Hundreds of billions worth of construction projects are on the drawing board in B.C. As a result, most construction contractors geared up for even more work this year, despite an already intense pace. This will keep the industry’s GDP and employment contributions growing at the same pace as the provincial economy.
Our Jordan Bateman and TheOrca.ca’s Maclean Kay talk about the COVID-19 crisis, and the federal and provincial response to it.
March 18, 2020 – Vancouver, BC – The BC business community has announced the creation of the COVID-19 Cabinet, to address the significant impacts on our economy in these unprecedented times.
The group represents business, labour and employees, and allows for collaboration and quick response to changes in the business environment. It will work with government to share information and advocate on behalf of the BC business community and workers to ensure their voices are heard.
The group will work collectively to share information on the impacts of COVID-19 and will provide a point of contact for government as it creates policies, programs and measures to support business and workers to address the significant economic impacts.
The following organizations are coming together in a coordinated voice and represent a broad spectrum of industries and sectors including:
- Business Council of British Columbia
- Greater Vancouver Board of Trade
- BC Chamber of Commerce
- Independent Contractors and Businesses Association
- Canadian Federation of Independent Business
- Council of Forest Industries
- Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
- Association of Consulting Engineering Companies BC
- Association for Mineral Exploration BC
- BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association
- Urban Development Institute
- BC LNG Alliance
- BC Hotel Association
- BC Trucking Association
- Vancouver Economic Commission
- BC Construction Association
- BC Care Providers Association
- Mining Association of BC
- BC Gaming Industry
- BC Real Estate Association
- Ketchum Communications
- Surrey Board of Trade
- Motion Picture Industry Association
- BC Maritime Employers Association
- BC Tech Association
- BC Salmon Farmers
- The Alliance of Beverage Licensees
- Chartered Professional Accountants of BC
- Construction Labour Relations Association of BC
- Tourism Association of BC
- BC Farmers’ Association
- BC Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association
- BC Economic Development Association
The group will be reaching out to other organizations in the coming days to support BC business, labour and workers to address challenges and ensure economic recovery in the coming weeks and months.
“We are living through a crisis on a scale not seen in generations – it is essential that government and business come together to support individuals, families, and communities. Fast action combined with bold and visionary policy measures are needed to restore confidence and provide reassurance to British Columbians worried about their jobs, their families and their futures.” Chris Gardner, President, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association
“COVID-19 is having major impacts on our health and on our economy,” said Bridgitte Anderson, President and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. “Collaboration is key to ensuring business and workers are taken care of in these very uncertain and challenging times.”
“Working together, BC business are committed to informing and supporting the actions of governments to protect the health of people and our economy from COVID-19” said Greg D’Avignon, President and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia. “Now is the time for large-scale government fiscal resources to be applied quickly to bolster the economy, support families, and assist businesses over the next several months. Boldness is needed to defeat this challenge.“
“It is imperative that the business community and government work together to ensure those being impacted receive the support they need. Small Business owners are resilient by nature, but will definitely need support to get through these challenging times.” Laura Jones, Executive Vice President, Canadian Federation of Independent Business
“The health and safety of citizens is priority number one – but there’s a window for businesses here, too. Our long term economic resilience and ultimate recovery will be a function of how governments listen to the timely intelligence coming from the business community today. We thank the federal and provincial governments for leaning in with the business community as this unfolds.” Val Litwin, President and CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce
“We applaud the federal and provincial governments for making the health and safety of Canadians their first priority and welcome the additional support being put in place to help workers, businesses and the broader economy during this period of uncertainty. As BC’s forest sector continues to navigate extremely challenging times, the Council of Forest Industries strongly supports the economic measures announced today and urges additional actions that support enhanced access to capital and operational and business continuity. These measures will, in turn, support forest companies, their employees and families, and communities across the province.” Susan Yurkovich, President and CEO, BC Council of Forest Industries
A new coronavirus is the cause of an outbreak of respiratory infections, now known as COVID-19. The number of cases worldwide is changing quickly. B.C. has confirmed cases of coronavirus; however the risk to Canadians continues to be low. The risk to construction workers is also low, due to general good health of the workforce, working conditions and safety equipment such as work gloves. However, all British Columbians should be aware of the virus and how to prevent its spread.
Recommendations for Employers:
- Keep washing your hands!
- For larger companies, form a COVID-19 response group to keep current on the issue, to ensure preventative measures are being taken, and to address personal or business impacts.
- For worksites and lunch rooms, ensure access to handwash and sanitizer stations
- Encourage workers, especially in lunch rooms, to wash their hands throughly and not share food, plates, utensils, etc.
