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On March 28, the Government of Canada released the 2023 Federal Budget, which included strong investments to build Canada’s green economy. The definition of prevailing wage outlined in this budget is one of the strongest in Canada’s history. Tying incentives to a prevailing wage that incorporates union compensation, including benefits and pension contributions, will raise workers’ living standards, maximize benefits for the entire economy and create good-paying, middle-class jobs as Canada transitions to sustainable energy.
The government has an opportunity to make significant progress towards Canada’s net-zero goals. We applaud Natural Resources Canada for obtaining and considering the diverse perspectives and impacts its net-zero strategy may have; now it is time to make bold moves to decarbonize buildings. Canada is falling behind on its Pan-Canadian Framework measures, and an increase in retrofit rates, from 1% to 3-5%, is required to reduce green-house gases emissions. For Canada to meet its goals, regulations must include time-bound commitments for net-zero emissions and energy efficiency standards.
Industry is ready to support this transition. We are ready to grow and meet the demand by welcoming Canadians into the skilled trades, and we will collaborate with the government to continue driving Canadians towards a career in the trades. Students, minority groups, new Canadians and transitioning workers should continue to be a priority.
As Canada pursues the retrofitting of all buildings to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, SMART members will play a critical role.
The Canada Green Buildings Strategy cannot leave any Canadian behind and must include cooperation with provincial, municipal and Indigenous governments, as well as appropriate provisions of support. Without a strategy to support low-income Canadians, Canada will not achieve net-zero emissions. These five million Canadians have been largely left out of the energy transition to date – even though low-income family dwellings tend to account for a significantly higher proportion of emissions in housing building stock. The green buildings strategy must also consider the unique characteristics and needs of Indigenous housing. We must continue to make this a priority.
On June 15, forward progress continued when the government tabled Bill C-50, which addresses Canada’s transition to a carbon neutral economy while supporting workers and creating sustainable jobs. Among other things, this bill would create a sustainable Jobs Partnership Council to encourage sustainable job creation and support workers and communities, as well as establish a Sustainable Jobs Action Plan and Secretariat. As Canada pursues the retrofitting of all buildings to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, SMART members will play a critical role. HVAC uses 35% of the energy in buildings (up to 65% in the residential sector); energy efficiency improvements will reduce carbon emissions. We must use our expertise and be a resource for local, provincial and the federal government in achieving sustainability goals.
To close: On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to thank retired General President Joseph Sellers for his years of dedication and service during a career of passion and advocacy, of representing workers in all sectors, from the local to the International level. You have been a strong leader and a voice for the inclusion of all workers in our organization, ensuring that we have each other’s back. The programs and initiatives that you fostered and promoted will be a great legacy for SMART. We wish you a long and healthy retirement, enjoying time for yourself and Beth along with friends and family!
SMART appreciates the federal government’s continued investment in the Union Training Innovation Program (UTIP) — a vehicle for new training dollars for our local unions and training centres. We were pleased with the additional language in the Fall Economic Statement linking tax subsidies and credits for green energy technologies in the private sector to good-paying, middle class jobs with commitments to apprenticeships. We recommend that the eligibility of the tax credit is dependent on meeting prevailing wage requirements. The prevailing wage should be determined by the best total wage package (including benefits and pension) available in the province, to ensure the creation of the best job opportunities and attract Canadians to the skilled trades.
Also announced in the Fall Economic Statement: the Investment Tax Credits for Clean Tech and Clean Hydrogen, meant to make Canada competitive with the tax credits announced in the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act. The transition to net-zero is a once-in-a-lifetime economic shift, not seen since the industrial revolution. Let’s make sure Ottawa understands that these tax credits must be tied to the best wages and benefits for skilled trades workers. That includes creating more opportunities for apprentices and equity-deserving groups to start a career in the trades.
Other highlights from the Fall Economic Statement include:
$250M for sustainable jobs investments, including the creation of a new Sustainable Jobs Training Centre, a new sustainable jobs stream under the UTIP and a Sustainable Jobs Secretariat.
$26.3M over five years, starting in 2023-24, for the government to take stronger action against non-compliant employers through orders, fines and prosecutions to enforce the Canada Labour Code.
$1.02B to Service Canada to process EI and OAS claims faster while reducing the EI claims backlog, and $574 million to reduce EI and OAS call centre wait times.
Making all Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans permanently interest-free, including those currently being repaid, beginning on April 1, 2023.
