (of training),” Forseth says,
adding that it’s a long process from applica-
tion to journeyman status. WBF students
need to be aware of the timeline and commit
to the program for success.
Forseth says Doerksen falls into the
“typical” graduate of WBF’s Journeywoman
START Program. She has a good work
ethic, is prompt, shows up and does so with
commitment. “I think it’s a win-win for the
employer and Charlotte,” she says. “They’re
in that partnership together because that’s
the process. She’ s found an employer
who appreciates her and what she brings
to the table.”
If Doerksen’s daughter one day shows
interest in the trades, she’d tell her: “Find a
good company. That makes a big difference
– the people you’re working with.” Doerksen
determined Muth was the right company
for her because she asked a lot of questions
“I really don’t question any female that
comes out of that program,” says Heather
Beltran, human resources, health and
safety at Muth. “Prior to hiring Charlotte,
I hired two other females from the (WBF)
program and what I liked was that they
had all their training, certifcates and CSTS
(Construction Safety Training System).”
The CSTS alone saves employers
the cost and time of sending new
employees out to do the required
eight-hour online course and quiz.
As part of the Journeywoman
START program, “students will get
hands-on training – but they will also
get their safety certifcations that will
take them through to any employer
because safety is such an important
part of the industry,” says Lenora
Forseth, the student employment co-
ordinator at WBF.
The J ourneywoman START
program is 17 weeks long and includes
hands-on training in a variety of construc-
tion trades: carpentry, electrical, plumbing,
sheet metal, welding, pipeftting and blue-
print reading. It’s divided into week-long
segments of specifc trades training. While
they learn some basics in several trades,
at the outset of the program the women
indicate which one they want to pursue
after graduation. As applicants, they inter-
view active tradespeople and write a career
investigation report as part of the process.
There are varying prerequisites on the
WBF website, but the idea is to generate a
willingness and eagerness to work during
“We recruit Women Who
have thought it through,
Who are committed to this
type of Work and Who have
the right stuff to do it.”
– JudyLynn archer, president and ceo
of Women Building futures
during the interview pertaining to
what kind of work they do, and policies
on sick days, family emergencies and
safety. “Just ask lots and lots of ques-
tions,” she says.
“We have a really good work-life
balance here at the company,” says
Beltran. It’s something she’s proud
to tell prospective employees
during an interview for a posi-
tion at Muth. That balance and
understanding can be hard for
tradespeople to find in today’s
industry.
Staggered between months of
on-the-job training and work at
Muth, Doerksen still needs to
complete three more segments
of studies at NAIT before she can
then take the journeyman exam.
She’ll always be connected to WBF
throughout her trades career,
as the organization remains a go-to
resource for grads searching for work
at any point in their careers. Providing
even more backup, Merit Contractors
Association is a supporter of WBF and
has a long history of linking graduates
with frms looking to hire apprentices.
But Doerksen’s place is quite secure
at Muth as she continues to impress the
likes of Beltran with her NAIT marks,
which the institute sends to Muth as
part of the apprenticeship process.
“She got 95 per cent on her exam and
most of her coursework was 95 per cent
and higher,” Beltran says. “She’s got a
young daughter, and I know she’s got a
signifcant other in her life, and it’s a lot
of responsibility to pull off those kind
of marks. That always impresses me.”
The Journeywoman START Program
doesn’t find and make committed
graduates overnight, Forseth says.
That’s why the applicants are put
through a lengthy application process
and students are taught to stay focused
– because it will be worth it.
It definitely has been worth it for
Doerksen, since she can happily
consider full-time retail, and all it
entails, to be a distant memory.
(See sidebar on next page for program
details.)
Trade In For a New Career
OPENMIND_13_p16-21.indd 20 4/3/13 4:07:23 PM
Felesky Flynn LLP is one of
dedicating itself to providing
legal advice in the complex
area of taxation law
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Calgary, AB T2P 3Y7
(403) 260-3312
felesky@felesky.com
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1980 Manulife Place
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Edmonton, AB T5J 3S4
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Program StartS
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CALL 780- 492-2260
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www.executiveeducation.ca
mA nAgi ng
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Deli veri ng reSultS
e n g a g i n g
L e A d e r S h i p
The Advanced Program in Project Management is designed for those
managing large, complex, strategic and mission-critical undertakings. The program
provides the perspective, tools and expertises necessary to successfully realize results.
BUILD A FUTURE WITH WBF
For 15 years, WBF has helped women
confidently find a place in the trades, and
the not-for-profit organization continues
to expand its reach. Here is what it has
to offer today, and what it’s working
towards.
Journeywoman START Program
• Takes about 12 to 20 new students every
two months, year-round.
• Requires min. six weeks to complete all
preliminary stages (info session, career
investigation, etc.) before women enrol
for 17-week training.
• Provides hands-on training with basic
tools, one week each of six core trades,
academic studies (math, science and
English), seven safety certificates,
Workplace Culture Awareness and work
experience.
WBF Heavy Equipment
Operator Program
• Has one time, early spring enrolment.
• Co-ordi nates graduati on when
seasonal work begins and employ-
ment opportunities are high.
• Suggests applying in August of the year
prior to acceptance due to high demand
for program spots.
WBF partnership programs:
Partner organizations provide resources
and prerequisites for specific training
programs geared to their organization.
Employment is not guaranteed, but
the chances are good that competent
students will be hired on with partnering
companies. For example, Imperial Oil
partnered with WBF to train women
for potential hires as heavy equipment
operators at its Kearl oilsands project.
Three- to six-week programs
Students are prepared for entry-level
empl oyment i n a speci fi c trade or
occupation. Programs introduce students
to basic training in carpentry, electrical,
welding and ready-mix driver training (in
partnership with Lafarge).
For more information visit:
www.womenbuildingfutures.com
OPENMIND_13_p16-21.indd 21 4/3/13 9:04:03 AM
22 OPENMIND SPRING2013
I
L
L
U
S
T
R
A
T
I
O
N

B
Y
:

m
I
c
h
A
e
L

B
Y
e
R
S
OPENMIND_13_p22-27.indd 22 4/3/13 9:10:40 AM
OPENMIND SPRING 2013 23
Manitoba construction workers
question having to join and pay
union dues to be able to work
on hydroelectric projects
o what extent can a government require an
individual to become a member of a union, and to
pay dues to that union, as mandatory conditions
of employment? Does the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms protect the right of open shop or non-
unionized construction workers? Does it allow them to
work on hydroelectric projects without being compelled
to join and lend financial support to a union they have
never belonged to? These questions are at the core of
a legal action filed in the Manitoba Court of Queen’s
Bench last summer.
T
BY NICHOLAS MALONE
CHARTER
CHALLENGE
OPENMIND_13_p22-27.indd 23 4/3/13 9:11:26 AM
24 OPENMIND SPRING 2013
Five local construction workers, with
the support of the Merit Contractors
Association of Manitoba as co-plaintiff,
are challenging Manitoba Hydro’s author-
ity to require them to join and pay dues to
a union in order to work on hydroelectric
construction projects.
Although focused on the provisions
of two collective agreements imposed
by Manitoba Hydro on open shop
contractors and their employees,
the case should serve to highlight a
widespread and deeply entrenched
labour policy in Manitoba that
puts the interests of trade unions
over the charter-protected rights of
workers who chose to remain non-
unionized.
The Floodway Expansion Project
The case can trace its origins to the
Manitoba government’s decision to
impose a collective agreement on a con-
struction project known as the Floodway
Expansion project in 2005. The original
proposal attempted to force open shop con-
tractors to have their employees sign union
cards and pay union dues as a condition
of employment. The government justified
its decision by asserting that these clauses
were necessary to complete the project “on
time and on budget” by preventing strikes
or lockouts. However, faced with prolonged
media attention and lobbying efforts by
local industry partners, the government
eventually agreed to remove the mandatory
union membership clause from the agree-
ment. As much as they found the remain-
ing provisions of the agreement distasteful
with respect to the mandatory payment of
dues, a number of open shop companies
nevertheless decided to bid on the project.
Unfortunately, this relatively success-
ful challenge to the terms of the Manitoba
Floodway scheme failed to produce any long-
term change in the government’s labour
policy agenda. In fact, as recent develop-
ments have shown, the use and imposition
of restrictive Project Management Agree-
ments (PMAs) are likely to continue to affect
large-scale public infrastructure projects
in the province for years to come. Of even
greater concern to open shop contractors is
the lack of any meaningful con-
sultations or compelling jus-
tifications for these policies,
which, to a large extent,
primarily impact the
rights and employment
prospects of thousands
of open shop or non-
unionized workers in
the Manitoba construc-
tion industry.
The East Side Road Project
Decisions surrounding the East Side Road
Transportation Initiative illustrate the on-
going concerns and frustration that open
shop contractors and their employees experi-
ence on this issue. With a budget of approxi-
mately $3 billion, and with more than $50
million in awarded tenders, the East Side
Road project will lead to the construction and
maintenance of an all-season road running
156 kilometres along the east side of Lake
Winnipeg. This project is among the most
significant and ambitious transportation
initiatives in recent Manitoba history, both in
scale and by reference to the extent of public
and environmental consultations involved.
This project undoubtedly holds significant
opportunities for a wide range of Manitoba
companies and workers, whether union or
open-shop, and should have attracted bids by
a number of open shop contractors.
It was only after the tendering documents
for some of the initial East Side Road projects
became available in 2011 that contractors
first became aware that another PMA (largely
modelled on the Floodway agreement) would
again subject open shop contractors and their
employees to mandatory union dues and fees
as a condition of employment.