- For offices and other shared workspaces, step up cleaning routines
- Keep your staff up-to-date on COVID-19 and what your company is doing
- Reduce face-to-face meetings and business travel where possible
- Review (and if so desired, revamp to fit your company’s circumstances and distribute to employees) this memo on guidance for employers
- Review this excellent list of Frequently Asked Questions – which include suggestions on how to handle employees returning from travel or needing to self-quarantine.
- Keep an eye on the BC Centre for Disease Control website for updates: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/coronavirus-(novel)
WorkSafeBC has a page that is helpful to employers and employees HERE.
Homebound? Try one of our online courses
What is Coronavirus COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found mostly in animals. In humans, they can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). The new coronavirus has been named COVID-19.
While many of the characteristics of COVID-19 are still unknown, mild to severe illness has been reported for confirmed cases.
Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of COVID-19, are similar to other respiratory illnesses, including the flu and common cold. They include cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing.
- your symptoms;
- where you have been travelling or living;
- if you had direct contact with animals (for example, if you visited a live animal market); and
- if you had close contact with a sick person, especially if they had a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
How is it spread?
How can I avoid it?
- washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;
- avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
- coughing or sneezing into your sleeve and not your hands; and
- staying home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others.
Where can I get more information?
ICBA Training has grown substantially in recent years, and we appreciate your trust and participation as you develop your skills within our industry.
As you know, the new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has been declared a global pandemic and governments are taking increasingly aggressive actions to prevent or slow the rate of infection. B.C. has confirmed numerous cases of coronavirus so the need to be vigilant is paramount – the seriousness of the threat of COVID-19 should not be underestimated.
To that end, we have decided to postpone all in-person ICBA Training classes effective immediately. ICBA will review public health instructions and advisories in the weeks to come and determine a restart date when appropriate.
For those who have already paid their registration, ICBA will hold a spot for you in the next scheduled class (once public health officials give us the approval to resume). However, if you would prefer a refund, email email@example.com and she will put that through instead.
Thanks again – these challenges are unprecedented, but by working together, we can all succeed at defeating this virus.
PS: ICBA has set up a dedicated webpage at www.icba.ca/coronavirus where we will continue to post information relevant to construction.
We have some exciting new courses on our calendar with our partner Canada Scaffold!
We’re starting with the Scaffold & Access Industry Association accredited Frame Scaffold Competent Person course April 15 in Richmond. Frame scaffolding is one of the most common types of scaffolding seen on construction sites, and is typically manufactured from round tubing. You’ll learn how to identify types and components of Frame Scaffold, erect a multi-lift tower, and much more. Plus, you’ll earn 7 CPD Points from BC Housing.
We’re then holding a System Scaffold Competent Person course April 18. Canada Scaffold University’s SAIA approved Systems Scaffold course will provide demonstration and practice with the typical methods of constructing systems scaffolding, including:
- Identifying types and components of System Scaffold
- Identify standard usage of System Scaffold
- How System Scaffolds are erected using Code of Safe Practice
And more. You’ll also receive 7 CPD Points from BC Housing for this session.
Our final new course is Swing Stage Awareness, scheduled for April 22 in Richmond with Canada Scaffold. This 1-day course is designed for anyone with little or no working knowledge of operating and working from a swing stage. It is also beneficial for experienced operators who would like a refresher. After completing this course, participants will know the basics required to safely use suspended work platforms.
This course also offers 7 CPD Points from BC Housing.
Visit www.icba.ca/courses for more information on each of these courses and to register.
This op-ed, written by ICBA President Chris Gardner, first appeared on TheOrca.ca on March 10, 2020.
Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Case-in-point: government’s approach to a lack of housing affordability in the Lower Mainland.
The John Horgan NDP government continues to try and bring housing prices down by doing the thing they do the most – raising taxes, hoping to suppress demand. But this has done little to make housing affordable in major markets in B.C. With demand for housing far outstripping the number of units available on the market, it does not take an Einstein-level genius to understand that we cannot, and will not, tax our way to affordable housing.
The problem of affordability in Metro Vancouver is acute. RBC recently calculated that the typical share of income needed to cover home ownership costs is 77.3% in Vancouver, twice as much as Calgary’s 38.3% and way above the national average of 50.7%.
The answer is supply – something a new Canada/BC Expert Panel on Housing Supply and Affordability is looking to tackle. The panel will provide recommendations on “supply side” measures to address chronic housing affordability issues. And their answers are desperately needed: the Horgan government predicted in its recent budget that housing starts will drop by a third over the next two years. That’s simply not enough supply and the upward pressure on prices will make a bad situation worse.
