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REACTION: Decompartmentalizing of construction trades does not go far enough

Montreal, February 1st, 2024 – Bill 51, tabled today by Labour Minister Jean Boulet, lacks ambition according to a Montreal Economic Institute researcher.

“The rigidity of the regulations around construction trades in Quebec means that many more workers are needed to complete each project,” explains Gabriel Giguère, public policy analyst at the MEI. “The decompartmentalization proposed by Minister Boulet is a very small step, while the challenge we’re facing is enormous.”

Quebec has 25 construction trades requiring certification, versus just seven in Ontario.

The bill proposes to allow workers with the status of journeyperson to carry out tasks currently reserved to a trade other than their own, insofar as those tasks do not involve structural work, operating heavy machinery, or specialties like plumbing and electricity.

The bill maintains training and certification requirements for the 25 trades with compulsory certification, delaying the entry of new workers in trades which, elsewhere in the country, require no particular training.

The researcher questions, among other things, the relevance of imposing 900 hours of training, spread out over eight months, to become a house painter, for example, in a context in which the construction industry is lacking almost 10,000 workers.

“It’s not with Minister Boulet’s reform that we will succeed in building the million housing units needed to return to affordable price levels,” says Mr. Giguère. “The government has to go back to the drawing board and propose something more ambitious, because the current bill doesn’t do nearly enough.”

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Quebec will need 1.19 million new housing units by 2030 in order to return to 2004 affordability levels.

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The MEI is an independent public policy think tank with offices in Montreal and Calgary. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.

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