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Note... the opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the SCA.

August 1, 2019


The Future is Almost Here

Prompt Payment

This week Global News reported that some sub-contractors working at the Chinook Power Station claim they have gone months without being paid for completed work.

This is precisely the type of situation that prompt payment legislation is designed to address. Sub-contractors shouldn’t be held hostage in disputes that don’t relate to their scope of work. Without a prompt payment remedy, these sub-contractors have no effective or quick method to challenge non-payment. This often means contractors must continue to work without being paid or be in breach of contract. Thankfully this will no longer be the case once prompt payment legislation is in force by this time next year.

If you believe in the importance of prompt payment, and you believe that no segment of construction should be exempt from prompt payment rules – then you should take a few minutes to tell the Government of Saskatchewan that. They’re asking for feedback now via this consultation document.

I want you to pay specific attention to Question #3 and Question #6. Question #3 asks which sectors may require an extended payment period – as in, who needs more than a month to pay their bills once a proper invoice is submitted? We believe the answer should be that NO SECTOR requires an extended payment period. Question #6 asks which sectors or individuals should be exempt from prompt payment rules? We believe the answer should be NO ONE should be exempt.

If you agree with our position, please email maria.markatos@gov.sk.ca and share your perspective. Make sure your email references the Prompt Payment consultation and be specific about which questions you’re answering.

If you do send an email response, please let us know by also emailing sca@scaonline.ca to confirm.
It’s bizarre that we need to keep making the case about exemptions within this legislation but, at the end of the day, there are a lot of people that would prefer not to be compelled to pay their bills. Let’s make sure the voices of the people they’re not paying are heard.

Growth Plan

Last month we asked you for your input regarding the growth priorities for Saskatchewan over the next decade. This was in response to the Government of Saskatchewan’s request for support in building the next provincial economic growth plan.

We got feedback from both members and partners. We collated that information and prepared a response that focused on ensuring growth and investor confidence – both of which create construction demand and opportunity. You can review our submission here.

Our submission focused on three priorities:

  1. Investment attraction and retention;
  2. Competitiveness; and
  3. Supplier development.
For each priority, we made a series of recommendations that were designed to support Saskatchewan’s economic growth and be minimally challenging for the government to introduce. We focused on ideas that don’t cost much in terms of new money, and that can be implemented quickly.

Our goal was to make sure that the industries that drive economic success in Saskatchewan: mining; oil and gas; manufacturing; agriculture and agri-value have access to competitive tax and regulatory environments with sufficient new investment to stimulate and sustain growth. Meanwhile, we want to make sure that it is Saskatchewan companies that can prosper from the opportunities that this growth brings.

We look forward to continued discussion with the government in the coming weeks about their new growth plan. We will make sure that the perspective of the construction industry is acknowledged in the development of this plan.

If you have ideas or thoughts on what the government can be doing to support growth in Saskatchewan, let us know.

Saskatchewan has a bright future - but we've got work to do to make sure our province and our industry meet their potential.



Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association


July 4, 2019

 

What are Saskatchewan's Top Economic Priorities?


There are 61 seats in the Saskatchewan Legislative assembly. 48 of those seats are held by the Saskatchewan Party, which has now governed our province for nearly 12 years. The next provincial election is 15 months away – scheduled for October 26, 2020. The most likely outcome is another majority SaskParty government, which will make it the third time in Saskatchewan’s history that a governing party has won four consecutive majority victories at the polls. This is no small feat.
 
With the SaskParty’s continued dominance in rural Saskatchewan, it is reasonable to assume that they may be our governing party for decades to come. So, when their caucus starts asking questions about 2030 and our economic priorities, we should all take them seriously.
 
And right now, that is exactly what they are doing – they are asking a few key questions of Saskatchewan residents and businesses. We’re hoping you’ll spend five minutes to provide your input.
 
Over the next few weeks, Premier Scott Moe has asked his 47 colleagues to fan out across the province and gather feedback from constituents. With a caucus retreat scheduled for early August, the month of July is an important time to get our message through to MLAs.

Between now and the end of July, the SCA will:

  • Get your feedback about growth priorities for Saskatchewan (link below);
  • Assemble feedback from across the industry into common priorities and submit it to the consultation;
  • Share these priorities with you; and
  • Encourage you to provide a submission to the consultation process too.


Here’s why you should take a few moments to tell us what you think

SaskParty MLAs are looking to do two things with this consultation: (1) begin developing the parameters for a new Growth Plan for Saskatchewan; and (2) identify potential priorities for their 2020 election platform. As an industry, construction needs to be a key voice in this effort. The more input they receive from construction, the better.
 
When we speak to others about construction, we frequently explain that the construction industry is not a driver of economic growth, but rather an enabler of growth. Every sector of the economy and our society relies on construction to turn investment into productivity, so there is a mutually dependent relationship between construction and other sectors. Growth cannot happen without a robust and efficient construction industry. We always encourage the government to develop sector-based strategies for such growth driving industries as: agriculture; mining; oil and gas; manufacturing; and technology. At the same time, we remind them that you can’t have a strategy for any of these sectors without considering the role of construction.
 