Manitoba Hydro
By 2011, open shop contractors and their
employees learned that another govern-
ment-directed collective agreement would
apply to the Bipole III Transmission Line
Project, a project Manitoba Hydro under-
took for the construction of converter
stations and a new transmission line
spanning over 1,300 kilometres from the
Lower Nelson River generating station
to southern Manitoba. The construction
and maintenance of Bipole
III is expected to create
economic
opportunities for local and
out-of-province companies for years to
come. The Bipole III PMA not only requires
its workers to pay union dues and fees but
also forces them, as mandatory conditions
of employment, to join either IBEW Local
2034 or IUOE Local 987. The government
made the decision to impose this collective
agreement on open shop contractors and
their employees, once again, without any
prior consultation.
Open shop contractors immediately
expressed their concern that, absent any
compelling justification, these offensive
and restrictive provisions amounted to a
breach of their employees’ charter rights.
Merit Manitoba urgently requested to
meet with the premier or the minister
responsible for Manitoba Hydro, but the
government denied the request. Instead
the government provided a letter stating
Charter Challenge
Does the Canadian
Charter of Rights and
Freedoms protect the
rights of open shop
or non-unionized
construction workers?
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000OM-RBC-FP.indd 1 3/25/13 8:49:11 AM OPENMIND_13_p22-27.indd 24 4/3/13 11:50:00 AM
The Government of Alberta estimates
114,000 people will be needed to fll
trades positions by the year 2021—and
SAIT Polytechnic’s blended learning
apprenticeship programs are leading the
way in providing fexible, innovative
training to close that gap.
“Blended learning is designed for the many
Albertans eager to advance their careers in
these high-demand felds who simply can`t
afford to take a leave from their job—and
their paycheque—to attend on-campus
apprenticeship training,” said David
Roberge, Dean, School of Manufacturing
and Automation at SAIT Polytechnic. “It’s
also for the many business owners who are
too busy to send their employees away to
school.”
Apprenticeships are three or four-year
training periods, with about 1,500 on-
the-job hours and six-to-eight weeks of
classroom learning each year. Blended
learning allows apprentices in selected
programs to complete theory training
online, during evenings and weekends,
while continuing to work during the day.
SAIT Polytechnic launched blended options
in three high-demand trades—electrician,
welder and plumber— last year.
Carpenter was recently added to the list.
“Taking the blended program enabled me to
keep a full paycheque,” said Rob Milton, a
plumbing apprentice who opted for blended
learning. “Being a father of three, I do have
a lot of expenses at home with the kids.¨
How blended learning works
“It’s the best of time-tested apprenticeship
training blended with the benefts of
technology,” Roberge said. “We’re seeing
a high success rate among motivated
apprentices with the self-discipline
to manage their time and complete
assignments by the deadlines.”
Interactive graphics and videos complement
reading materials to make theory easier to
understand and can be watched again and
again, at the learner’s pace. Knowledgeable
SAIT instructors are only a click or call
away, while online practice questions help
with exam preparation.
Blended learners have full apprenticeship
privileges, including use of the campus
library and recreation facilities as well as
online and in-person instructor support.
Not all learning is completed off-campus.
“Apprentices still need to come to SAIT for
labs, but it provides them with additional
weeks on the job,” said Scott MacPherson,
Dean, School of Construction. “We’re
excited to make this fexible learning option
available to aspiring carpenters.”
A win-win-win situation
Blended learning has benefts for
apprentices, employers, and the economy.
For learners from outside Calgary, it cuts
down on travel costs and living expenses-
while reducing the fnancial strain faced
by all apprentices, regardless of where
they live, with up to ffteen fewer weeks
in the classroom over the course of their
apprenticeship.
Employers are also on board.
“The blended learning program allows
me to not lose my manpower for so much
time. Time is valuable,” said John Swan,
owner of Triple J Mechanical. In addition,
apprentices can apply their learning to the
job the very next day.
“By providing apprenticeship training
when, where—and how—it’s needed, SAIT
is making it easier for people to achieve
their career goals, helping to prevent the
projected labour shortage and fuelling our
provincial economy,” said MacPherson.
For more on apprenticeship blended
learning, visit sait.ca.
SAIT Polytechnic’s Apprenticeship Blended Learning blends the best of both worlds.
“Taking the blended program enabled
me to keep a full paycheque,”
~ Rob Milton, plumbing apprentice
“By providing apprenticeship training
when, where—and how—it’s needed,
SAIT is making it easier for people
to achieve their career
goals, helping to
prevent the projected
labour shortage and
fuelling our provincial
economy,”
~ Scott MacPherson,
Dean, SAIT School
of Construction
000OM-SAIT-FP.indd 1 3/20/13 9:57:11 AM
ADVERTI SI NG FEATURE
OPENMIND_13_p22-27.indd 25 4/4/13 2:42:00 PM
26 OPENMIND SPRING 2013
its rationale for requiring open shop or
non-unionized workers to join IBEW or
IUOE, and to pay dues to these unions, as
conditions of employment on the Bipole
III project. Aside from an unequivo-
cal position that this policy was simply
“good business” for Manitoba, the letter
also disclosed a familiar set of justifica-
tions, namely to ensure workplace safety
and to prevent strikes or lockouts. Need-
less to say, these purported justifications
proved even more perplexing to open
shop contractors. Manitoba contractors,
whether union or open-shop, are all sub-
ject to the same Certificate of Recogni-
tion safety standards program, which is
administered by the Manitoba Construc-
tion Safety Association.
Both in form and substance, the Bipole
III collective agreement is not without
precedent. Beginning in the late 1960s,
major hydroelectric projects in northern
Manitoba were traditionally subject to
mandatory (and similarly restrictive) col-
lective agreements. These ad-hoc agree-
ments, as negotiated between local trade
unions and the Hydro Projects Manage-
ment Association (a negotiating and con-
tracting agent for Manitoba Hydro) are
now embodied in a model PMA known as
the Burntwood Nelson Agreement (BNA),
providing for union membership and the
payment of dues as mandatory conditions
of employment.
The practical and intended effect of the
BNA and Bipole III agreement on open
shop contractors and their employees
became clear when employees reported
to a BNA-covered project last spring.
One of these employees, a co-plaintiff in
the case launched last summer, signed a
union membership card only under threat
of being removed from the worksite if
he didn’t. Mirroring the experience of
most, if not all open shop contractors
who worked on the Floodway project,
the employee’s refusal to consent to the
deduction of union dues from his wages
also forced his employer to make these
payments on his behalf.
The legal action filed
in June 2012 will focus
on the provisions of the
BNA and the Bipole III
PMA. The action puts
forward two principal
arguments.
The first argument
is that the requirement
to j oi n a desi gnated
trade union in order to
work and/or to remit dues to that union,
whether or not the employee wishes to
be a member of that union violates the
affected employee’s freedom of asso-
ciation under section 2(d) of the charter.
This argument follows a 2001 decision
by the Supreme Court of Canada (R. v.
Advance Cutting & Coring Ltd., [2001]
3 S.C.R. 209, 2001 SCC 70), which rec-
Charter Challenge
ognized that the freedom of association
guaranteed under section 2(d) of the char-
ter includes an individual’s right not to
associate.
The second argument is that, hav-
ing been compelled to join a union or to
remit union dues in order to work on the
project, the employee’s freedom of expres-
sion, protected under s. 2(b) of the charter,
is violated. This is because unions publicly
support political parties or policies that
employees do not necessarily support.
Employee-compelled union dues some-
times provide financial support to political
or ideological causes not supported by the
employee.
Preliminary motions filed by Manitoba
Hydro and other co-defendants are sched-
uled for May 2013. The law firm of Heenan
Blaikie LLP is representing the plaintiffs,
including Merit Manitoba, with a team
of counsel led by Peter Gall, Q.C., who
appeared before the Supreme Court of
Canada representing open shop contrac-
tors from outside Quebec in the Advanced
Cutting and Coring Case. Open shops are
eagerly awaiting the results.
A co-plaintiff in the case signed
a union membership card only
under threat of being removed
from the worksite if he didn’t.
OPENMIND_13_p22-27.indd 26 4/3/13 4:05:24 PM
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EVOLUTION
28 OPENMIND SPRING2013
ByCarissaHalton
I
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U
S
T
R
A
T
I
O
N

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Y
:

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U
S
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A
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Construction
Ownership
OPENMIND_13_p28-33.indd 28 4/3/13 9:28:38 AM
EVOLUTION
OPENMIND SPRING 2013 29
The handover of a company to another
organization can be a successful and
healthy experience. Merit members
share their lessons learned
lot can happen to a company in the span of a century.
In 1912, when oil wells were dug by hand at the
start of the Texas oil rush, Bill Flint Sr. started
a company building wooden barracks in the
oilfield. His company grew and when oil gushed from
the ground in Leduc, Alberta, the Flint family moved its
operations north of the border.
One of the frst in energy feld construction, Flint Energy
Services Ltd. expanded and, in 1998, caught the interest of
a venture capital company, SCF Partners. These wealthy,
Texas oilmen were consolidators; they bought the Flint
family’s Canadian operation and went on to make
numerous acquisitions. In 2001, Flint Energy went public
on the Toronto Stock Exchange and a hundred years after
Flint’s first sales in the Texas hinterland, the company
was acquired for $1.25 billion by U.S. engineering company
URS Corp.
Ownership changes are often an integral, strategic part
of growth for the construction industry. “It’s a very dynamic
sector. This is the normal business model,” says Guy
Cocquyt, vice-president of communications and research
for URS Flint. “Companies are constantly being acquired,
consolidated or spun off.”
Changes in leadership also represent a natural trans-
formation for a company. “A company’s evolution of
ownership and governance happens often by default,” says
Dr. Lloyd Steier, vice-dean and faculty at the University of
Alberta’s School of Business.
“Usually in response to the challenge of succession, there
comes a time when all owners/founders must confront this
important issue. They then seek ways and means to pass it on.”