Introducing two new refundable tax credits for the capital cost of investments in clean technologies and clean hydrogen production. For both tax credits, the government will incentivize companies to create good jobs by scaling access to the tax credit for companies that pay prevailing wages based on local labour market conditions and ensure that apprenticeship training opportunities are being created.
The announcement of the government’s intention to introduce a corporate-level 2% tax that would apply on the net value of all types of share buybacks by public corporations in Canada, similar to a recent measure introduced in the United States.
$137 million for the CBSA to enhance frontline capacity and hire additional officers to alleviate border pressures and prevent prohibited or restricted goods from entering Canada.
The transition to net-zero is a once-in-a-lifetime economic shift, not seen since the industrial revolution. Let’s make sure Ottawa understands that these tax credits must be tied to the best wages and benefits for skilled trades workers.
Thank you to all the members, building trades unions and staff who have been actively sending letters and lobbying on these issues. The Liberal/ NDP Cooperation Agreement in parliament has also been instrumental in these progressive initiatives.
Eastern Conference Meeting
On March 14, Locals 56, 409, 437 and 512 gathered in Sydney, Nova Scotia for the first of their biannual meetings. Topics included ongoing projects, happenings in each of the local areas, organizing and the upcoming Canadian Council of Sheet Metal Workers and Roofers, which will be held on July14–15, 2023 in Saskatchewan.
The Eastern Conference also held its first apprentice competition, established to help apprentices have a better understanding of what to expect at the national level. All three apprentices were very nervous at the start of the day but quickly eased into the program and worked hard to complete their project. Thank you to Local 56 for graciously hosting the conference and apprenticeship competition! A job well done by all. Congratulations to Alex Hachey, Nick Skerry and Mitch Campbell, who finished first, second and third, respectively.
Legislative Conference 2023
The theme of the Canadian Building Trades Unions legislative conference this May is “Building Jobs for Tomorrow.” There will be two workshops available to delegates. “Carbon Capture and Storage” will be presented by Pathways Alliance — an organization representing Canada’s six largest oil sands companies — on its project to build one of the world’s largest carbon capture and storage facilities in the oil sands region of northern Alberta. The other workshop is on hydrogen. We will hear from Bear Head Energy on Nova Scotia projects to produce green hydrogen and ammonia and the employment opportunities that such innovative projects will provide for our members in the construction industry.
According to the Canadian Hydrogen Strategy, hydrogen could meet 24% of global energy demand by 2050 and help Canada meet its climate goals. The hydrogen sector is expected to create 350,000 well-paying jobs over the next three decades. As Canada sets its target for net-zero emissions by 2050 and continues retrofitting all buildings across Canada, the need for our highly skilled members to carry out this work is vital. Our members can help reduce our carbon footprint.
Recognition of Dedication
On December 31, 2022, International Representative Mark Curtis retired after 42 years of active service.
During his distinguished career, Brother Curtis served the members of Local 276 (Victoria) as business manager/financial secretary-treasurer, president of the Canadian Council of Sheet Metal Workers & Roofers and in the International Association, where he sat as a General Executive Council member and third general vice president before being appointed as international representative for Western Canada.
Brother Curtis graduated from high school in 1977 and began his sheet metal apprenticeship in 1980, earning his journeyperson’s ticket in February 1985. He worked on the architectural side for various employers including Universal Sheet Metal, Peak Roofing, Central Sheet Metal and Victoria Shipyard. In 1999, he was elected as business manager of Local 276, a position he held until 2015, when he was appointed by then General President Joseph Nigro to represent Canada as an international representative.
Brother Curtis has worked tirelessly for architectural sheet metal to be recognized as a Red Seal trade in Canada. During his career he has represented on various industry committees and councils such as:
Liaison Dockyard Council
Vancouver Island Building and Construction Trades Council
Vancouver Island Metal Trades Council
Trustee of Local 276 Health Plan & Pension Plan
Vancouver Island Joint Apprenticeship Committee
Canadian Council of Sheet Metal Workers & Roofers
Local Union & Council Pension Plan Trustee (Canada)
Third General Vice President of the International Association
In February 2023, at a meeting of the Western Canadian Conference of Sheet Metal Workers & Roofers, Brother Curtis was presented with a plaque of recognition for his service. On behalf of all the members, thank you for your years of dedication and service, and may you have a long and healthy retirement enjoying time with your wife, Nola, your friends, family and especially the grandkids!