With that in mind, today I am asking for you – our members – to share your thoughts on what the priorities for growth should be for Saskatchewan in the next decade. The SaskParty is looking out to 2030 in the development of their plan, so let’s use that same time frame.
 
Please take a few minutes to provide your answers to the following questions. We’ll collect the feedback, summarize it, send it on to the government, and report back to you on what we heard. We’ll also provide every respondent with more details on how you can submit your ideas directly to the SaskParty consultation.
 
Let’s make sure that the voice of the construction industry is heard clearly and that your perspectives are top-of-mind for the SaskParty MLAs when they meet for their retreat next month.

Saskatchewan Growth Priorities 

Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association
 

June 6, 2019

PA Tribute to Kerry and Thank You


This blog comes to you from Elk Ridge resort in Waskesiu, as I my June blog does most years. It’s 2019 SCA Summer Meeting – our annual exclusive gathering of just over 200 leaders from Saskatchewan’s construction industry. Every year this event is a wonderful opportunity to get together with old friends, make new ones, build great (if sometimes fuzzy) memories, and discuss the things that matter most to our member companies. The level of engagement, the volume of networking, and the intimate and remote nature of the venue makes this a can’t miss event in Saskatchewan’s building industry.

As our guests arrived yesterday and today, and as excited as I am about this year’s event, it is hard not to feel a weight of sadness about recent events. As many of you will have heard by now, long-time SCA member Kerry DePape, President of R.L. Cushing Millwork, was killed in a plane accident last weekend along with two other community standouts from the City of Moose Jaw.

Kerry had been directly involved in the industry at a local, provincial, national, and international level for more than 25 years. Kerry was warm, thoughtful, engaged, and engaging. Our industry is poorer for his passing.

I will always remember Kerry fondly. I met him early in my tenure at the SCA and was immediately drawn to him. He was a passionate and community-minded leader. He was the type of person who never hesitated to give back or to support his community and the industry he loved. Every encounter I had with Kerry was positive. His candor and demeanor always energized me and left me confident that the work I was doing mattered – and that member companies appreciated it. For that, I will always be grateful. Kerry – thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all you did on behalf of Saskatchewan’s construction industry. You will be dearly and genuinely missed. Kerry’s family, friends, and community have our sincerest condolences.

Here, at the beautiful Elk Ridge resort, I can reflect that one of the amazing things about life is the spectacular people we have the opportunity to meet, get to know, work with, and collaborate with. Our Summer Meeting is filled with individuals that share many of the same qualities that made Kerry so special. Women and men who have given so much of their lives in support of growing communities and an industry that they are deeply passionate about. Like Kerry, most of them are humble people. They’ve literally spent their lives building Saskatchewan and improving the quality of lives of fellow citizens – and if you met them on the street you wouldn’t have any idea.

It has been, and remains, the privilege of my life and career to serve as President of the Saskatchewan Construction Association. It is a privilege because of people like Kerry. And people like you. You make Saskatchewan a better place to live, work, and play. I hope you know and appreciate how much your contributions really matter. And how much they will continue to matter long after we are gone.

Thank you. All of you.

Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association

May 6, 2019

Prompt Payment for Your Business


Prompt payment has arrived in Saskatchewan, thanks to a unanimous vote in the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly.

So, what does this mean for your business?

Well, the bill that was passed relies on a yet-to-be-developed regulatory framework administered by an Authority that has not yet been formally appointed. So, there is no immediate impact.

But the law will have a significant impact on how you can operate your business in the months and years ahead. It will provide contractors with tools to communicate clearly with owners about their payment cycles and manage relationships when payments are not forthcoming.

How Prompt Payment Works

Once the regulations and governing bodies are established, prompt payment will require all contract-based construction work in Saskatchewan to have an invoicing cycle in the contract. If they do not, a default invoicing cycle of “monthly” will apply.

In each invoicing cycle – whether it’s monthly, 45 days, 60 days – the general contractor will provide the owner with a proper invoice. A proper invoice differs from a regular invoice or a subcontractor to general contractor invoice in that it is part of the prime contract schedule. A proper invoice cannot be contingent on any prior approval or certification from the owner or their representatives.

General contractors will need to manage their subs and all invoice timing accordingly, in order to ensure that all applicable work eligible to be included in the proper invoice is included. The proper invoice starts the prompt payment clock. From the date of proper invoice, an owner has 28 days to pay the proper invoice.

Once a general contractor has been paid on a proper invoice, they have 7 days to pay their subcontractors. Those subcontractors then have 7 days to pay their subcontractors and suppliers. This 7-day cycle cascades down the supply chain until all parties are paid. If you have lien rights on a project, prompt payment rights apply to you as well.