Sometimes these founders have a son or daughter who is
interested in taking the company on. Sometimes founders
turn to employees to buy them out. Others seek companies
A
OPENMIND_13_p28-33.indd 29 4/4/13 1:50:30 PM
with whom they might merge or partner with, or they take the
company public.
No matter whether the impetus for change is strategy or
opportunity, every ownership transition presents different
opportunities and challenges respective of a company’s own
strengths, weaknesses and objectives. A company’s evolution
is unique to its position in the local marketplace, the status of
the global marketplace, and its company goals and culture.
Three Companies, Three Ownership Transitions
Don Daly started up Territorial Electric Ltd. in 1980 and based
it in Edmonton, Alberta. More than a decade ago, he wondered
about how he would transition into retirement.
“A lot of companies I associate with are in the same state
as we are,” he says. “The owners are getting close to retirement
and looking for ways to sell off their company. At least a half
dozen of my competitors have wanted to talk to me about
what we’ve done.”
Daly wanted to recognize the work of loyal employees that
had stuck with him in good times and bad. After reviewing the
options, he presented employees with what his accountant
called “golden handcuffs.” Initially, he sold a quarter of the
company to eight employees, after devaluing the company
so it was easy for employees to buy in. Within a couple years,
the employees’ initial investments were fully paid out in
dividends.
“It’s been a success,” says Daly. Twelve years after the
process began, the employees reorganized themselves and are
now in the stages to buy Daly out completely.
Clark Builders started in Yellowknife in 1974 with two
primary partners. As the company grew, it moved to Edmonton
and the initial partnership was extended to senior staff with
an offer to buy shares in the company. As the company
expanded further, the employees sought to buy out the
initial two partners. After reviewing all the options, a strategic
partnership was pursued, which allowed the employees to
maintain the company brand, management control and
employee ownership model they liked. A partnership with
U.S.-based Turner Construction Company was completed in
January 2012 when Turner bought 51 per cent of the company,
and 49 per cent remained employee-owned. The deal provided
Turner with a strong presence in the Canadian marketplace.
Additionally, Clark Builders has access to additional human
resource support, staff development opportunities, expertise
in different market types, and emerging technologies.
While Clark Builders sought a partnership with another
similar company, Flint Energy Services sought a way to expand
its expertise to broader projects within the oil and gas market.
Flint shared no overlapping services with URS Corp. when it
was acquired in 2012.
At the point of acquisition, Flint was on target to hit
$2 billion in revenue. Even at the size and scope of Flint’s
operations, the oil and gas company found itself shut
out of many larger oilsands projects where Engineering,
Procurement and Construction (EPC) contracting was
increasingly being used. EPC contracts require contractors to
Construction Ownership Evolution
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Construction Ownership Evolution
bid on the whole project: design, build and commission. “The
only way to do that is with a large engineering company,” says
Cocquyt. “Flint couldn’t do this alone, so we looked at different
options: mergers, joint ventures.” At the same time, URS Corp.
began looking for new opportunities in the energy sector. A
year after the ownership change, Flint URS has already begun
to introduce Flint customers to the additional suite of services
URS brings to Alberta and, as hoped, the company is now
bidding on EPC projects.
Keys to Success
When it came to its strategic partnership, Clark Builders spent
approximately two years on due diligence, “We took a deep dive
into each other’s business to get an understanding of what is
‘below the clothes,’ ” says Brian Lacey, vice-president construc-
tion at Clark Builders.
In this “deep dive,” Clark didn’t just look at financials,
legal and safety issues; it also broadened the scope to include
a review of company culture. “You run a real risk by looking
at the fnancial deal and not paying attention to the cultural
concerns,” Lacey says, noting such risks include a company
coming in and changing things overnight.
Both companies sent staff to visit the other’s sites. Clark
Builders brought a range of people, from upper management to
day-to-day operators, to Turner projects in Chicago and Seattle.
“The day-to-day operators are the ones who have to live with
outcomes. They ask the questions that senior management
aren’t considering,” says Lacey. “They see the work through a
different paradigm and I think it is critical companies value
that perspective.” Staff members were also encouraged to go
out for dinner, exchange stories and “let their guard down.”
Clark Builders shared its employees’ feedback regarding key
symmetries in safety, schedule, quality and budget that was
assessed on score cards on a Turner Construction job site. “You
can get a good idea of a company’s approach after just a half
hour on a job site,” says Lacey. On site, they asked: What is the
level of control and management that’s supplied? Is everyone
getting along? Are superintendents getting phone and radio
calls about things that could have been organized through
planning? It was important to Clark Builders to indicate to its
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32 OPENMIND SPRING2013
recognized it can be very disruptive,”
says Cocquyt. “What I liked about
this transition with URS is that Flint’s
employees woke up and experienced no
management or system changes. With very
little distraction, we were able to focus on
customer service.”
Poorly managed transitions can
threaten the very thing that made a
company successful in the frst place, such
as positive relationships with clients and
the community. In the event of making
big changes, like integrating operations,
Cocquyt recommends doing them as
quickly as possible. Of course, less overlap
or redundancy makes for less change in the
company, its staff and client experience.
Cocquyt says the successful mergers tend
to be the ones with little to no redundancy.
It is a Global Marketplace
Alberta’s construction industry is dynamic
and growing and, with further instability
in global markets expected, companies can
be certain that even more international
companies will invest in Alberta’s construc-
tion industry. “We’ve really been sheltered
from recession in Alberta,” Lacey says.
“When frms realized loss of opportunity
in the U.S. or Europe, everybody has
focused on Alberta (and Canada) as a land
of opportunity.”
“Globalization is a fact of life,” Dr. Steier
says. “Our industry has to be resourceful
and resilient to survive.” Lacey and Clark
Builders know this first-hand. “There
is no option; we must be economical and
effcient in order to compete,” says Lacey,
adding that the partnership with Turner
strategically positions Clark to achieve
this goal.
When it comes to Daly’s goal to retire,
he’ll soon realize it … sort of. He was asked
by the new owners to stay on to make coffee
and steer the ship every once and a while. “I
don’t think I can go from 100 miles an hour
to one overnight,” he says.“Besides, my
partnering company what was important to
its existing staff.
“We found that any one of their people
could tell us the end date, which told
me that they were all working towards a
common goal,” says Lacey. “That gave us a
good feeling for the pulse of the project and
the company.”
Lacey is confdent that the transition has
gone so successfully because they addressed
company culture as being an important
symmetry. He does caution, “It is a demand
on the business – the time and resources
required need to be fully recognized and
the time set aside. It could be a year, year-
and-a-half, of major disruption, but the
investment is in
the future success
of the company.”
Territorial
El ectri c’ s Dal y
stresses one thing
t o peopl e who
ask hi m about
the success of his
company’s ownership transition, “If you
think it’s going to take five years, double
it. Everyone is busy running a business. If
something is going to get pushed to the
back burner, this is it.”
Successful ownership changes take time,
not only for due diligence, but also for the
transition of new people, processes and
expectations. For instance, Cocquyt now
has a new ownership team to report to and
there is extra work required in educating
new people to the business. Also, no
matter how much or how little operational
overlap there is, it takes time to integrate
large accounting and data systems. Flint’s
accounting team, for instance, had to
convert its reporting system from IFRS
(the system for publicly traded companies
in the Canadian industry) to the American
GAP system. “It went really smoothly,” says
Cocquyt, “because we have good people.”
People cannot be overlooked in the
success or failure of a transition. Daly hired,
retained and rewarded employees who
showed passion and trustworthiness. He
also relied heavily on his accountant and
lawyer so that the ownership transition was
done properly.
When it comes to actually making the
changes, the key to a successful transition
is managing these changes carefully. “We
ConstructionOwnershipEvolution
Successful ownership changes take
time, not only for due diligence,
but also for the transition of new
people, processes and expectations.
wife told me I better not plan to sit across
the table from her all day: she says one of us
won’t survive.”
No matter how retirement treats Daly, at
least he knows that his company has been
left in good hands. It is owned by people he
trusts who will not only see that Territorial
Electric survives, but thrives.
GOLDEN HANDCUFFS
Empl oyee- owned compani es
representsomeofAlberta’slargest
constructionorganizations,likePCL
andGrahamConstruction.
Dr. Lloyd Steier, vice-dean of
theUniversityofAlberta’sSchool
ofBusiness,says,“Itisoftenina
company’sbestinteresttosharethe
proftsofacompanywiththosewho
helpedmaketheprofits.It’ssimply
goodbusiness(and)agreatwayto
motivatepeoplewho,inturn,work
hardandstaywithyou.”
Oftenusedasahumanresources
strategy,employeeownershipcan
alsorepresentagrowthopportunity.
“LookattheexampleofWestJet,”
saysSteier.“Theirprofit-sharing
mayhavebeenaHRstrategybut
itispivotaltotheirsuccessinthe
marketplace.”
ForDonDaly,founderofTerritorial
El ectri c, shari ng the company
ownershi p wi th hi s empl oyees
ensuredthathishardest-working
employeesdidn’tleavetostarttheir
owncompanies,effectivelybecoming
competition.“Iwantedmylong-term,
loyalemployeestoberewarded.They
alldemonstratedovertheyearsthat
theyhadgoneoverandabovetheir
callofduty.Theyshowedpassionand
wereabsolutelytrustworthy.”
Bykeepingseniorleaders,the
companywasabletoramp-upquickly
andeffectively.“Wehadtrusted
peopletorunfieldofficesonthe
largerprojects,”saysDaly.Thanksto
thegoldenhandcuffs,thiscapacity
forgrowthpositivelyimpactedthe
employee-shareholdersatthemost
basiclevel:fnancially.Foreveryone,
founderandstaff-owners,itmade
gooddollarsandsense.
