Canadians are heading to the election polls on Sept. 20 for the first federal election since before the pandemic. The snap election was called more than two years ahead of schedule by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The last snap election was called in 2008 by then Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper. Currently, the Liberals hold a minority government.
Several of the political parties have since released their platforms with just under a month to go before voting. There are several points to note relating back to the skilled trades. Two key subjects up for debate in this year’s election campaign are housing and infrastructure.
“We have a dire shortage of housing across the country which threatens to derail our economic recovery if the problem is not addressed immediately,” said Richard Lyall, president of Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). “I am glad the issue is on the radar of party leaders, and that they are now paying attention to this critical issue. The ongoing supply crisis is crippling younger families. We cannot grow the economy or build back better if we can’t build according to our demographic needs. Excessive costs imposed on developers and systemic red tape that delays construction of new housing developments must be eliminated.”
“On the topic of infrastructure investment, we would like to see impediments removed on that spending to help projects move forward at all levels across the country,” remarks Ken Lancastle, COO for the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC). “This is particularly important in areas that might not otherwise see large-scale infrastructure projects. At the same time, we would like to see a long-term strategy implemented on the delivery of that investment. This project predictability provides confidence for the sector to hire and train employees, as well as invest in innovative tools and technologies for the future.”
The Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) and the MCAC have been working with the various levels of government prior to the election to ensure that legislation regarding retrofits and the skilled trades benefit those that are on the frontline. That isn’t to say that the government’s job is done; there is much more needed to expand retrofit programs and support for the skilled trades.
“Whichever party wins the election must focus on retrofits in non-residential spaces in order for retrofits to maximize their potential impact on Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG ) emissions and climate goals,” said Ralph Suppa, president and general manager of CIPH. “In addition, pre-pandemic challenges with ageing demographics and labour shortages in the skilled trades have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Priority to expand supports for the workforce that will build and retrofit the future of Canada’s infrastructure will be critical to ensure a healthy Canada. CIPH and MCA Canada stand ready to provide practical and meaningful solutions to all parties during this election and beyond.”
Here is a breakdown of political platforms based on each party and what it means for the trades.
The Conservatives released their platform, titled Canada’s Recovery Plan, on Aug. 16, just one day after the Liberal party called the snap election.
They plan to double the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit for the next three years to help create more places for apprentices and to invest $250 million over two years to create the Canada Job Training Fund. The fund would provide grants to organizations including employers, apprenticeship training delivery agents, unions, post-secondary institutions, and community organizations.
In addition, their plan will include the creation of the working Canadian Training Loan to provide low-interest loans of up to $10,000 to people who want to upgrade their skills. The introduction of the Construction Mobility Tax Credit would help with expenses for when construction workers are forced to temporarily relocate due to work.
For the housing market, the Conservatives are looking to build one million homes in the next three years by leveraging federal infrastructure investments to increase housing supply.
As part of their infrastructure planning, the Conservatives are looking to scrap the Canada Infrastructure Bank and commit the money towards infrastructure projects that will strengthen the economy. Already committed projects would continue and return to a model that was used by the previous Conservative government, according to a letter by Impact Public Affairs to CIPH and MCAC.
For retrofits and climate change initiatives in the Conservative platform, they have stated that they will provide regulatory and financial framework that will facilitate Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC). This program would be modelled after La Société de financement et d’accompagnement en performance énergétique (SOFIAC) program in Quebec.
Additionally, the Conservatives would look at the development of curriculum for trade schools and institutes that support building design and construction.
Speaking on residential retrofits, the Conservative platform details plans to create a Residential Building Retrofit Initiative that would provide an “efficiency concierge” service for homeowners that acts as a one-stop-shop to access programs.
The New Democrats Party (NDP) unveiled its platform just days before the federal election was officially called, titled “Ready for Better: New Democrats’ Commitments to You. Their platform’s costing estimates still needs to be reviewed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, reports Impact Public Affairs.
Their platform would look to create a retrofitting program to upgrade where people live and work, including requiring large-scale building retrofits in all sectors. They will set a target of retrofitting all buildings in Canada by 2050. It would begin with upgrades to all buildings built before 2020 in the next 20 years.
More than a million jobs in energy efficiency retrofits are set to be created for affordable housing, renewable energy, infrastructure, transit, child care, and other industries. They would also require the use of Canadian-made steel, aluminum, cement, and wood products for infrastructure projects.
In addition, the NDP would change employment insurance rules to allow workers who quit their job to go to school to qualify for EI benefits. Large employers would also be required to spend at least one per cent of payroll on training their employees annually. The NDP would also require companies retain and deploy their workers when in transition and ensuring that workers nearing retirement have retirement security without penalties to their pensions if they retire early.
As part of infrastructure programming, they are looking to partner with provinces, territories, First Nations and municipalities to deliver public infrastructure funding by using community benefit agreements to ensure jobs, training, apprenticeships and support for local businesses.
The NDP would expand community-owned renewable energy projects and support efforts to transition remote communities towards clean energy alternatives.
The current Liberal government won a majority government back in 2015. In 2019, they won again, but this time taking home a minority government. “Since 2015, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team have made significant progress to protect the environment and grow the economy. We made sure pollution isn’t free anywhere in Canada while putting more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians. We provided rebates for Canadians to upgrade their homes and purchase zero-emission vehicles, which will help Canadians save on energy costs,” explains the Liberal party on their website. “We’re just getting started.”
Their platform will include a cleaner communities initiative which would make homes and buildings cleaners. This will include retrofit grants of up to $5,000 and interest-free loans of up to $40,000 for deeper retrofits. Additional support will be given to homeowners to transition off oil heating. A national strategy to chart a path to net-zero emissions for buildings by 2050 is also a part of the party’s platform.
They would look at creating a net-zero electricity grid by 2035 by implementing a Clean Electricity Standard and developing additional tax credits for clean energy. The Liberals would end thermal coal exports from and through Canada no later than 2030.
The Liberals would look at restoring the retirement age to 65 from 67. They would also increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement by $500 for single seniors and $750 for senior couples.
As part of the Liberal Housing Plan, they are looking to unlock homeownership, build more homes, and protect homeowners’ rights. The Liberals would look at building, preserving, or repairing 1.4 million homes in the next four years. They would permanently increase funding to the National Housing Co-Investment fund for a total of $2.7 billion over four years. Empty office space would also be converted into housing.
The Liberals acknowledge that viruses can be spread easily when there is a high number of people indoors experiencing poor airflow and ventilation. As such, they would provide a $100 million “top-up” to the Safe Return to Class fund for ventilation improvement projects. They would also provide $100 million to the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative with $70 million of this funding directed to a new pillar focused on increasing indoor ventilation. Additionally, they would introduce a tax credit for small businesses to make it easier to invest in better ventilation.
Small businesses would be able to claim 25 per cent of eligible ventilation improvement expenses of up to $10,000 per building location, with a maximum of $50,000 per company. Eligible expenses could include upgrades or conversions of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to meet health standards. The tax credit would be 50 per cent refundable. This tax credit would only be available from September 1, 2021 through to the end of the 2022 tax year to incentivize quick upgrades.
Meet the politician
Members of the Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) are able to participate in a new grass-roots campaign. The program will allow members to meet with local candidates, from any party, to educate them on the important role that the HVAC/R industry has on everyday life.
“The federal government, in conjunction with provincial and territorial governments across the country must work in collaboration with the HVAC/R industry on effective and responsible approaches to reducing carbon emissions from homes and buildings,” reports Martin Luymes, vice president of government relations at HRAI.