If an owner contests any part of a proper invoice they must file a notice of dispute with the general contractor within 14 days of the proper invoice date. Any notice of dispute must include what is being contested and why. The remaining portion of the proper invoice remains due at the 28-day deadline.

So, for example, if an owner is contesting $25,000 worth of lighting on a $100,000 proper invoice, the remaining $75,000 of the invoice is still due at 28 days and the dispute will not impact the mechanical, electrical, drywall, glazing, or other trade-scope work included on the invoice. This limits the scope of disputes and keeps projects moving by ensuring all satisfactory work is paid, despite other concerns or disputes.

Adjudication

When a dispute does arise, the process to address it should always be to discuss the problem and negotiate a solution all parties can agree to. However, when this cannot be achieved, prompt payment provides a timeline and process to bring in a neutral third-party to adjudicate the matter.

Adjudicators will need to be part of a prescribed list and owners and contractors will have the opportunity to jointly select an adjudicator where possible. Adjudicators cannot be pre-selected or prescribed in the contract.

If parties to an adjudication cannot agree on an adjudicator, the Authority – the body that will manage the process – will appoint an adjudicator for them.

When an owner files a notice of dispute, a general contractor will have until the 28-day deadline to file for adjudication. If they fail to do so, they must either pay the affected subtrade(s) or the affected subtrade(s) can file for adjudication against the general contractor at the 7-day mark when they were entitled to payment under prompt payment timeline provisions.

This gives a 3-week window from notice of dispute until someone is likely filing an adjudication. This gives general and trade contractors – and, frankly, owners – a lot more incentive to talk than they have today. It also gives contractors throughout the supply chain more reason to communicate clearly at every phase of the project and invoicing process.

Now, once an adjudication is under way, all parties will have 5 days to submit their claim paperwork and opinions to the adjudicator. The adjudicator may accept further paperwork after that 5-day window – but they are not required to do so. Nor will adjudicators do their work in the dark, so to speak. If an adjudicator has questions, they will call. If an adjudicator needs an expert opinion, they will enlist an expert for advice and bill that as part of their services.

The cost of adjudication will be assigned equally to the parties to the adjudication. However, if an adjudicator feels that one party acted in bad faith, they may assign some greater portion – all the way up to 100% - of the cost to the offending party. Adjudicators have broad discretion in billing and other matters.

Once the 5-day period to supply paperwork has elapsed, an adjudicator will have 30 days to provide a ruling. Extensions are possible, if both parties and the adjudicator agree.

Once an adjudicator has delivered a ruling, any money owing must be paid within 10 days. Failure to pay will enable contractors to both (1) take the ruling to a court to compel payment, and (2) leave the job site without penalty. The contractor cannot be replaced, and the non-paying party will be responsible for reasonable costs of de-mobilization and remobilization.

Our hope and expectation is that vanishingly few situations would ever get that far. Prompt payment is far more likely to change behavior by changing the processes of construction contracting and the advice owners receive.

In any case, if one does the math (28+5+30+10), it is a minimum of 73 days before any contractor is leaving a jobsite due to persistent delay in payment. What the process does do is enable contractors to take some action immediately and, hopefully, keep conversations and projects moving while differences are worked out.

Conclusion

Now, I need to be clear, that everything I know today is subject to change – but the system overall will somewhat resemble what I’ve laid out here. That means it will not ensure payment – you still need to manage your business. It also means you will need to be more diligent than many contractors are today about contract management.

But in the end, prompt payment will provide even small contractors with the ability to contest delayed payments to a neutral third-party for a binding, enforceable ruling without the full cost of legal action or the lengthy years-long delays that are typical when courts are involved.


John Lax

Director of Advocacy and Communications
Saskatchewan Construction Association

May 2, 2019

Prompt Payment Arrives in Saskatchewan


Today, May 2, 2019, the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan approved third reading of The Builders’ Lien (Prompt Payment) Amendment Act, 2018, passing the bill into law.

This bill is the result of three years of hard work by the SCA and its industry partners, particularly those of Prompt Payment Saskatchewan. The passage of this bill makes Saskatchewan the third province in Canada with legislation in place.

This is a significant step towards improving basic business fairness for thousands of contractors and the construction sector in the province.

This legislation was introduced by the Government of Saskatchewan in response to concerns raised by the construction industry. Contractors and constructions firms were facing growing struggles from delayed payment for completed and satisfactory work, so advancing prompt payment became the top priority of Saskatchewan’s construction sector. We are very happy to help the government deliver on this vital issue.

Prompt payment legislation helps address a fundamental imbalance between the owners of construction projects and the contractors who build them. Before prompt payment legislation, owners were not in breach of contract if they chose to delay paying their contractors; but those contractors who were not being paid for their work had few tools at their disposal to compel fair payment. In fact, if a contractor slowed work, or put tools down they would be in breach and would face legal consequences. Effectively they were forced to work for free; this wasn’t fair.

Prompt payment begins to rebalance the relationship by providing effective tools for contractors to rely on in working with their customers to communicate, securing payment, and keeping projects on track.