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000OM-Imagewear-FP.indd 1 3/20/13 10:23:58 AM OPENMIND_13_p28-33.indd 33 4/3/13 9:32:51 AM
34 OPENMIND SPRING2013
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OPENMIND SPRING 2013 35
By Terrance Oakey
Step back to review the progress of the open shop sector.
Its lessons can help predict the challenges ahead
Union Financial Transparency
The House of Commons passed an impor-
tant piece of legislation in December 2012:
Bill C-377 (An Act to Amend the Income Tax
Act – Labour Organizations). It was sponsored
by British Columbia MP Russ Hiebert and will
require unions and other labour organizations
in Canada to fle annual public reports detailing
their financial statements, salaries paid to top
employees, time spent on lobbying and political
activities, and certain information about expen-
ditures over $5,000. If this legislation is passed
by the Senate, it will shine a light on the more
than $4 billion that unions collect annually in
forced contributions from workers and bring
Canada’s union fnancial disclosure laws in line
with those in Australia, New Zealand, Germany,
France, Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S.
Canada’s union leaders spent vast amounts
of money trying to defeat this bill – a massive
lobby that is expected to continue as the Senate
reviews the legislation. This is despite the fact
that the House of Commons already amended
Bill C-377 to address most of the concerns union
leaders raised. The interventions from union
leaders that resulted in amendments made Bill
C-377 a better piece of legislation. Contrary to
union rhetoric, the reporting requirements are
not onerous and will be easy to implement with
basic accounting practices. Yet union leaders
still oppose the bill, suggesting the real moti-
vation for their campaign against it is a refusal
to concede that they need to operate in a more
transparent manner.
he open shop sector and the forces of free enterprise
saw another year of substantial progress in 2012. Merit
Canada’s progress was met with opposition at every turn by
the leadership of the building trades unions and their allies
in the broader left-wing labour movement. Positive reforms
took place dealing with immigration reform, union fnancial
disclosure, the federal fair wage act and open tendering.
OPENMIND_13_p34-39.indd 35 4/3/13 9:36:46 AM
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While union leaders applied intense
pressure on MPs who supported the legis-
lation to change their position, those MPs
recognized something that labour leaders
did not: 86 per cent of unionized work-
ers support greater financial transparency
for unions. Therein lies the fundamental
disconnect between union leaders and
Bill C-377. The disclosure provisions of
the legislation should empower union
leaders since their members will easily be
able to see how the union spends their
dues. In fact, the whole union model of
forced contributions and generous tax
breaks will be enhanced when the general
public is able to see how unions spend
their money. If unions want to continue
to benefit from the public trust, they need
to earn it by operating in a transparent
manner.
We should applaud the members of
Parliament who voted in favour of Bill
C-377 for their support of transparency
and accountability. They recognize that
unions cannot benefit from the public trust
through forced contributions from workers
while simultaneously receiving generous
tax breaks worth more than $400 million
annually. To argue that unions have no
public disclosure obligations simply defies
common sense.
Federally Regulated Wage Rates
In the 2012 spring budget, the Harper gov-
ernment repealed the Fair Wages and Hours
of Labour Act, better known as
the Fair Wages Act. This was
a long overdue policy change
that treats the construction
industry like any other indus-
try that does business with
the federal government. It
was a good policy change for
workers, governments and
taxpayers.
Merit Canada is a strong
supporter of the govern-
ment’s decision as Merit
believes that construction
contracts, employment and
individual compensation
in the construction indus-
Merit Canada’s Progress
try should be based on merit, regardless of
employee affiliation.
The Fair Wages Act was adopted in the
1930s to regulate the wages and hours of
labour for construction workers engaged
in projects funded by the Government of
Canada. Back then, there were few, if any,
laws and regulations in place at any level to
protect the interests of workers. The world
is much different today as there are a host of
provincial and territorial measures in place
to enhance and protect working conditions,
employment standards, labour relations,
wages and hours of labour.
There is no longer any valid need for
federal government regulation in this area.
According to Statistics Canada, construc-
tion workers are paid an average rate of
$28.35 per hour in our country. This makes
them the second-highest-paid workers,
exceeding the national average by some 30
per cent.
After 80 years, the Fair Wages Act was
outdated, created unnecessary adminis-
trative costs for the government and the
construction industry, infringed on the
jurisdiction of the provinces and territories,
and significantly increased the burden on
Canadian taxpayers.
The Fair Wages Act obliges companies to
establish dual-wage structures for private-
and public-sector work. Many small and
family-run open shop construction compa-
nies simply refuse to bid on federal projects
because of this costly and burdensome leg-
Repealing the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act
sets the stage for millions of dollars in savings for
government, open shop companies and taxpayers.
OPENMIND_13_p34-39.indd 36 4/3/13 4:03:00 PM
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islation. And what is the result? Lower levels
of competition and increased construction
costs for the government.
Repealing the Fair Wages and Hours of
Labour Act sets the stage for millions of
dollars in savings for government and tax-
payers. The antiquated wage regulations
needlessly increased the marginal cost of
labour. This, in turn, discouraged employ-
ers from hiring additional workers, even
during times of peak demand. Who gets
hurt here? New job seekers, in particular,
young people and other groups under-rep-
resented in the construction trades, such as
women and First Nations. The construc-
tion industry is vital to Canada’s economic
health. We need competition governing leg-
islation that reflects the society and market
conditions in which we live today — condi-
tions far different than those of the Great
Depression.
Open Tendering
What rules should the federal government
use when spending federal monies on infra-
structure projects? As governments across
the country face financial pressures, there
is a renewed need to take action on out-
dated regulations and red tape that increase
construction costs. While the federal gov-
ernment requires open and competitive bid-
ding for its own infrastructure projects, the
same is not true for all jurisdictions across
the country.
Instead of allowing open tendering,
many jurisdictions have rules that allow
only certain companies, with agree-
ments with pre-selected unions, to get all
of the contracts. Non-union construction
companies or companies with members
of the wrong union aren’t even allowed
to bid.
In Hamilton, Ontario, of approximately
260 contractors, only 17 contractors had
workers registered with the proper union
that city rules require. Ninety-four per
cent of the available companies aren’t even
allowed to bid on projects. In one case, the
city disqualified four out of seven bids for a
multimillion-dollar construction contract
because bidders weren’t affiliated with the
proper union.
This also creates problems for workers.
If the companies they work for aren’t even
allowed to bid on construction projects,
how can their company compete and keep
workers? As Penny Allen, the Greater Essex
County District School Board’s super-
intendent of business argues: “It’s not
fair. All contractors pay taxes, but we, as a
publicly funded body, can only put our
tenders out to certain contractors that
are unionized.”
It is surprising that in 2012, so many
Canadian cities still have rules on the
books that allow contracts to only be bid
on by those affiliated with certain unions
and exclude all others. Cities such as
Toronto, Hamilton, London, Oshawa,
Thunder Bay, New Westminster and
Burnaby, and provincial agencies such
as Ontario Power Generation and Hydro
One, and even school boards have rules in
place that restrict open bidding.
Recent media reports on the Toronto
District School Board’s problems with
repair work show all too well the conse-
quences of such restrictive bidding proc-
esses. Costs are inflated ($143 to install a
pencil sharpener), productivity is reduced
(bills were inflated to cover workers who
did not show up), and who is left with the
bill? The taxpayer.
Canadians know that allowing only
one pre-selected bidder on every single
construction contract is not the best way
to go. No Canadian family would operate
that way with their own home renovation
projects. Opening up bidding allows for
competition and leads to lower costs and
higher productivity.
The Canadian government is invest-
ing $2.275 billion under the Provincial-
Territorial Base Fund. Considering that
labour costs amount to as much as 40
per cent of a construction project, and
that open-shop contractors offer the
same services at up to 10 per cent lower
costs, savings to Canadian taxpayers from
this policy could amount to up to $91
million – and that’s just one infrastructure
agreement.
U.S. studies suggest that closed tender-
ing rules increase the cost of construc-
tion between 12 and 18 per cent. The
City of Hamilton estimates that restric-
tive clauses inflate the prices of its con-
struction projects by up to 40 per cent.
By allowing provinces and munici-
palities to spend federal funds through
their closed tendering processes, the
costs of projects increase, fewer projects
get funded and fewer jobs are created.
Higher costs mean lost opportunities
OPENMIND_13_p34-39.indd 37 4/4/13 1:42:48 PM
Merit Canada’s Progress
and wasted tax dollars. Providing equal
opportunity for all contractors to submit
their best bids will increase competition
and ensure that Canadian taxpayers receive
the best value for their money. Federal
rules would ensure that local governments
would behave more equitably when spend-
ing federal tax dollars.
Federal Skilled Trades Program
According the Construction Sector
Council, there will be a shortage of over
300,000 skilled tradespeople in Canada
by the end of the decade. Merit Canada
strongly supported the new Federal Skilled
Trades Stream announced by Citizenship
and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
This change is long overdue.
Canada’s immigration system must
respond better to the needs of employers to
ensure those immigrating to Canada have
the skills required to obtain long-term sta-
ble employment. It is sound public policy
to have an immigration system that works
to ensure long-term growth and prosperity
for Canada.
Merit also welcomed announced
changes to the Skilled Worker Program.
Changes to the criteria for acceptance of
admission outlined by Minister Kenney
ensures immigrants will have jobs waiting
so they can provide for their families.
