The Canadian mechanical contracting sector is key to the health of Canadians, and a vital contributor to a healthy Canadian economy. Across Canada, mechanical contracting firms install, maintain, and service and repair the critical systems Canadians have come to rely on in our homes and places of business (including HVAC, plumbing, wastewater, and refrigeration), while ensuring our critical infrastructure (such as wastewater treatment, clean drinking water, and major energy generation projects) operates efficiently and effectively.

As the government continues to invest in housing, while also eyeing the built environment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Canada’s mechanical contracting sector must be considered essential partners in these efforts.

The Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC) is pleased to provide the following prebudget submission, outlining policy recommendations to enhance Canada’s built environment, while supporting a key sector of the Canadian economy and the Canadian construction industry.

Click below to read more:

Over the past several years, the federal government has made a commitment to encourage more underrepresented groups to join the skilled trades. Women, despite making up 50 per cent of the Canadian workforce, only represent about 5 per cent of on-site workers in the Canadian construction industry. Supporting access to gender-specific personal protective equipment (PPE) is an important way for the federal government to remove a unique barrier to women’s participation in the skilled trades.

Wearing ill-suited PPE is a significant safety issue for women in the trades. A 2022 report from the CSA Group found that:

  • 58 per cent of women use PPE that is the wrong size at least some of the time;
  • 28 per cent don’t wear all the required PPE because of fit issues; and
  • 38 per cent use a workaround to make their PPE fit.

The cost of gender-specific PPE for women can cost up to twice as much as that of their male counterparts. This disparity in cost can be a barrier to entry to the skilled trades for many young women.

To increase participation, representation, and safety for women in construction, offsetting costs to address these barriers is key. The federal tradesperson’s tools expenses deduction is an excellent model for reducing these costs.

To ensure there is harmony and predictability with infrastructure investments and the supply of labour to meet demand, there needs to be strong coordination between government agencies and industry.

Committed, structured and consistent consultation with industry will alleviate these issues and give a more realistic perspective on what can be delivered on a year-to-year basis. The creation of a joint inter-departmental and industry advisory group that includes representatives from relevant federal departments, industry stakeholders, and provincial/municipal representation to examine ongoing infrastructure investment needs and plan for the expansion of labour and market capacity.

The launch of the Low Carbon Training program through the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program in September 2023 was a good first step for government to partner with industry to teach low-carbon strategies and solutions. To ensure the country is well-positioned to meet its 2030 and 2050 reduction targets, this program should be further expanded to include specific training for major trade contractors in Canada’s construction industry.

Together with other major trade contractors, Canada’s mechanical contractors will play a critical role in helping building owners apply low-carbon technologies to new construction and building retrofits. Given the critical role these trade contractors play on any given construction project, it is imperative that any low-carbon training address major trade contractors. The Government of Canada should work with the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada and its partners in the expansion of the Low Carbon Training Program for major trade contractors in the Canadian construction industry.

The federal government has developed robust strategies for incentivizing construction, but has not taken comprehensive steps to encourage workforce development in the mechanical trades or other skilled trades. The National Housing Strategy and Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan are both examples of market-aware investment plans that will stimulate construction. Neither provides a pathway or plan to create the workforce needed to complete the construction work that they promote.

The government has taken this initiative in other sectors, and should do the same for construction. Most notably, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada has begun the process of delivering a National Agricultural Labour Strategy. The “What We Heard Report” of that strategy emphasized the following opportunities to address labour challenges:

  • Recruitment
  • Retention
  • Skills
  • Automation and Technology
  • Capacity Building
  • Immigration and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

These opportunities are the same topics that the federal government needs to show leadership on to support the mechanical trades and construction sector. All federal policies related to construction incentives and transfers to other orders of government should strongly consider the preparation and capacity of the needed workforce to deliver those desired results.

Organizations such as BuildForce Canada have already undertaken significant work in this area. Data alone is not enough. Our industry needs the federal government to show leadership and to convene partners from the provinces and multiple affected departments to ensure the Canadian economy has the skills it needs to tackle today’s biggest challenges.

Support from the federal government would allow for the creation of a Construction Labour Strategy that benefits from the direct input of representatives of the skilled trades.

The Red Seal Program sets common standards to assess the skills of tradespeople across Canada. It is a partnership between the federal government and provinces and territories, which are responsible for apprenticeship training and trade certification in their jurisdictions. The program bridges jurisdictional challenges to help improve the movement of skilled workers between jurisdictions to support local labour forces when economic conditions require more skilled workers. We are facing a Canada-wide, long-term demand for skilled workers in the mechanical trades. Helping skilled workers bridge the knowledge gaps between Red Seal and foreign credentials will provide robust pathways to upskilling for new Canadians.

The Foreign Credentials Recognition Program (FCRP) has made strides in this regard, but has done so without standardization across jurisdictions, and unevenly across various partner organizations. Urgent action is needed for greater alignment of foreign credential recognition in Canadian jurisdictions and to bridge any gaps between the Red Seal program and foreign credentials.