Prompt payment does not solve every issue when it comes to delayed payment for contractors. No single piece of legislation can. If a project owner runs out of funding for a project, contractors still won’t be paid. However, under the new legislation contractors will be able to walk off the job to cut their losses. As well, contractors will have the opportunity to force an adjudication hearing earlier in the process to move payment forward more quickly. You will no longer have to wait patiently in the hopes of getting paid. This is a significant improvement over the status-quo.

The legislation passed with the support of both the Government and Opposition MLAs, showing the effectiveness of our advocacy efforts for the construction sector. I want to personally thank both Minister Don Morgan and MLA Trent Wotherspoon for their work on this file on behalf of our industry. We don’t always agree on everything, but I am truly grateful that we have elected officials willing to listen to industry voices and make changes when necessary.

So, what happens next?

There is no firm date for the bill to come into force yet, but we expect it will be within the next twelve months and perhaps as early as the end of this calendar year.

The SCA and our Prompt Payment Saskatchewan coalition are already at work developing the adjudication framework as directed by Minister Morgan. Our legal team will be meeting with him this weekend to discuss next steps. We expect the draft framework to be available for consultation within about a month or so.

We understand that the Ministry of Justice will be conducting a series of public consultations, likely online, to solicit feedback on the regulatory framework. This will likely happen over the summer. We will need significant contractor support in delivering input through the consultation and will provide you with more details as we have them.

I think we can expect to have the regulations completed by the early fall, and it is possible that the new legislation could be in force as early as the end of 2019.

The SCA and our coalition will begin providing training on the new legislation this summer. Stay tuned for more details as this develops.

One thing you need to know is that when the legislation does finally come in to force, it will only apply to new contracts signed after that date. Any contracts in process will still fall outside of the prompt payment provisions. For that reason, we will be pushing for as early an “in force” date as we can.

If you have any questions about any of this – and like you, we still do too – contact John Lax at the SCA. John is our resident expert on prompt payment. He can be reached at johnl@scaonline.ca or 306-525-0171.

You can also reach out to me directly.

We will keep you informed as new developments occur.

In the meantime, today is a good day to celebrate a big step forward for Saskatchewan contractors. With this legislation in place, you are that much closer to having the tools you will need to make sure that payment flows quickly for work you’ve satisfactorily completed. It’s about time.



Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association

April 4, 2019

The Canadian Construction Association

Matters


Next week, April 8 to 12, will be the third annual Saskatchewan Construction Week. I am pleased that Canadian Construction Association President – Mary Van Buren – and  new Chairperson – John Bockstael – will be joining us in Saskatchewan for three days of the week. It will be our pleasure to showcase the great things that you and your peers are doing, every day, to build Saskatchewan. I hope you will take some time, next week, to celebrate construction!
 
And while I’m on the topic of the CCA, I’d like to highlight some things. Every time I attend a CCA event I come away with insight, information and perspective that enhances my effectiveness as CEO of the SCA. The recent CCA Conference was no different. After speakers, sessions, workshops, and Board and Committee meetings, I am better able to serve you because of time spent engaging with Canada’s construction industry leaders.
 
As an SCA member, you contribute approximately $175 per year in CCA membership fees. While I’ve always believed that this represents an extraordinary value for individual companies, I recognize that when margins are tight and the economy is slow, every dollar counts. So, if you’ve ever questioned why your company needs to belong to the CCA, please allow me to share some of my thoughts on the value you’re receiving as a member.
 
Reaching every level of government
 
In 2018 the CCA led a significant contingent of construction leaders on Parliament Hill to meet with Members of Parliament (MP) from all parties and provinces. Each meeting was an opportunity to engage with MPs on issues that matter to you: improved procurement; pipelines; attracting investors; developing our workforce; prompt payment; and community benefits (more on this in a second). The meetings raised the profile of the construction industry on the Hill and helped establish relationships that enable MPs to reach out to the CCA for industry’s perspective on the political and economic issues affecting our country and their ridings.
 
Advancing National Prompt Payment Legislation
 
At the CCA conference we heard about progress being made across the country towards prompt payment legislation. While Saskatchewan will be the second province in the country with prompt payment legislation, several other provinces are following close behind – Manitoba and Nova Scotia most notably. I think we can reasonably expect this legislation to be in place across the country within five years. With respect to the federal government, it looks like prompt payment legislation could potentially be in place before the fall election. The CCA is helping to advance this agenda.
 
Pushing Back on Unfair Procurement Practices
 
We also heard about the CCA’s success so far in blunting the federal government’s push towards “Community Benefits.” If you’re unfamiliar with community benefits, the concept is often used by governments to tie particular social agendas to infrastructure procurement. For instance, it could involve requiring contractors to use unionized labour, or forcing employee quotas with respect to apprenticeship ratios or diversity. The concept has also been used to encourage contractors to “sweeten” deals by donating work.
 