The final changes to the Federal Skilled
Worker Program selection criteria include:

Minimum official language thresholds
and increased points for official language
proficiency, making language the most
important factor in the selection process;

Increased emphasis on younger immi-
grants who are likelier to acquire
Canadian experience, likelier to adapt to
changing labour market conditions, and
who will spend a greater number of years
contributing to Canada’s economy;
As governments across the country face financial
pressures, there is a renewed need to take action
on outdated regulations and red tape that increase
construction costs.
www.journalofcommerce.com
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Introducti on of the Educati onal
Credential Assessment (ECA), so that
education points awarded reflect the for-
eign credential’s true value in Canada;

Changes to the arranged employment
process, allowing employers to hire appli-
cants quickly, if there is a demonstrated
need in the labour market; and

Additional adaptability points for
spousal language ability and Canadian
work experience.
Merit Canada’s Ottawa office has been
operating for almost two years, yet its
impact to industry has already been sub-
stantial. Merit Canada will continue to
liaise with government officials on these
and other priorities of concern to the open
shop contractor.
OPENMIND_13_p34-39.indd 38 4/3/13 4:01:43 PM
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000.Adroit_1-2H_nBL.indd 1 3/16/10 9:27:54 AM
OPENMIND_13_p34-39.indd 39 4/3/13 9:46:39 AM
40 OPENMIND SPRING 2013
BY ELIZABETH CHORNEY-BOOTH
t’s no secret to people in the
construction industry that a com-
pany’s success depends on its pro-
ductivity. After all, efficient and
effective work practices directly impact
a business’s bottom line, so increasing
productivity standards is essentially a
no-brainer. But as obvious as the need
for increased productivity standards
is for any company, actually achieving
those standards and identifying areas
that need to be tweaked can become
difficult and complex.
I
The
of
Productivity
Importance
tition. Many firms even build productivity
measures into their contracts as a way to
assure clients that they will do whatever
it takes to complete jobs efficiently and
cost-effectively. To even be considered a
contender for the best jobs available, it is
essential for all organizations to raise the
bar for productivity standards, or at least
keep up with rival companies that do.
“Say you’re up in the oilsands in
Alberta, the market has been somewhat
soft [because] the margins are being
squeezed,” Magnus says. “For an
organization to make as much money
as they have in the past, they’ve got to
figure out productivity issues. It’s the
only place to go to figure out how to do
a job faster and more efficiently.”
When Magnus consults with clients,
he encourages them to look at the big
picture of productivity before getting
mired in the details. Once that overview is
in place, he helps organizations to model
a productivity plan and set tangible
behaviours that will result in increased
efficiency. Those behaviours can include
strategies to enhance planning and
scheduling, and tactics to rectify some-
thing as simple as unnecessary trips back
to the shop to pick up equipment that
hasn’t been brought to the work site.
Magnus says that the road to improved
productivity starts with an attitude shift at
Canadian construction companies find their
competitive edge in efficiency processes
the top level of an organization, whether
it’s a large firm or a small contractor with
only a few employees. If management
takes a big-picture approach and encour-
ages a culture of productivity throughout
the company, employees will more likely
adapt to tangible changes that affect the
way they work.
Janaka Ruwanpura, vice-provost (inter-
national), former Canada research chair
Ron Magnus, managing director of
FMI’s Center for Strategic Leadership
in Denver, Colorado, says that with our
stalled economy pushing companies to
compete for the same jobs, increased
productivity is more than just a way to
manage costs – it’s a way for companies
to set themselves apart from the compe-
Even if you’re
busy, take time
to step back and
evaluate your
processes.
If the owners/managers feel
too close to the processes
to see the problems,
then connect
with a consult-
ant – they’re out
there.
Know that each
company has its
own needs and
solutions. A plan
of action for one
company may not
work for yours,
and that’s OK.
OPENMIND_13_p40-41.indd 40 4/3/13 9:47:40 AM
OPENMIND SPRING 2013 41
and professor in project management
systems, Schulich School of Engineering
at the University of Calgary, studies 10
specific targets that he says construc-
tion company leaders should examine
because they can affect company output.
Some of those targets include employee
motivation/satisfaction, the relationship
between subcontractors and main
contractors, material management to
reduce wasted trips, “tool time” (actual
hands-on, working time) optimization,
office to on-site communication and
weather-related issues.
Another problem, Ruwanpura says,
is that most companies focus so much
on working quickly and taking on as
many jobs as possible that they don’t
see the obvious internal productivity
problems they would if they took a step
back for self-examination. “Productivity
is not about working hard and fast. It’s
about how you really analyze where the
problems lie,” he says. “When you’re
in a chaotic environment, you don’t
pay attention. You just run projects.
You don’t have time to make changes;
you’re just running.”
For some companies, Ruwanpura
suggests they place a dedicated per-
son on the ground to communicate
productivity needs – called a construc-
tion productivity improvement officer.
“They use this person as a facilitator
for the entire team so they can identify
the problems and mitigate the solu-
tions, and then measure the output,”
he says, adding that, at the end of the
day, companies need to measure two
things: how much they produce and
how much tool time is being netted.
Ruwanpura suggests company
leaders question how communication
occurs within their organization; how
they determine employment skill sets
for future staff; and how they deal
with existing employee motivation and
morale. It also helps if the harder aspects
are examined, like the management of
material resources and the accuracy of
estimates. If any of the findings aren’t
satisfactory, adjustments and changes
must be made.
Each company has different specific
needs, and Ruwanpura agrees with
Magnus that productivity is not about
the small details, but rather the bigger
picture improvements involving com-
munication and organization. Since
the solutions vary from company to
company, improvements come from a
series of changes and tweaks rather than
a single magic bullet.
Ethan Cowles, senior consultant
at FMI, works directly with contractors
looking to make productivity improve-
ments. He says that it can be tricky
to implement productivity measures
because construction professionals are
notoriously reluctant to change. “Con-
struction is one of those industries
where, for whatever reason, people are
wired to think that planning is a waste of
time,” Cowles says. “Many people think
that if they’re not actively installing work,
then they must be goofing off.” Activity
then gets confused with productivity.
Cowles says that raising productivity
standards in the field includes the impor-
tant step of management empowering
its foremen. Managers accomplish this
through effective communication in
which they state job expectations clearly.
It also means proactive measures are
required to ensure required materials
and resources will be on site, and on
time. When the project begins, responsi-
bility and accountability must be shared
so everyone on the site feels a part of the
process to complete their jobs as effi-
ciently and budget-friendly as possible.
Companies should develop a clear
plan of what needs to be accomplished
weeks before a job even starts, says Cow-
les, so crews can hit the site with a sense
of momentum. Aiding that momentum,
employees also need proper training,
appropriate work materials, and hard
copies of the overall plan and checklists.
It’s imperative, once the job is in progress,
that foremen and crews track relevant
progress (such as completion dates, mate-
rial use/waste, unforeseen/unbudgeted
challenges) for productivity measure-
ments to be recorded and adjustments to
be made to the plan, if needed.
Modifying long-standing company
procedures requires managerial fore-
thought as well as a buy-in from field
employees. Both Cowles and Ruwanpura
say it is possible to get all the players on
the same page and significantly increase
productivity by setting clear expectations,
defining processes and developing effec-
tive channels of communication. “Inter-
nally, a company needs to know that
productivity is valuable and it’s got to be
somebody’s responsibility,” Cowles says.
“Sometimes it’s a combination of people,
but somebody needs to feel the weight
and the responsibility to know that
they’re following their own best prac-
tices.” If nobody has the responsibility
to create a successful culture, the impor-
tance of the idea falls by the wayside.
Productivity is obviously a game-
changer in construction and is not
something to be swept aside. For
companies who are struggling with
profits and just don’t know why, there
are consultants out there who can point
out issues that company leaders are just
too far into the processes to see. Taking
a step back every now and then may be
all an organization needs to do in order to
move forward.
Improved productivity comes from all
staff levels being on board with change.
Change requires bigger-picture
thinking and changing the
company culture.
Productivity can and should be used to
give companies a competitive edge in
the construction industry.
OPENMIND_13_p40-41.indd 41 4/3/13 9:48:27 AM
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42 oPenmind sPrinG 2013
by BenFreeland
OPENMIND_13_p42-45.indd 42 4/4/13 1:44:07 PM
The Coming
Quiet
OPENMIND SPRING 2013 43
Revolution
n October 2010, Maclean’s magazine released an issue with
an inflammatory cover image that caused all hell to break
loose in the province of Quebec. The cover featured the
beloved Bonhomme Carnaval snowman carrying a briefcase
overfowing with money; the headline read: “The Most Corrupt
Province in Canada.”
The backlash in Quebec was ferce, prompting Rogers Publishing
to issue an apology. At the same time, however, a small but vocal cho-
rus of Quebecers, including a number of prominent journalists, came
to the defence of Maclean’s journalist Martin Patriquin and his report
on the state of institutionalized corruption in Canada’s second-
largest province. For the locals, the allegations were not only undeni-
able, but also old news that the rest of the country needed to hear.
The Maclean’s exposé did much to draw national attention to
Quebec’s deep economic and political dysfunction. It also correctly
identifed the major driving forces behind the corruption: the enor-
mous infuence wielded by the province’s large construction unions
and an extraordinary level of intrusion into the industry by the pro-
vincial government.
I
Since 1968, union membership has been mandatory for construc-
tion workers in Quebec, making it the only jurisdiction in North
America with such regulations. Coupled with legislation passed in
1976, which gave the provincial government sweeping power over
labour supply at the behest of the province’s fve big construction
unions, this resulted in a closed and rigged system characterized by
infated costs and a lack of transparency permitting a deep penetra-
tion of organized crime.
In 2011, the embattled Liberal government of Jean Charest fnally
took decisive action against this culture of corruption with the
launch of the Charbonneau Commission. Meanwhile, recent legis-
lative moves in and out of the province give fresh hope to Quebecers
who view the province’s domineering unions with the same acri-
mony they once reserved for the heavy-handed clergy of pre-Quiet
Revolution Quebec.
The roots of this closed system are not diffcult to comprehend.