The biggest hurdle the panel should address is the shortsightedness of municipal councils. Local politicians are far too reluctant to tackle NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) residents who don’t want to see redevelopment and higher densities.
Metro Vancouver’s land constraints make the need to densify imperative – oceans and rivers, mountains, borders, the Agricultural Land Reserve and Port requirements for tide-water lands severely limit development.
The era of single-family homes on large lots must give way in many locations to higher-density town- and row-home solutions, along with multi-story mixed-use buildings. With Metro Vancouver poised to welcome an estimated one million additional people by 2040, Rennie Group estimates that to accommodate all of these people, we will have to build as many new homes in the region as currently exist in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Coquitlam.
That’s a breathtaking number given the refusal of City Halls across the region to embrace density and remove the barriers to building new housing at reasonable prices for home buyers in the region.
Take North Vancouver District, for example. Under Mayor Mike Little, the District Council has been turning down virtually every development that comes before it. Their next test will be an Anthem Properties project, replacing 114 50-year-old, worn-out townhouses with an innovative mix of 341 new townhomes and condos that includes 25 rent-to-own units (participants can apply 24 months of rent to a down payment), 56 long-term rentals, 33 below-market rentals (Hollyburn Family Services is helping pick the recipients), and a Habitat for Humanity unit.
Despite an 87% positive public comment rate at the project’s open house, housing advocates in North Vancouver are on pins and needles: district council’s parochialism and record of NIMBYism and anti-density is well-known. This is precisely the kind of development we need more of in the Lower Mainland, but there is little confidence the district will do the right thing.
Municipalities should be leading the way in driving increased supply and densification, but have shown little capacity to make the bold visionary decisions to see us through the current housing mess. And it’s time for the provincial and federal governments to stop acting like disinterested bystanders.
We are at a point where Victoria should use the proverbial stick and usher in a series of benchmarks on new home construction that are tangible along with penalties for cities that do not meet new housing supply targets.
The federal government’s fiscal leverage can also be helpful – federal matching dollars for rapid transit infrastructure should be strictly conditional on higher density commitments from both municipalities and the province.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it,” said Einstein. It’s time our elected officials at all levels opened their minds to new solutions – and make the tough (and necessary) decisions to increase housing supply. Failure to do so will condemn a generation of homebuyers to prices that will be out-of-reach throughout their lifetime.
THIS PAGE IS BEING UPDATED CONSTANTLY WITH NEW, RELEVANT INFORMATION – BOOKMARK IT
A new coronavirus is the cause of an outbreak of respiratory infections, now known as COVID-19. All British Columbians should be aware of the virus and how to prevent its spread. Unprecedented measures taken by government and business are causing this situation to change almost hourly. Here is information for ICBA members working in the construction sector (bookmark this page as we will be updating frequently).
Public Health and News Links
- BC Centre for Disease Control
- Health Canada
- Can you help BC Care Homes with excess personal protective equipment?
- Get B.C. news & business headlines every morning (free) by subscribing to The Fin
Information for Construction Employers
- ICBA hosts a free webinar April 9, focused on key construction issues:
- Construction has been ruled an essential service by the B.C. Government and will continue
- The Provincial Health Officer has released her guidance to construction sites operating during COVID-19
- (All construction sites must adhere to these rules – WorkSafeBC is checking).
- The Provincial Health Officer has released her guidance for work camps
- Full compliance with WorkSafeBC regulations must be observed. Here are guidelines from BCCSA.