The CCA has championed industry’s opposition to community benefits by both highlighting the drawbacks of the approach and demonstrating the wonderful things that Canadian construction companies already do every day in support of their local communities. Using the hashtag #CDNConstructionGives, the CCA has raised awareness of the generosity and benefits construction companies across the country already provide. The CCA’s work on this file will ensure that your company won’t be disadvantaged when it comes to competing on public projects.
 
Bringing Value Home
 
Sitting in rooms with my peers from across the country, I was able to learn about their strategies for tackling community benefits and other issues. Understanding their victories and challenges ensures we will be well positioned here when we need to tackle issues. Without this knowledge, we would be less successful.
 
Finally, I want to quickly highlight two upcoming CCA initiatives that will provide additional benefit for the local industry, your association, and by extension your company.
 

  • Early this summer the CCA will be supporting Local Construction Associations (here in Saskatchewan that includes the SCA and the Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, and Moose Jaw associations) in meeting with local MPs in advanced of the federal election. This “Hill at Home” initiative will ensure that most, if not all, MPs across the country hear directly from the construction industry right before their next campaign. Hill at Home will produce long-term profile and benefits for the construction industry and is only possible through the kind of leadership the CCA provides and our extensive network of associations cooperating.
 
  • On November 26, 2019, the CCA will lead the first ever National Construction Day. Based on the work that we and our partners have done in Saskatchewan to promote Saskatchewan Construction Week, National Construction Day will celebrate the incredible contributions that construction makes to building Canada and enhancing our quality of life. Your Saskatchewan associations will work to promote National Construction Day. Every time our industry gets engaged in these types of promotional activities, we are drawing attention to the importance of the work you do. This creates a more fertile investment environment and the opportunity for better relationships between the buyers of construction services and the companies that build our communities.
 
While I am absolutely convinced that your CCA membership provides real benefit to you as a company, I know that there is always room for improvement. So does the CCA. That’s why CCA leadership is hyper-focused on enhancing the value proposition of membership in its network of associations. I am very confident in their ability – with all of us helping out – to drive better value for you in the months and years to come.


Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association
March 7, 2019

Politics are Back in Season


Saskatchewan’s 63 MLAs returned to the legislature for the spring session on Monday, March 4th. To welcome them back and to say thanks for their work on behalf of our province, the SCA and Merit Contractors Association co-hosted an MLA reception the evening of Wednesday, March 6th. The event offered an opportunity for about 30 MLAs to meet casually with members of the SCA and Merit Boards at Casino Regina.

Both political parties were represented as attendees discussed issues ranging from the importance of construction to our province and economic issues to the recent cold snap and prospects for Saskatchewan sports teams. The evening also included some incredibly entertaining and poular activities with a construction twist: giant Jenga; a who can hammer a nail the fastest? Competition; and a cutting edge, interactive virtual-reality safety demonstration from SCSA.

In short, it was fun. Everyone had some laughs and it was a great way to show some appreciation for our hard-working MLAs, while reminding them about the important work being done by our many hard-working construction companies across Saskatchewan.

While the event wasn’t about lobbying, rest assured that we didn’t miss the opportunity to talk about the issues that matter the most to you: prompt payment; PST; and continued improvement of the province’s construction procurement processes. We will continue to push these priorities, and others, over the course of the spring legislative session. This session will include the release of the provincial budget on Wednesday, March 20th, and will end on Thursday, May 16th.

On Prompt Payment, here is the latest: we expect the legislation to be passed during this spring session. We are currently working with a coalition of industry groups to advance a consensus position with respect to necessary amendments to the Prompt Payment bill, while working to smooth the transition for industry once it becomes law. At the SCA, our primary focus is ensuring that there are no exemptions to the legislation. We believe that the law should apply equally to all construction projects.

With respect to PST, the SCA continues to be hold the position that charging PST on construction labour is bad for investment and bad for business. We are working with industry and non-construction partners to do a study on the impact of the PST and what is has meant for the Saskatchewan economy. While the government has been clear that they have no plan to remove the tax this year, they have expressed an openness to talking about it and reviewing the impact of the tax. We will work with our partners to keep pushing the priority.

On April 1st the province will launch its Single Window Procurement Service. All procurement across all government ministries (not including the Crowns yet) will flow through SaskBuilds as a central hub for procurement expertise. This is a big step in the right direction. Moving to best value procurement has been an important but rocky transition. A single window service will enhance the standardization of procurement processes and documents, making it easier for member companies to navigate the government procurement process. The SCA works very closely with SaskBuilds to keep improving the way that government does procurement. If your company is running into issues with government procurement, please reach out to us and let us know as soon as possible.

When the budget is released on Wednesday, March 20th, the expectation is that it will somehow be a balanced budget. Given the expectations created by the government to date, anything less than this would be a disappointment. However, my focus will be on the government’s capital investments. Are they spending more on construction or less? If they’re spending less, that is a bad sign. Given the continued economic climate in Saskatchewan, government investment in infrastructure is essential. Just as importantly, pricing remains highly competitive – which means that government is getting a good bang for its infrastructure buck.

