It's payback time: construction bill could bring relief to shortchanged trades, suppliers.

Author:Ross, Ian
 
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Ontario's construction sector is waiting on a private member's bill to create a level playing field when it comes to subcontractors getting paid on time.

While most employers pay their workers on a regular basis, things aren't as clear in Ontario's construction industry where subcontractors can go months without receiving a dime. "Construction is unique in a few areas that you couldn't get away with in any other industry" said Jeff Koller, compliance officer for the Ontario Construction Finishing Industries Alliance. "It's a competitive market and the issue of delinquent payment has gone on for decades."

A 2013 report prepared by Prism Economics and Analysis calls the practice of late payment "widespread" in the province's construction sector.

Liberal MPP Steven Del Duca's Bill 69 could be the remedy if it wasn't stalled at the provincial committee level.

Known as the Prompt Payment Act, it would require developers and prime contractors to pay their bills to lower end sub-contractors and tradespeople within a reasonable time frame, likely 30 days.

The language hasn't been drawn up but there are many industry voices that say this practice won't fix itself without legislation.

Vaughan MPP Del Duca, formerly with the Carpenter's District Council of Ontario, has all-party support at Queen's Park for Bill 69, but his bill has been mysteriously hung up at the provincial standing committee on regulations and private bills since May.

The current legislative session is on hiatus and Del Duca's office was closed over the Christmas holidays.

Should the bill ever pass, it would be the first legislation of its kind in Canada.

Most U.S. states have enacted such legislation on publicly-funded projects and 31 have laws for private projects. The United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand have similar measures in place.

Among those endorsing Bill 69 are the Ontario General Contractors Association, the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Ontario Construction Secretariat.

On large projects, the vertical supply chain and the trickle-down flow of cash almost lends itsel.f to late payment problems.

The Prism report said most owners, developers and top-level contractors abide by their contractual payment schedules, but some delay payments--possibly to finance their next project--which has a cascading effect on workers and material suppliers further below

Those higher up will claim work was deficient or that money from a...

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