At the dawn of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution in the 1960s, support for
organized labour was widespread in the wake of autocratic regime of
Maurice Duplessis and his Union Nationale party. The period after
By Ben Freeland
For nearly half a century, Quebec’s construction industry
has been held hostage by overregulation, opacity
and heavy-handed big labour machinations. For most
Quebecers, an open shop revolution is long overdue
OPENMIND_13_p42-45.indd 43 4/3/13 9:50:35 AM
Duplessis was characterized by the whole-
sale transfer of authority over education and
health care from the Catholic Church to the
provincial government, as well as the rapid
expansion of unions. But while unioniza-
tion offered workers better working condi-
tions than before, it did nothing to ensure
industrial harmony. Union factionalism
lead to well-publicized spates of violence at
many mega-projects and threat-
ened to derail the province’s
break-neck industrialization.
Prior events all led to the 1976
creation of the Commission de
Construction du Québec (CCQ) –
a special government department
charged with overseeing con-
struction industry manpower.
The provincial government
essentially established itself as
a tributary to the Quebec’s five
main construction unions, instituting wage
schedules and controlling the number of
union cards issued. In doing so, the provin-
cial government allowed itself “to be taken
hostage by the disreputable elements of the
trade union movement,” journalist and
political scientist L. Ian MacDonald wrote.
The arrangement curbed building-site
violence and decreased work stoppages, yet
this labour peace was a straight-jacketed
industry characterized by the CCQ’s intimi-
dation. (Between 1978 and 1996, the CCQ
levied close to $25 million worth of fines
for work done without the required union
card.) The resulting system also made it vir-
tually impossible for skilled tradespeople
outside of Quebec to work in the province
since it barred out-of-province firms from
bidding on building projects. Alternately,
many skilled tradespeople within Quebec
were forced to seek opportunities outside
the province while starving the province’s
industry of fresh talent and competition.
Michel Kelly-Gagnon, president and CEO
of the pro free market Montreal Economic
Institute said in his presentation at the 2012
International Open Shop Conference in
Ottawa, “Quebec’s construction industry is
special, and not in a good sense. It’s a shame
because Quebec’s construction workers
actually have an excellent reputation in
terms of actual skills and work ethic.”
The formation of Alberta’s Merit Contrac-
tors Association in 1986 started the open
shop model of construction from a small
movement widely perceived as a temporary
blip to the sector. The Merit phenomenon
did not go unnoticed in La Belle Province,
leading a small, but vocal, contingent of
contractors to publicly question why the
“freedom of association” guarantee out-
lined in the Canadian Charter of Rights
and Freedoms was systematically denied for
Quebec workers.
Finally, the issue came to a head with the
initiation in 1993 of the R. v. Advance Cutting
and Coring et al. Supreme Court
case. The case was led by Jocelyn
Dumais, a Gatineau concrete
contractor well known for his
acts of civil disobedience against
Quebec’s closed shop system.
Dumais also briefly ran as a can-
didate for the centre-right Action
Démocratique du Québec party
but withdrew from the politi-
cal scene in order to focus on his
lobbying efforts. The plaintiffs
in Advanced Cutting and Coring argued
that Quebec’s policy of mandatory union
membership for construction workers con-
travened their constitutional right to free-
dom of association. The court heard the legal
arguments in March 2000, and decided after
18 months by a vote of five to four, that Que-
bec’s turbulent labour relations history made
its mandatory unionization law a justifiable
and permissible exception to the Charter.
For a decade after that ruling, little
changed on the labour reform front, despite
the many scandals besetting the province’s
construction industry. In 2011, prospects
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For a decade after that ruling,
little changed on the labour
reform front, despite the many
scandals besetting the province’s
construction industry.
The Coming Quiet Revolution
OPENMIND_13_p42-45.indd 44 4/3/13 12:53:36 PM
of change resurfaced with the launch of a
massive public inquiry into the manage-
ment corruption of a public construction
contract: the Commission of Inquiry on the
Awarding and Management of Public Con-
tracts in the Construction Industry or the
Charbonneau Commission. In the midst
of this highly publicized inquiry, Quebec’s
then Labour Minister Lise Thériault took
an uncharacteristically bold step by intro-
ducing Bill 33 in December 2011. The bill’s
aim was to end the practice of union place-
ment of employees (or placement syndicale)
and force the CCQ to actually assign work-
ers based on employers’ needs.
In the same year, B.C. Conservative MP
Russ Hiebert tabled a groundbreaking pri-
vate member’s bill that, if passed, would
require unions to publicly open their books.
Bill C-377 found vocal champions in Que-
bec, most notably the Montreal Economic
Institute and the Quebec Employers Coun-
cil. While Quebec’s construction unions
rallied against the bill, a Quebec Employers
Council survey (conducted by Léger Market-
ing) indicated that a staggering 97 per cent
of Quebecers believed that unions should be
legally required to disclose their spending.
For the time being, a wholesale repeal
of Quebec’s mandatory unionization law
remains unlikely. The current Parti Québé-
cois government remains steadfast in its
defence of the labour status quo: current
PQ Labour Minister Agnès Maltais took
a vocal stance against Bill C-377 and Min-
ister Maltais articulated similar feelings in
a December 2012 letter to federal Labour
Minister Lisa Raitt.
Nevertheless, Quebec’s advocates for
worker freedom in the construction indus-
try are more optimistic now than they have
been in a long time. “Public opinion is on
our side,” asserts Dumais. “The unions
have lost a lot of public support in Quebec
and, as a result, you’re hearing a lot less out
of them.” He contends that if the issue were
brought before the Supreme Court once
again, the results would be quite different.
“I think the time is right for another run at
overturning the law,” he says, adding that he
has spoken with experienced legal counsel
who supports this view as well.
Dumais asserts that the impact of over-
turning Quebec’s union-only legislation
would be felt well beyond just Quebec. “In
my opinion, overturning this legislation
would bring to an end attempts like the
heavy-handed union tactics like we’re see-
ing with Manitoba Hydro at the moment,”
he says. “A lot of these union leaders think
that as long as they have the upper hand in
this province, there’s still hope for the same
kind of thing elsewhere. Breaking their lock
in Quebec would send a powerful message.”
As for the “labour harmony” canard for-
ever trotted out by defenders of Quebec’s
closed shop construction regime, Dumais
dismisses the argument as ridiculous and
insulting to Quebecers. “It’s 2013. We’re way
beyond all that. The issue of labour-related
violence is in the past. It’s the future we’re
concerned about.”
Merit Contractors Association, Alberta Venture and the Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction
Association extend their thanks to the generous sponsors and to everyone who attended the
Contractor of the Year Awards Gala!
THANK YOU
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE FINALISTS AND WINNERS OF THIS YEAR’S
CONTRACTOR OF THE YEAR AWARDS!
Presented by Sponsored by Dessert Sponsor
OPENMIND_13_p42-45.indd 45 4/3/13 2:01:09 PM
CERTAIN
FEW THI NGS ARE THI S
A membership with Merit Contractor’s Association is certain to bring stability to your
construction business. Recent upgrades to the Merit Benefit Plan
include improved coverage for employees and decreased costs for employers.
Merit’s superior service will provide your company with an immediate competitive
advantage and the certainty of long-term stability.
Don’t miss a sure shot.
www.meritalberta.com
EDMONTON: 780.455.5999 or 1.888.816.9991 CALGARY: 780.455.5999 or 1.888.816.9991
000OM-Merit-FP.indd 1 3/25/13 8:13:43 AM OPENMIND_13_p46-50.indd 46 4/3/13 9:53:10 AM
OPENMIND SPRING 2013 47
erit Contractors
Association, Alberta
Roadbui l der s a nd
Heavy Construction
Association (ARHCA)
and Alberta Venture magazine present this
year’s Contractor of the Year Award winners
and finalists. The finalists are companies
and individuals that strive for efficiency,
innovation and practicality, and their suc-
cess in their journey is why they are recog-
nized as leaders in the industry.
Public and private companies that have
a regional offce in Alberta can be eligible
entrants for these awards. The organiza-
tions also need to sell construction services,
employ trades people, and/or contract out
labour supply in the industrial, commer-
cial, institutional, residential, civil, road
building or oilfeld construction sectors.
The si x award categories include:
General Contractor Under $50 Million,
General Contractor Over $50 Million,
Trade Contractor Under $15 Million, Trade
Contractor Over $15 Million, Heavy Civil
and Construction Person of the Year.
Keep reading to fnd out which compa-
nies were chosen by this year’s adjudication
panel and why.
General ContraCtor Under $50 Million
WINNER
Rockwood Custom Homes, based in Calgary, builds or renovates 10 homes worth
between $1.2 and $20 million each year. Rockwood prides itself on delivering both the
dream home and the dream experience and co-founder and CEO Allison Grafton says
their clients come frst in everything. Customers rarely have a big budget surprise at the
end of the project because the builder carefully estimates costs, tracks spending and
keeps customers in the loop monthly. In fact, 98 per cent of Rockwood homes have come
in on or under budget. To end the project with a bang, Rockwood owners give clients an
engraved iPad loaded with warranties and manuals. This builder is all about making
the client experience the best it can be.
An example of Rockwood’s
custom mastery
Key Players
Alberta
in
Construction
CERTAIN
FEW THI NGS ARE THI S
A membership with Merit Contractor’s Association is certain to bring stability to your
construction business. Recent upgrades to the Merit Benefit Plan
include improved coverage for employees and decreased costs for employers.
Merit’s superior service will provide your company with an immediate competitive
advantage and the certainty of long-term stability.
