June 15, 2012

Merit stakes ground on Parliament Hill

This year was the first time Merit Canada’s International Open Shop Conference was held in Ottawa and members took the opportunity to speak with politicians when they were in the nation’s capital.

Prior to the conference, Merit Canada hosted a lobby day where 50 contractors from across Canada went to Parliament Hill and met with over 65 parliamentarians.

Important priorities for Merit Canada’s membership include Bill C-377, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (labour organizations) , immigration reform and creating an open tendering policy for public infrastructure. Merit Canada president Terrance Oakey said the lobby day was well-received.

“Up until this point, Merit Canada has been myself and others going in and having meetings and briefing MPs on our industry, but we haven’t seen contractors themselves come in to Ottawa,” he said.

“It was nice [for MPs] to hear, from their own constituents, that they are supportive of what we’ve been advocating.”

Merit Canada was established in November 2008 as a united national voice for eight different provincial open shop construction associations. It succeeded the Canadian Coalition of Open Shop Construction Associations, formed in 1999 to challenge the constitutionality of a compulsory union membership requirement to work in the Quebec construction industry.

Though the House of Commons summer recess is fast approaching, Oakey said Merit Canada will keep its interests front and centre.

“Merit Canada will continue to meet with parliamentarians before the summer recess to ensure the concerns of the open shop sector of the construction industry are heard,” added Oakey.

“Our members will also be attending summer events with Members of Parliament and our advertising campaign on C-377 will also continue over the summer months as well,” he said, referring to Merit Canada’s national ad campaign which asks “Why is big labour afraid of the light?”

It has been a little over a year since Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have held a majority government and that has helped open shop contractors.

“I think there’s a few initiatives that the government likely would have done earlier, but maybe weren’t able to get support from the opposition parties,” explained Oakey.

“If you look at the repeal of the fair wage schedules, which discriminates against open shop contractors, that’s something that we had been told by other ministers of labour that they were looking at acting on, but it’s never happened. That I think is a signature moment for the government, given that they have a majority.”

His message to the Conservatives is to stay on track.

“We are asking the government to continue with their changes to the immigration system and temporary foreign workers program to align them with the needs of employers, ensure C-377 is studied at Finance Committee and passed once that study is complete and institute an ‘open tendering” policy for public infrastructure when federal money is involved.”

The government is expected to break for summer at the end of June, if the Conservatives’ budget bill is passed.

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