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Canadian Congress Report

Journal: Issue 4 - 2012

Canadian Congress Co-Chair Oliver Swan, left, and Local 8 NB President Gerald Reinders discuss possible topics for the November Canadian Congress.

Canada's political and legislative landscape, future prospects for the nation's construction industry, BAC member attitudes and the work outlook for Local Unions were just a few of the pressing issues considered by delegates to the BAC Canadian Congress, which met November 26th in Toronto. 

Bob Blakely, Director of the Canadian Office of the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), updated delegates on the disturbing manifestations of the Right to Work forces in various provinces along with the "march of Merit Canada," a growing voice for non-union contractors that has partnered with the similarly purposed Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) in the U.S. and is utilizing the ABC's "materials and propaganda," says Blakely. He also reviewed the BCTD's aggressive campaign to derail Bill C-377, which would require public disclosure of unions' and related trusts' most sensitive financial records. Despite labour's best efforts, the Bill was subsequently passed by the House of Commons on December 12th by a vote of 147 to 135 and has moved on to the Senate. Congress Co-Chair and Local 7 Canada President Oliver Swan said recently, "It's important to note that C-377 is not law yet. BAC will continue to work with our allies to lobby against it in the Senate and fight it in court – whatever it takes to counter this attempt to harass unions, invade the personal privacy of Canadians and cost taxpayers millions."

In an overview of the construction economy, Mark Casaletto, Vice President of Reed Construction Data, projected modest short-term growth in each province over the next few years in key sectors of industrial-commercial-institutional (ICI) and residential construction. While outlining the longer-term impact of trade on the Canadian economy, Casaletto predicted that global demand for resources such as metals, oil, and gas will drive construction mega-projects, including future mining in Quebec and Ontario's "Ring of Fire", and oil and natural gas production in Alberta. This growth has the potential of propelling Canada's construction industry to become the fourth largest in the world.

BAC Regional Director for Canada Craig Strudwick gave a report on membership and work trends in Canada.

In other reports, BAC Secretary-Treasurer Henry Kramer presented the results of the recent Canadian membership survey (look for excerpts in the next Journal), BAC Executive Vice President Tim Driscoll discussed trade jurisdiction matters, Co-Chair Swan outlined a 2013 Work Plan for Canadian Locals, and International benefit fund staff and professionals delivered a series of fund updates. Delegates also welcomed Jake McIntyre, U.S. National Refractory Director, who led a discussion on the benefits and barriers to developing a similar national refractory agreement in Canada.

In addition to the formal business of the Congress, the meeting's Toronto location afforded delegates and IU officers the opportunity to speak informally with representatives of the Ontario-based Brick and Allied Crafts Union (BACU). "Keeping the channels of communication open," says James Boland, BAC President and Canadian Congress Co-Chair, "has put us on a more constructive path to better advance the interests of both our respective memberships."

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