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Jean Boulet prepares for the battle of construction reform

Photo: Christine Muschi The Canadian Press “What interests me a lot is that we reduce construction times, that we lower costs and that we have a better connection between Quebec's capacity to build and the immense needs,” argued the Minister Jean Boulet on Thursday.

Marco Bélair-Cirino in Sherbrooke

January 25, 2024

  • Quebec

Quebec Minister of Labor Jean Boulet prefers to speak of “reform” and “modernization” rather than “revolution”. The fact remains that this winter he will undertake, in his own words, “the most important revision” of the Act respecting labor relations, vocational training and workforce management in the construction industry. The union and employer associations are already on a war footing.

Mr. Boulet will table a bill next week which should “help” the construction industry “better respond to the needs of Quebecers”, starting with those working in the energy and battery sectors, a- he indicated a few days before the resumption of work at the National Assembly.

“What interests me a lot is that we reduce construction times, that we lower costs and that we have a better connection between Quebec's capacity to build and the needs immense. […] It’s the early childhood centers, it’s the houses, it’s the housing, the hospitals, the schools…” he argued in the press scrum.

The Quebec government also wants to “ensure that major industrial projects come to fruition in regions” that are devitalized or experiencing a labor shortage. “You know, with the battery sector, the energy sector, there are labor needs. So, the bill will focus on this reality,” remarked Mr. Boulet, hammering out key words like “versatility”, “flexibility” and “mobility”.

The CEO alone of Hydro-Québec, Michael Sabia, says he needs 35,000 more workers for a period of 10 to 15 years starting in 2026, mentioned Prime Minister François Legault. “For the future of Quebec, it will be very important to train and convince more people to train in construction,” he affirmed, saying he had “a lot of ambition” for the state-owned company.

“We expect that there will be projects that will be launched in the coming years at Hydro-Québec, it will be a historic volume of work, and therefore of labor needs. So, it poses a huge challenge in construction,” added Mr. Legault, not ruling out the idea of ​​extending the accelerated and paid training program in the construction sector.

“We are going to need more people than ever in the region, so those who are already there will have work to do. Then, we will have to convince people to move to the region because we will have a lot of work in the region,” he continued.

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“Task sharing”

Minister Jean Boulet points to a productivity gap of 9% between Quebec and the rest of Canada (to the disadvantage of Quebec), and another of 11.6% between Quebec and Ontario, which “must be filled “.

To achieve this, it intends in particular to encourage “a certain sharing of tasks” between some of the workers in the 25 construction trades listed in the law — tinsmiths, refrigeration engineers, carpenters, plasterers , painters, tilers, etc. —, which will not be done by shouting scissors. Moreover, he invites union and employer associations to participate in the consultation on his bill, which he already describes as “perfectable”, even before having tabled it in the National Assembly.

“There is no question of affecting working conditions,” repeated Mr. Boulet, before adding: “I think we need to review the work organization in particular, take an interest in the access of new people. »

Women, immigrants, indigenous people or disabled people as well as visible minorities are “underrepresented” on construction sites, he emphasizes. “We must allow the carpenter who arrives from Ukraine or the painter who arrives from Colombia to come and work in construction and that we recognize their skills, their experiences and their training. It’s through a legislative change that we do that,” he explained.

Could his bill contain “quotas” intended to increase the presence of women on construction sites ? They currently constitute 3.65% of workers in the sector. “I won’t go into details of that nature,” Mr. Boulet simply replied on the sidelines of the pre-sessional caucus of elected officials from the Coalition Avenir Québec, in Sherbrooke.

The CCQ in Boulet’s sights

Jean Boulet also plans to legislate in order to “rethink” the “mission” of the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ). The goal is that “there will be a lot more transparency and collaboration.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116