Stay tuned for more details on all of these files as the spring 2019 legislative session continues. We will keep members informed as progress is made.

In closing, I just want to say thank you to the MLAs that were able to make it out to our event. It was great to connect with you, and we thank you for all the work you do on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan.


Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association

December 5, 2018

Happy 100th Birthday CCA!


Last week I had the privilege of attending the 100th anniversary celebration of the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) in Ottawa. The festivities coincided with a CCA Board meeting and a Construction Day at Parliament. More than just a wonderful time, it was a great opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the country, advocate for the interests of our industry with federal decision-makers, and celebrate the remarkable contributions of the CCA to the industry we serve over the last century.

One of my favourite moments was recreating a picture from the first-ever CCA meeting. With the 100th anniversary in the same hotel – the Chateau Laurier – as the organization was founded, the assembled group posed for a photo the very same steps as our founders a century ago. It was a real treat to be part of that history.

When I meet with members across the province, they will sometimes voice their uncertainty about why they need to belong to the SCA and the CCA. Many members initially join the family of associations to access the plan room service. This is, in part, because this is too often the only service we try to sell. However, it is also because member companies need to be successful businesses and that starts with finding and bidding on work.

While high-value services like advocacy, industry promotion, and development of standard practices and documents are all vital, they are rarely the first thing that members look for. I get that. We at the SCA get that. It’s sure beginning to look like the CCA gets that too. As associations, we are coming to better understand how members see the value of what we do and how we can better shape our work to serve your interests. This is a top-of-mind priority for my team at the SCA, and I believe we can expect the same from CCA President, Mary Van Buren, and her team too.

I often take time in this blog to promote the value of the work that my team at the SCA does. I’ve been very grateful to those of you who have reached out to thank my team for their work. We do this work, on your behalf, because we genuinely care about your success. We believe in the power of the construction industry to change lives, and improve the quality of life for everyone in Saskatchewan. In the rest of this post today though, I want to promote the importance of the work that the CCA does on your behalf.

If you’ve ever questioned why you need to belong to the CCA, hear me out. First, it is extraordinary value for your money. Only $177 of your membership dues go to the CCA, but they are an essential player in securing a construction-friendly economy in Canada. I guarantee you could not purchase the value you receive from CCA anyplace else in the marketplace for $177. It’s a no-brainer.

Why does the CCA matter today? Well…


  • If you’ve ever been frustrated by something Justin Trudeau has done, or said, or selfied, then you should be grateful for the CCA.
  • If you’ve ever wondered how the Canadian economy can grow if we never bother to move our goods to market, then you should be grateful for the CCA.
  • If you’ve ever worried that President Trump’s business friendly approach might leave Canadian businesses struggling to catch up, then you should be grateful for the CCA.
  • If you’ve ever thought that bidding and working on federal government jobs is so challenging it isn’t even worth the effort, then you should be grateful for the CCA.

Mary, her team, and the CCA Board are front and centre working with political leaders across Parliament Hill to advance the issues that matter to Canada’s construction industry. I saw this first hand during the Construction Day on the Hill last week. More than 100 leaders from Canada’s construction industry descended on Parliament Hill to meet with officials from across the federal government. The meetings were well received and demonstrated that the CCA is well respected on Parliament Hill. They also showed that our industry has a lot more work to do, together, to raise awareness and educate decision-makers about our issues.

During our meetings we discussed:


  • Ensuring an investor-friendly economy in Canada by getting pipelines built and minimizing unnecessary regulatory and environmental barriers to growth;
  • Stopping governments from adding in “community benefit” clauses to construction contracts. We’ll talk more about this in a future blog post, but rest assured that this is a big deal and we’ll be facing it soon in Saskatchewan;
  • Building a construction workforce that is diverse, skilled, and representative;
  • Moving federal Prompt Payment legislation forward; and
  • Collaboration between government and industry in areas of innovation and productivity.

The CCA has been around for 100 years now. The issues they are tackling, every day, on your behalf are the type of big-picture issues that we need to resolve if your company is going to be around for the next 100. We need the CCA. We need the CCA to keep fighting for Canada’s construction industry. We need the CCA to keep leading the industry to ensure that it will always be able to meet the evolving needs of owners. We need the CCA to continue to promote the value that construction brings to Canada.

As CCA turns 100, let us wish them a Happy Birthday and thank them for the last 100 years. Let’s also wish them well for the next 100 years. Their success leads to your success. Go get ‘em CCA!


Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association

November 1, 2018

Prompt Payment Legislation Update



November 2018 Vlog from SCA's President & CEO, Mark Cooper.


Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association
October 4, 2018

The Future of Safety in Construction


Safety is crucial in construction. For the overwhelming majority of SCA member companies, it is a top priority through every phase of work. The evolution of workplace safety culture and practice over the last decade has been fascinating to watch, and I am equally fascinated by what the next decade might bring. That’s why I’ve invited Ryan Quiring – CEO of SafetyTek – an SCA partner firm, to share some of his thoughts on the future of safety in construction.

