COVID-19 AND THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

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Ontario Announces COVID-19 “Resilience” Infrastructure Funding

By Attorney Jeremy Power

In Toronto last week, Premier Doug Ford announced funding for infrastructure projects in the province. Ontario will provide up to $1.05 billion in combined federal and provincial funds through the new “COVID-19  Resilience Infrastructure Stream” , aiming to  build or renovate health and safety related projects in long-term care, education and municipalities. The announcement comes at a time when there is mounting uncertainty regarding the short-term health of the construction industry in the province, as a recent Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS) survey focusing on the civil and engineering sectors finds contractors are experiencing concerns around the second wave of COVID-19 but are also worried about the drop in tenders and projects to bid on, especially municipal projects.

According to Ford and his Infrastructure Minister, Laurie Scott, the funding is meant to get “shovels in the ground”, while providing much needed upgrades to infrastructure in light of the pandemic’s seemingly never-ending challenges. Ford also re-iterated that the funding would create “hundreds” of construction jobs, while supporting Ontario businesses and suppliers. Eligible projects under the Resilience Stream will fall under these four main categories:

  1. Community, recreation, health and education renovations (e.g. retrofits, repairs or upgrades to long-term care homes, publicly funded schools and co-located childcare centre facilities, recreation centres or shelters);
  2. COVID-19 response infrastructure (e.g. heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, new builds or renovations to enable physical distancing);
  3. Active transportation (e.g. parks, trails); and
  4. Disaster mitigation, adaptation, or remediation (e.g. flood mitigation).

The focus on education upgrades already has the lion’s share of the funding, with Minister Scott stating that up to $700 million of the fund will be for education-related projected to be nominated and administered by the Ministry of Education. Eligible projects must begin by September 30, 2021, and be completed by December 31, 2021. Whether or not this announcement will affect the OCS outlook for the near term remains to be seen, but it should be welcome news for a construction sector in Ontario that faces an uncertain future.

Additional details about this program will be available in coming weeks, at which point we will provide an update regarding how to access this program.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Written by Jeremy Power, a lawyer in Cotney Construction Law’s Toronto office. To contact Jeremy, please email  jpower@cotneycl.com.