- BC has issued a ministerial order shielding essential service businesses from liability if workers are exposed to COVID-19 on site, as long as the business was following the Provincial Health Officer’s guidance
- WorkSafeBC is allowing employers to defer payment of their Q1 2020 premiums by three months
- WorkSafeBC says Occupational First Aid certificates expiring March 1-June 30, 2020, will now be acceptable for 90 days past their expiry date
- Because inspection centres are closed, the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement Branch has extended expiring vehicle Certificates of Approval
- Several of our ICBA members have collaborated on this Site Safety document. Or check out Ledcor’s Site Safety protocols
- The CCA has published a set of COVID-19 standardized protocols
- NEW 4/8 – Vancouver Fire Department set out rules for Vancouver construction sites
Legal Advice for Construction Employers
- Legal guidance on force majeure and the doctrine of frustration in contracts from BC-based law firm Gall Legge Grant Zwack
- What employers need to know about temporary layoffs and how to provide a proper Record of Employment for employees impacted by the pandemic
- Legal guidance to B.C. Employers re COVID-19 Layoffs from BC-based law firm Gall Legge Grant Zwack
- Legal guidance regarding contractual obligations, from BC-based law firm Clark Wilson
- Clark Wilson has a wealth of pandemic-related legal guidance for businesses
- Legal guidance on the CCDC 2 stipulated price contracts from BC-based law firm Jenkins Marzban Logan
- Government of B.C.’s page on how to handle absences and other disruptions
- Federal guidance on EI procedures
Government Aid For Employers
Both the federal and provincial governments are working on financial aid for employers – we are working the phones hard to share construction’s perspective. ICBA is a founding member of the COVID-19 Business Cabinet. Here is what we know so far:
- Federal measures:
- NEW 4/8 – Businesses will receive a payroll subsidy of 75% (The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy)
- It is open to corporations, businesses, partnerships and non-profits – no matter how large or small
- NEW 4/8 – Revenues originally had to be 30% less than same month last year. This has changed: monthly decline will have to be 15%, and businesses can choose to use January/February as reference period instead
- The benefit will cover up to 75% of workers’ salaries on the first $58,700 earned annually
- The maximum benefit will be $847 per week, per worker
- The subsidy will be backdated to March 15
- Employers must attest that they are doing everything they can to pay other 25%, although it’s unclear how this will be determined
- It will take six weeks for this money to make it out to companies; there are business credit programs available
- Applications will go through a Canada Revenue Agency portal, which will be up and running “within 3-6 weeks.” WATCH FOR DETAILS
- NEW 4/8 – Businesses hiring summer students can claim a federal subsidy of up to 100% of their province’s minimum wage
- GST payments can be deferred to June
- Banks instructed to offer lines of credit of up to $40,000 to business, guaranteed by the federal government. Interest-free for first year, with up to $10,000 forgivable. WATCH FOR DETAILS
- Economic Development Canada will guarantee up to 80% of operating cash flow loans negotiated with banks.
- The Business Development Bank of Canada has upped its financing for entrepreneurs and employers during this crisis
- Individuals’ AND businesses’ income tax filing deadline has been extended to June 1. Payments not due until September. Audits suspended until mid-April.
- There are a series of existing programs that may be helpful
- Guidance for workers on EI vs. the Emergency Response Benefit; Emergency Benefit applications HERE
- NEW 4/8 – Businesses will receive a payroll subsidy of 75% (The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy)
- Provincial (B.C.) measures:
- Deferred payment programs for ICBC and BC Hydro. Hydro also reducing rate by 1%.
- Employer Health Tax, PST, municipal and regional district tax, motor fuel tax, and carbon tax (all for businesses) filings and payments deferred until Sept. 30, 2020
- 50% school tax cut for business and light- and major-industry property classes
- Great list of help programs for businesses and individuals
ICBA’s Commitment to Our Members
- We are committed to helping you facilitate solutions in your company – we are already at work on the federal and provincial governments to do right by construction companies and the families who rely on them
- Our ICBA services – including ICBA Benefits and the Construction Industry’s Benefit Plan – continue and are as seamless as possible during this time
ICBA Benefits and the Construction Industry’s Benefit Plan/Hour Bank
- ICBA Benefits, our group health benefits company – main site | COVID-19 specific information
- CIBP, our hour bank benefits company – main site | COVID-19 specific information
- ICBA Training has cancelled all in-person training courses, however our online catalogue is still available
- Technical Safety BC and BC Construction Safety Alliance have cancelled all exams and closed down in-person training
If You Are Concerned You Have The Virus:
- Use this self-assessment tool: https://covid19.thrive.health/
- Call the COVID-19 hotline: 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) for non-medical advice
- Call 811 for medical advice
If You Have Been Out-of-Country in the Past Few Weeks:
- Self-quarantine for 14 days, as ordered by the BC Ministry of Health
Homebound? Try one of ICBA’s Online Courses
- Kudos to our ICBA member companies who are using the ICBA online training options to keep their workers trained during shutdowns. Check out ICBA.ca/online or talk to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you with bulk course registrations for your workers (these are now open to all British Columbians). We’re in this together!
- NEW 4/7 – ICBA has also launched a series of free webinars at icba.ca/webinars
Vanessa and Jordan talk about how COVID-19 is affecting everyday life, both in construction and at home. And we highlight four recent meetings we had, with Corporate Electric, Centre Electric, Concord Painting and City Projects. Plus kids sports talk…