However, before I turn the blog over to Ryan, I want to address why we chose to partner with SafetyTek. As you may know, the SCA runs the Advantage Construction Savings Program (ACSP). The ACSP offers SCA members exclusive access to service discounts that are not available anywhere else. Our ACSP partners have been selected because they (1) offer something that our members want and (2) are prepared to do so in a unique bundling of services. Find out more about how ACSP partners can help your business by checking the website.

So, why SafetyTek? I often hear from members that while they highly prioritize safety, they are frustrated by the administrative and regulatory burden that accompanies it. Administration eats time and productivity and the paperwork doesn’t directly contribute to making a safer workplace. That’s where SafetyTek comes in. They offer a digital solution that really works. Not only that, but it is a Made-in-Saskatchewan success story, and it is tailored specifically to the construction industry. It is exactly the type of thing that our members are looking for, and through our ACSP partnership you can get access at pricing that no one else can. I certainly think it’s worth exploring.

With that in mind, I asked Ryan a while ago what he saw for the future of safety, specifically when it comes to construction in Saskatchewan. Here are his thoughts:

Ryan Quiring, CEO, SafetyTek

I was sipping coffee when Mark asked for my thoughts on the future of safety in construction. I considered the question and decided to first establish a starting point to define where we are with safety today. And the unfortunate truth is that safety is often viewed as a necessary evil at the moment.

Many companies are aware that they need to perform safety but struggle to prioritize it or else rank it among the least favourite jobs of the day. Many other companies lack the necessary skills to implement safety in a meaningful way. Of course, everyone means well and has the best intentions, but this all adds up to unsafe work environments.

So how can we implement genuine and practical change without introducing administrative hassle and ‘make work’ projects that employers need to perform in order to be viewed as “safer.” 

This is one of the problems that Craig and I set out to solve with SafetyTek. One of the biggest hurdles for safety is all of the stuff that is required: contractor registries, documentation requirements, COR certification, and auditing. No wonder business owners have had enough of safety. They already spend way too much time trying not to drown keeping up with it all. 

SafetyTek is a workplace safety enforcement platform, built to enable construction companies to implement safety without creating more work. We can model your organization operationally and track your form templates automatically so that you can remove about 80% of the time spent on safety management. That’s just the core feature set.

We are now implementing Spence.AI which is an artificial intelligence safety assistant which will take your safety implementation and automate it completely. By accepting commands over text, you can send a text to Spence and have him perform tasks like setting up a new user, adding that user to a crew, or moving a crew to a new project or site. He can even create an action item for you over text so that you can document it immediately rather than waiting to recall it later. It’s like having your own personal assistant running your SafetyTek portal for you.

Not only that, but Spence will soon be modelling your workers past behaviour, predicting what should happen in the future in order to setup rules. Then, if a rule is broken, Spence will take action immediately by texting the field worker to make sure they stay compliant. That’s really cool in my opinion.

We’ve completed a couple of studies and we found that within a workforce of 15 people, an owner can spend up to 15 hours per week just performing that task alone. 15 hours! There should be no reason for this. With Spence’s small “nudges” that time will be better spent on operating and growing your business.

Something else we plan on doing with Spence is modelling out what an incident looks like so that we will be able to predict when an incident may occur in the future. We currently have hundreds of thousands of form submissions in our database right now and we believe using key leading indicators, such as, weather, overdue action items, expired training certificates, and safety engagement, we will be able to effectively give companies a probability of an accident happening today with recommended actions to take in order to reduce this probability.

This is technology that we really want to expand on going forward.

We are also implementing gamification. This is in the early stages but it should be released later this year. Engaging your workforce to participate in scavenger hunts, first past the line, or streaks will enable a company owner to invest a little bit of cash into an incentive to increase engagement in the safety program. What this ultimately does, if implemented correctly, is create some virility throughout your workforce. It will lead to the retention of top talent and the attraction of excellent employees to your company, which will allow the company to perform more work on larger and larger projects.

The biggest take away for me is that we are putting an entirely new spin on the views of safety in construction. Getting away from the bad taste that contractor registries leave in a contractor’s mouth. Paying for something that provides little to no value is exactly what’s wrong with safety today and it does not promote proper implementation of actual safety. We can solve the contractor management problem and provide value to construction companies of all sizes. This is what I see for the future of safety in construction.


Mark Cooper, President & CEO, SCA & Ryan Quiring, CEO, SafetyTek.

 
September 6, 2018

Community Benefits and the Generosity of

Construction Companies


This month’s blog post is really highlighted by a guest post from Ryan Leech. More on Ryan below, but I just want to say thanks to him for his leadership on this important issue. Before we get to his guest post though, I want to talk quickly about something the SCA and our industry partners across the country are working on, and something you might want to get engaged on.