Don’t miss a sure shot.
www.meritalberta.com
EDMONTON: 780.455.5999 or 1.888.816.9991 CALGARY: 780.455.5999 or 1.888.816.9991
000OM-Merit-FP.indd 1 3/25/13 8:13:43 AM
By AlexAndRiA eldRidge And Michelle lindstRoM
the 2013 contractor of the year Awards recognize those who raise the bar
OPENMIND_13_p46-50.indd 47 4/3/13 9:55:48 AM
48 OPENMIND SPRING 2013
FINALIST
PCL Construction Management Inc., a well-known Alberta
builder, has many projects under its construction belt: bridges,
light-rail transit, pipelines, and more for clients such as the City
of Calgary and the City of Edmonton. As an employee-owned
company, PCL prides itself on its corporate culture, and also pro-
vides extensive learning opportunities for staff with an in-house
college offering both leadership and technical training.
FINALIST
For more than 22 years, Seagate Contract Management has
specialized in contract management for interior commercial
spaces in Edmonton. It has renovated countless spaces in West
Edmonton Mall, including the 25,000-square-foot Gold’s Gym
that opened in 2006. Seagate also specializes in salons and spas,
professional spaces (medical offices), and has done extensive work
renovating Edmonton’s NorQuest College.
FINALIST
K&D Turnaround Services is an expert in the installation of
mass transfer equipment for the petrochemical and refining
industries. With offices in both Houston and Nisku, the company
has done work across the world for companies such as Suncor
Energy, BP Oil, Imperial Oil and others.
GENERAL CONTRACTOR OVER $50 MILLION
WINNER
Founded in 2004 and based in Calgary, Strike Energy Services
is an oil and gas construction and services company with 800
employees spread out over 14 different locations. Strike’s low
turnover rate directly relates to its focus on employee engage-
ment and company culture. Stephen Smith, Strike’s CEO, began
the company as an employee-owned venture from the begin-
ning because “we wanted the management to have a stake in the
game,” he says. Additionally, employees are encouraged to share
the non-profit organizations in which they are involved within
their communities and Strike will add it to the over 100 charita-
ble organizations it already supports. Strike School of Business
also offers employee training in everything from safety to lead-
ership development. “We treat our employees as we’d like to be
treated ourselves,” Smith says.
FINALIST
WorleyParsonsCord is a major industrial construction con-
tractor and one of the largest providers of industry modules in
Western Canada. In 2012, the company delivered more than $750
million in project work for clients such as Suncor, TransCanada
and Enbridge. Part of the global WorleyParsons corporation,
WorleyParsonsCord has a detailed safety framework and has won
numerous awards for its outstanding safety practices.
TRADE CONTRACTOR UNDER $15 MILLION
WINNER
Demolition at its finest by R3
Edmonton-based demolition company R3 Deconstruction
builds people up. Travis Blake, the company president says an
offer is made to prospective employees (typically unskilled
labourers): If they commit one year to R3 first, training and lead-
ership opportunities will be offered, allowing the employees the
chance at a career instead of a short-term job. R3, which has 23
full-time staff members, prides itself on caring about its people,
offering free legal services and banking education. The company
was only incorporated in 2010, but made over $2 million in rev-
enue for 2012, which can be partially attributed to R3’s unique
approach to demolition. Employees carefully plan a structure’s
deconstruction and then sort out materials that can be reused or
recycled.
FINALIST
B&B Demolition was founded in 1999, and has since created a
name for itself as a company dedicated to customer service and
environmental consciousness. Although the company began as
a specialist in commercial interior demolition, it expanded its
services to become one of Edmonton’s most diverse demolition
companies. B&B’s list of completed projects include residential,
commercial, and industrial sectors, as well as over 700 projects in
West Edmonton Mall.
Key Players in Alberta Construction
OPENMIND_13_p46-50.indd 48 4/3/13 10:02:16 AM
OPENMIND SPRING 2010 49
Finalist
Founded in 2012, EverLine Coatings and Services is a property
maintenance company that began specializing in parking lot
line marking, but now offers services such as parking lot sweep-
ing, snow removal and more. The company won the 2012 Calgary
Chamber of Commerce Breakout Business Award and prides
itself on being different than other contractors in its approach
to client relationships. Some of EverLine’s major clients include
Chinook Centre, Foothills Medical Centre and the Calgary
Airport.
Trade ConTraCTor over $15 Million
Winner
Vertex is a $110-million resource sector service provider in
Sherwood Park offering everything from scaffolding to environ-
mental consulting to oilfeld hauling. Vertex has 12 branch offces
across Western Canada and the U.S. and over 750 employees
in its three divisions of construction, professional services, and
oilfeld rentals and hauling. Vertex CEO Terry Stephenson says,
“It does seem a little spread out, but if we branched out into
something it’s because it fts with what our customers need or
want.” Recently, the company implemented 3-D modelling,
which will soon feed into their computerized cutting tables for
a quicker and more accurate drafting process. But no matter
what area the innovation is in, Vertex always does it in an effort to
satisfy their customers.
Finalist
Edmonton-based NCSG Crane & Heavy Haul Services
has the equipment and geographic reach to meet almost any
heavy haul or crane rental need with its nine branch offices
across Western Canada and Western U.S., and over 600 pieces
of machinery. In 2012, the company’s strong commitment to
safety had it named 10th among the top 100 crane-owning
companies in North America according to American Cranes and
Transport magazine.
Heavy Civil
Winner
Sprague-Rosser’s Fort McMurray project:
Rainbow Creek Drive Extension
Sprague-Rosser Contracting Co. Ltd. began as an excava-
tion subcontractor 45 years ago in Edmonton. When new CEO
Jeff Jessamine took over in 2009, the focus changed to becom-
ing a civil contractor, bidding against companies like PCL and
Graham for projects. “We re-engineered the culture,” Jessamine
says. “We had to get everyone singing the same song and set new
visions and values.” The company had 13 recordable workplace
incidents in 2009 and slashed that to zero the following year
and have held a record of zero incidents for the past 15 months.
Safety really boils down to planning and education, says the
CEO. As a result, Sprague-Rosser developed a program to go into
schools and educate children and parents about the hazards of a
worksite and what to expect.
Finalist
Founded in 1964, M. Pidherney’s Trucking has operated
throughout central Alberta and worked in civil construction and
oilfeld services for more than four decades. During peak season,
over 400 employees assist Pidherney’s function as a diverse gen-
eral contractor for everything from gravel delivery to remedia-
tion services. It also is quite active in the community, supporting
numerous charities and events throughout the province.
Vertex’s insulation work helped this gas
processing facility in northeastern B.C.
OPENMIND_13_p46-50.indd 49 4/3/13 10:03:02 AM
50 OPENMIND SPRING2013
BILL KNIGHT,
FounderandCEOofB&BDemolition
KeyPlayersinAlbertaConstruction
WINNER Bill Knight, the founder and
CEO of B&B Demolition, stumbled into
Edmonton’s demolition industry nearly
two decades ago and has been a key fgure
in building the reputation of the demoli-
tion trade in Alberta. “Anybody that has a
sledgehammer and a half-ton thinks they
can be a demolition contractor,” Knight
says. “We try to put a different face to it.”
He was the frst demolition contractor in
Canada to receive a gold seal certifcation
for estimating and has piled on the acco-
lades ever since. As a Grade 9 dropout,
Knight came to Alberta at 16 and worked
odd jobs until he got into demolition.
“I’ve done everything from milk cows to
build pallets to work in a Styrofoam cup
factory,” he says, adding he’s also been
fred from most of them. B&B Demolition
started in 1999 by gathering all of his
money at the time – about $3,800 – and
running it out of his basement with his
mother as the receptionist. It was a rocky
start, but the company has expanded to be
worth $10 million, with approximately 70
team members working in demolition for
commercial, industrial and more. Major
clients for B&B include Wendy’s, Tim
Hortons and West Edmonton Mall. “I’m
not going to over-promise and undera-
chieve and I think that’s why we’ve risen
to the top,” he says. “I think business is
very simple: do what you promise.”
And while the growth of B&B is incred-
ible, Knight’s favourite part of his success
is the ability to give back. Both Knight
and his company have contributed to
countless charities including the Lois
Hole Hospital, Kids for Cancer and more.
It’s not easy to change the way an entire
industry views demolition, but Knight
doesn’t seem too intimidated by the pros-
pect. For him, it just starts with what
they’re doing at B&B – and that’s the best
job they can. “You set a standard of qual-
ity that people expect,” he says. “Then
contractors demand it and everyone else
needs to change to catch up to that stand-
ard. That’s my theory.”
P
H
O
T
O

B
Y
:

C
U
R
T
I
S

C
O
M
E
A
U
Merit,theAlberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction
Associ ati on and Al ber ta Venture magazi ne thank the
adjudicationpanelforassistingwiththeContractor of the Year
Awards.Thisyear’sjudgesincludeBruce Moisey,formerpartner
ofAlbercoConstructionandapastchairmanoftheARHCA,
Carl Knowler,CanadianWesternBank,andAminah Robinson,
UniversityofAlberta.
ConstruCtion Person of the Year
OPENMIND_13_p46-50.indd 50 4/4/13 1:49:30 PM
OPENMIND SPRING 2013 51
Federal immigration reforms can help the construction
industry cope with a shortage of skilled workers
espi te the best efforts of
governments, business asso-
ciations and contractors to
pr omot e appr ent i ceshi p
programs, improve productivity and reach
out to under-represented communities,
forecasts continue to indicate that there
is an imminent and significant shortfall
in domestic human resources. In short,
Canada’s labour force is dangling on the
edge of a demographic cliff.
According to Human Resources and
Skills Development Canada (HRSDC),
the median age of Canada’s population
in 1971 was 26.2 years old. As of 2011, the
median age was 39.9 years. Our working-age
population is expected to decrease by 13 per
cent over the next few decades.
