GTA Construction Report staff writer
The Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario (ISCA) played host to a special guest Feb. 19: Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Harper was at ISCA’s suburban Toronto facilities as part of a round of pre-budget consultations with business and community leaders prior to this spring’s federal budget.
“As we prepare the next phase of our Economic Action Plan for 2013, we’re trying to hear what exactly is on people’s minds,” Harper told his audience. “We have, as we all know, significant challenges in front of us.”
The PM met with ISCA staff and leaders from the riding at the association’s Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre.
“Many of our traditional markets, particularly the United States continue to have significant growth employment problems, and at the same time we face, obviously, pretty serious competition from emerging economies,” Harper told the room.
ISCA represents more than 80 contractors and 30 suppliers/manufacturers in the province’s the wall and ceiling sector, asbestos removal and mold remediation, exterior insulated finishing systems and residential steel framing.
“Obviously, ISCA was thrilled to have the prime minister here,” said Ron Johnson, deputy director of ISCA.
“He got to see first hand what it is we do here. I think it shows his recognition of our good work that he dropped by.”
Johnson said the need to increase investment in infrastructure was raised with the PM.
While some of that infrastructure such as highways doesn’t directly impact the wall and ceiling industry, the spin-off construction does.
“When highways are being built, buildings are being built, which means our guys are busy.”
Johnson also highlighted the issue of skilled trades training with Harper.
“We are looking for the federal government to show some leadership to help us develop (with the province) a greater skilled workforce.”
Ucal Powell, executive secretary treasurer of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, also attended the prime minister’s pre-budget consultation at ISCA.
He says the carpenters union is “holding its own” with skilled trades, largely because of its comprehensive training efforts. This summer or fall, however, shortages could show up in the Greater Toronto Area in some sectors such as concrete formwork.
Powell says Harper was “very attentive” to the issues raised by every one.
Johnson said another important issue that he’d like to see the federal government address is prompt payment legislation for federal projects.
Recently, the Ontario General Contractors Association and the Ontario section of the National Trade Contractors Association agreed to a framework for prompt payment legislation in the province.
Harper was joined by Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino and local members of parliament Paul Calandra and Lois Brown.