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has recently embarked on a campaign to gather information about the generosity of Canada’s construction industry. This has become more important than ever as there is a public procurement movement sweeping the country. You may have heard of it. It’s called “Community Benefits”. The Community Benefits approach is all about governments leveraging public procurements to force financial and social contributions from contractors working on public sites. This can run a spectrum from requiring mandatory apprenticeship levels on the job site, to requiring a set threshold of underrepresented groups on a job site, to requiring investments in the local community and local charities. As governments seek to offload their responsibilities on to others, construction contractors can become easy targets for a public that doesn’t understand much about construction, or procurement. Community Benefits are something our industry must be vigilant about and must push back against wherever and whenever we can.

In Saskatchewan, we’ve been successful in this battle so far. Together with industry partners, the SCA stood firm a few years ago when the Government of Saskatchewan contemplated adding elements of Community Benefits to their best value procurement approach. While we have been successful to date, we should never rest on this success. The champions of Community Benefits are always pushing their agenda.

I will write more on Community Benefits in the future, but today I want to focus on how the generosity of construction companies basically makes Community Benefits an unnecessary burden on the procurement process. Specifically, I am asking for your support as we, and the CCA, gather information about the generosity of the Canadian construction industry. Please take a few minutes to complete the CCA’s survey, which you can find here. This survey will be open until September 20, 2018. If you use Twitter, please post information about your company’s community efforts using the hashtag #CDNConstructionGives. Or, you can email Megan Jane at meganj@scaonline.ca with the details and we will tweet out your stories.

The construction industry in Saskatchewan is filled with companies and individuals that generously donate money and time, every day, to make their local communities stronger. This is something to be incredibly proud about. Most of you are far too humble to share your own stories, and that is admirable. Maybe, let us tell your stories for you. Not to pump your own tires, but to make sure that no one ever forgets just how generous the Saskatchewan construction industry really is.

With that in mind, please join me in welcoming a guest columnist for the remainder of this blog: Mr. Ryan Leech. Ryan is an owner of Brxton Masonry, Chair of the Industry Advisory Council, President of the Saskatchewan Masonry Institue, and a Director on the Board of the SCA, and those are just the things I know about (and you thought you were busy!) Ryan and I have been talking about the importance of construction companies being involved in their communities for some time. I wanted him to share some of his thoughts, in his own words. That is what follows below. I want to encourage you, to share your stories with us too. Please do.

From Ryan Leech:

Construction companies – suppliers, designers, contractors large and small, affiliated industries like finance, insurance, legal, etc. – have been and continue to be leaders in social responsibility in our province. When someone needs some help, there is a good chance it requires something to be built. If they don’t need something built, you can bet they need some support, financial or otherwise. With our large construction labour force in Saskatchewan, you can often find the needs – supporting the sports teams of the kids of our employees – even within our own companies.

The construction industry in Saskatchewan is always actively supporting: community groups; sporting organizations; religious groups; social support organizations; cultural events and organizations; and a number of unique special interest entities that provide the improved life experience we value here in Saskatchewan so much.

Giving goes hand in hand with our history, through our typically local ownership, strong connection to our employee base, and the true reflection of a partnership mentality within our industry.

As the dropping commodity values began impacting our sector, as early as 2014, combined with the growing public deficit and subsequent austerity budgets, everyone is trying to do the same or even more with considerably less – both personally and on the business side.

Social supports were clawed back or eliminated, municipal transfers were reduced, taxes were raised across different revenue lines, and the labour exemption on PST was eliminated causing an instance 3-4% increase in the cost of getting anything built – whether we’re talking a residential fence, or a potash mine.

The economic downturn in the construction sector has most companies managing with tighter margins, with smaller revenues and opportunities, while also reducing overhead. Our experience these days isn’t growth and prosperity, it’s trying to keep the lights on until we see a sustained positive return for our industry. While all of this is going on, one thing hasn’t changed. The phone calls and visits asking for support haven’t slowed down. If anything, they’ve increased.

When the economy was strong, our industry stood up and did more than its fair share. Construction undertook incredible and generous support for all of the various groups and programs listed above. With the cuts to government budgets, and the increase of costs to most organizations (including non-profits), the needs of many of the organizations we supported are only growing. Unfortunately, this is happening at the same time our generous sector is shrinking – both in volume and in profit.

How does a business owner manage the growing list of ‘asks’ with the shrinking cash flow in the bank or the shrinking bidding opportunities to secure that next project with reduced fee expectation?

In Saskatchewan, we choose to support these needs by setting budgets for social support and continuing to engage even when the right choice fiscally is a regrettable decline. We look to each other as companies and individuals and encourage the continued investment in communities and programs we rely on to enhance and maintain our valued quality of life. It is a difficult choice but throughout the construction industry, community social support leadership encourages the ‘act of giving’ within our teams, improves our connections to our neighbours and enforces the positive rewards of giving – the greatest gift.

 


Mark Cooper, President & CEO, SCA & Ryan Leech, Owner, Brxton Masonry Inc.


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