D
by Bill Stewart
Cliff
More than 20 per cent of the current
construction industry workforce is expected
to retire over the next seven years. According
to the Construction Sector Council, this
will contribute to a nationwide shortage of
300,000 construction workers. Industry will
feel the impacts.
The Construction Owners Association
of Alberta (COAA) is a major group of
purchasers of construction services – many
of which are involved in developing oil-
sands in northern Alberta. The industry
estimates current and intended investment
to be $250 billion, and COAA members
have a signifcant interest in construction
workforce issues. In 2011, they estimated
that industry would need almost 160,000
offshore construction workers over
the next seven years to meet projected
construction needs.
For years, most of the 250,000 permanent
immigrants coming to Canada annually
came in under the Federal Skilled Worker
sub-category. Changes in immigration
legislation in 2002 established selection
criteria based on the theory that the more
education an immigrant had, the more likely
he or she would be to succeed in resettling.
Consequently, 46 per cent of admissions
under the Skilled Worker program held a
master’s degree or PhD whereas only three
per cent of admissions held a formal trade
certificate. The result for construction
was that fewer than 700 immigrants with
trades training were admitted to Canada
annually while countless numbers of
OPENMIND_13_p51-53.indd 51 4/3/13 10:54:42 AM
52 OPENMIND SPRING 2013
foreign-trained doctors, accountants and
nuclear physicists were underemployed as
janitors, caretakers or taxi drivers. The law
at the time also stipulated that all appli-
cations be processed in the order
in which they were received, which
resulted in a backlog of hundreds of
thousands of applications.
With apprenticeship training
programs running at unprecedented
levels and the industry experiencing
full employment, many contractors
were forced to resort to short-term
international recruitment through
the controversial federal Temporary
Foreign Worker (TFW) program.
However, this program was fraught with
bureaucratic red tape and delays too.
Many of the problems associated
with the TFW program are attributed
to it being jointly administered by two
federal departments. Prior to offering
temporary employment to a foreign
national, the employer must obtain a
Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from
HRSDC. HRSDC’ s role is to certify
that the employer made reasonable
efforts to recruit within Canada first
and that the terms and conditions of
employment are not fraudulent and in
accordance with prevailing local wage
rates and employment standards. Once
the employer obtains the LMO, the
employer and prospective employee must
then satisfy both CIC and provincial
regulatory authorities responsible for
accreditation, that they are eligible to
work temporarily in Canada.
Employers experienced tremendous
difficulty with the TFW program. The
Auditor General of Canada (AGC)
delivered a scathing critique of how
the LMO process was administered. An
audit noted, “We found that directives
The Demographic Cliff
on how to assess whether employers meet
some or all of the factors outlined in the
regulations are not clear or incomplete;
interpretations vary from one regional
office to another and even within the
same office.”
That Was Then, This is Now
I n s pr i ng 2012, t he f e de r al
gover nment began r et ool i ng
its policies and procedures for
permanent and temporary workers.
To reduce a backlog of 300,000
applications, Immigration Minister
Jason Kenney announced that all
applications received prior to February
28, 2008, under the Federal Skilled Worker
program, would be returned to applicants.
This paved the way for the Immigration
Department to process applications based
on labour market needs, instead of their
place in the queue.
In April 2012, HRSDC Minister Diane
Finley announced the Accelerated Labour
Market Opinion (A-LMO) program to
expedite the processing for targeted
TFW applications. The program enabled
employers with a positive compliance
OUR WORKING-AGE POPULATION
IS EXPECTED TO DECREASE BY
13 PER CENT OVER THE NEXT
FEW DECADES.
– Human Resources and
Skills Development Canada
OPENMIND_13_p51-53.indd 52 4/3/13 10:55:12 AM
record of two years to have new applica-
tions fast-tracked. This new approach is
working exceedingly well.
I n J ul y 2012, Mi ni ster Kenney
announced the extension and expansion
to the Alberta Pilot Project. Employers
no longer need HRSDC approval and
an LMO to recruit internationally for
skilled workers in seven high-demand
occupations. This move significantly
helps companies – particularly construc-
tion and maintenance companies – to
respond more quickly to the needs of
resource developers. In most cases,
TFWs brought in under this stream are
allowed to move between employers in
Alberta over a two-year period – a feature
unavailable in other TFW streams. While
the pilot project provides much-welcome
rel i ef i n expedi ti ng i nternati onal
recruitment, it is for the most part only
available to construction companies
and not other industries experiencing
acute shortages. Moreover, it is restricted
to Alberta operations only. Industry
is also critical of provincial regulatory
rules that create different credential
recognition streams and the process and
length of time it takes to recognize trade
credentials for optional and compulsory
certified trades.
To deal with the bias in the FSW
immediate
innovative
impactful
corporate
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Plan for Success
Red Deer College (RDC) is committed to
providing innovative training programs specic
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partnerships in the industry, and expand your
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program favouring applicants with
university education over those with
trades skills and experience, a new,
dedicated skilled trades class was created
in 2012 within the permanent immigrant
stream. Rather than having to qualify
under the “points” system, applicants in
this class are now assessed on whether
they have a valid long-term employment
offer or appropriate working credentials
and experience in a trade. They must also
demonstrate that they have language
skills appropriate for their occupation. In
December, Minister Kenney announced
that 3,000 spots were being allocated to
applicants under this stream.
The introduction of this new and
distinct category coincides with a series
of other proposed changes to the Skilled
Worker program point-system grid the
government implemented in January
2013. The changes included:
• Making language the most important
selection factor including introducing
minimum language fluency thresholds
and increasing the number of points
awarded for linguistic ability;
• I nc r e as i ng poi nt s f or younge r
immigrants on the basis that younger
immigrants are more likely to “gain
valuable Canadian experience” and will
be in the workforce and contributing to
Canada’s economy for longer;
• Increasing points for Canadian work
experience and reducing points awarded
for foreign work experience;
• Simplifying the arranged employment
process to prevent fraud and allow
employers to more quickly fill vacancies;
• Awarding additional points for spousal
language ability and Canadian work
experience.
While both temporary and permanent
immigration are important tools in
helping employers meet their human
resource needs, immigration is not a
stand-alone “silver bullet” solution to
solving the shortage of skilled workers
in Canada. The C.D. Howe Institute
recently calculated that immigration
numbers would need to increase to
between 625,000 to one million annually
to fully address Canada’s aging workforce
and the shortage of workers. While
other strategies and policies, in terms of
apprenticeship, improving productivity
and outreach engagement are all key
to solving human resource problems,
2012 will be seen as a watershed year since
the federal government made remarkable
progress in reforming our immigration
system to making it more responsive
to the needs of Canada’ s changing
labour force.
OPENMIND_13_p51-53.indd 53 4/3/13 10:55:34 AM
54 OPENMIND SPRING 2013
Capital expenditures for construction in Alberta
(in $ millions):
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
44,707.2 61,026.3 69,736.8 76,605 77,594.6
Value of building permits (monthly) in Alberta
– Seasonally Adjusted
% change
Jan. 2012 Nov. 2012 Dec. 2012 Jan. 2012 - Jan. 2013
Residential:
Non-residential:
Alberta total:
(in $ millions)
593.1 739.1 669.2 20.4
350.0 679.6 570.7 30.9
943.1 1,418.7 1,239.9 24.3
593.1 739.1 669.2 20.4
943.1 1,418.7 1,239.9 24.3
Yearly value of all
building permits
in Alberta ($ millions)
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
13,141.2
11,276.9
11,425.4
12,716.9
14,662.9
New housing
price index
($ thousands)
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 (est)
Calgary:
100.6
93.9
95.6
95.5
97.1
101.0
89.7
89.0
89.9
90.7
Wholesale merchants’ sales by industry unadjusted ($ millions) across Canada
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Building material and supplies 77,235.9 66,932.4 73,935.3 78,723.3 81,522.1
Electrical, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning equipment and supplies 24,163.6 21,783.2 23,245.9 25,161.1 25,660.9
Metal service centres 18,972.7 13,163.1 15,022.7 17,750.4 18,827.8
Lumber, millwork, hardware and other building supplies 34,099.6 31,986.1 35,666.7 35,811.8 37,033.4
Machinery and equipment 115,358.6 103,460.8 110,411.2 123,235.0 128,177.2
Average number of employees covered under the
Merit Hour Bank Benefit Plan:
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
33,875 38,314 38,187 39,371 43,089 48,015
Total manhours worked
under the Merit Hour
Bank Benefit Plan:
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
69,743,223
77,595,931
74,140,547
79,583,013
87,908,004
96,729,350
Edmonton:
2007 69,743,223
2009 74,140,547
2011 87,908,004
2008 100.6 101.0
2010 95.6 89.0
2012 97.1 90.7
(SOURCE: Merit Contractors Association)
(SOURCE: Statistics Canada)
Construction price index
for apartment buildings in:
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
Calgary
174.4
160.7
156.6
160.1
167.2
Edmonton
168.6
148.4
150.9
156.1
163.1
% change Calgary
11.2
-7.9
-2.6
2.2
3
% change Edmonton
17.8
10.9
-12.0
1.7
3
BE A THINKER.
BE A CREATOR.
ENJOY IT.
THE WAY RADHE WORKS:
000OM-CWB-FP.indd 1 3/26/13 8:04:05 AM
NUMBERS
BY THE
OPENMIND_13_p54-56.indd 54 2013-04-04 1:52 PM
BE A THINKER.
BE A CREATOR.
ENJOY IT.
THE WAY RADHE WORKS:
000OM-CWB-FP.indd 1 3/26/13 8:04:05 AM
NUMBERS
OPENMIND_13_p54-56.indd 55 4/3/13 10:22:10 AM
000OM-ACSA-FP.indd 1 3/20/13 11:02:00 AM OPENMIND_13_p54-56.indd 56 4/3/13 10:23:22 AM

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