FarSight Homes gives back to New Tecumseth charities


FarSight Homes continues to support the community through its Christmas fund initiative. This year marked the company’s sixth year giving back to local groups and charities, and to date, over $100,000 has been raised by the fund. New Tecumseth Mayor Rick Milne (left) is pictured with Rick Schickedanz, Our Town Food Bank president Robin Hawkes, Bob Schickedanz and Adjala-Tosorontio Mayor Floyd Pinto. – Carly Caswell photo


FarSight Homes held its annual Christmas Fund cheque presentation ceremony on Tuesday April 17.

Over the holidays, the developer asked its contractors and suppliers to donate to FarSight’s Christmas fund, and for each donation made, company president Richard Shickedanz and his brother Bob both matched the donation, tripling the total contribution.

This year marked the company’s sixth year of giving back to local organizations, and to date, over $100,000 has been raised.

Builders welcome Ontario budget action on housing supply

 


Measures announced in Ontario’s budget this week will boost the province’s home building according to an industry body. The Ontario Home Builders’ Association says it welcomes the government’s budget which it says focuses on cutting red tape and streamlining approvals through the Housing Supply Action Plan.

“This government recognizes that more homes equals better affordability,” said Joe Vaccaro, CEO, OHBA. “By cutting red tape, the government is taking a practical approach to creating more housing supply and choice by bringing new housing to the market faster.”

The budget includes provisions to expand transit links across the province.

“The Ontario Home Builders’ Association welcomes the historic investments the provincial budget is making to expand transit in communities across Ontario. Builders look forward to working in partnership with the provincial government to adopt a market-driven approach to transit-oriented development and creating new housing supply and commercial centres,” said Vaccaro.

ANALYSIS: Has fire safety improved in Ontario since fatal blaze? Fire at Muskoka Heights Retirement Residence claimed four lives

Have fire safety measures improved in Ontario in the decade since a deadly blaze erupted at an Orillia retirement home?

The arrival on Jan. 1, 2019 of a regulation mandating sprinklers in care facilities suggests the province is moving in the right direction, said veteran fire chief Ralph Dominelli.

There are loopholes that need to be closed,” Dominelli told Simcoe.com.

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As he approached his April 30 retirement, Dominelli recalled vividly the January 2009 fire that killed four people and left several others critically injured.

“It has affected many members of the department and it is still in the back of their heads,” he told Simcoe.com.

The retirement home did not have automatic sprinklers, which were not required at the time despite the effectiveness of such devices in reducing damage and loss of life.

“We know it probably would have saved lives if this regulation would have came into effect earlier,” Dominelli said.

Automatic sprinklers were among 39 recommendations made by a coroner’s jury following the Muskoka Heights inquest.

It was the fourth coroner’s jury since 1980 to call for sprinklers in nursing and retirement homes.

 

Only now are they mandated, the province having allowed facilities time to retrofit after regulations changed to reflect the recommendations of the inquest.

(Sprinklers aren’t required in a building of three stories or less and with sleeping accommodations for no more than four people, so long as there are interconnected smoke alarms.)

Orillia care facilities were ahead of the curve in adapting prior to the change coming into effect, with one alone investing more than $100,000 in its system.

“A lot of the homes, they are old and to retrofit them, it’s not just installing the sprinklers,” Dominelli said, adding the upgrade may require a larger connection to the municipal water main.

In addition to sprinklers, a dozen other recommended measures have since been adopted, while several others have been partially implemented.

Homes must now have sufficient supervisory staff at night and conduct annual evacuation drills under the watch of their local fire department, along with monthly fire drills.

“Muskoka Heights, the night of that fire, there was only one person on for 21 residents,” said Dominelli, adding the staff member “did the best she could with the situation she was faced with.”

The sprinkler regulation applies to ‘vulnerable occupancies’, including long-term care facilities and retirement homes.

While these changes are needed and welcome, Dominelli and others are urging the province to look beyond care facilities to keep Ontarians safe.

All new residential homes should be equipped with sprinklers, they argue.

“Most of our fatalities in the province right now are in residential homes, with approximately 35 per cent with no smoke alarms or non-working (alarms),” Dominelli added.

The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs continues to advocate for mandatory sprinklers in new home construction, said president Cynthia Ross Tustin.

Until then, prospective buyers should consider asking builders to equip their homes, she argues.

“Quite frankly, the average person would rather think about having a nice bathroom or granite counter tops than the chance that they could not escape a horrendous fire,” Ross Tustin added.

Modern building materials, while more economical, burn faster than materials in older homes, she added.

“In new-construction homes, you’ve got between three and four minutes to get out of them,” Ross Tustin said.

Dominelli acknowledges that incorporating sprinklers into a new build comes at a financial cost ¬— estimated at between $1 and $2 per square foot.

Yet he views it as a relatively small expense given the life-saving potential.

“You could get your sprinklers done for less than upgrading to hardwood,” he said.

Joe Vaccaro, chief executive officer for the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, said cost isn’t the only factor.

“Conceptually, everyone jumps at it,” Vaccaro said. “But when you do the technical work around it there are questions that have to be answered, which (are): What’s the right design? What are we trying to achieve with the implementation?

“Are we talking about a sprinkler system that knocks down a fire, or are we talking about a sprinkler system that simply provides a pathway to exit the building?” he added.

Whenever the issue is examined within the industry, “generally, the decision is not to bring them forward, because there is lots of other fire safety improvements that we have made in the last 10 years,” he added.

The requirement for hard-wired smoke detectors is one such advancement, he said.

Vaccaro suspects the debate around mandatory sprinklers will become a national discussion as Ottawa moves to harmonize building code regulations across Canada.   

“It’s a technical discussion around that table to say, what is going to give us the best benefit on the issue of fire safety?” he added.

Ontario Closes the Book on Cap and Trade Carbon Tax Era

Ontario’s government is working for the people in taking the final step to end the cap and trade carbon tax once and for all in a way that puts people first and respects Ontario taxpayers.

The government has finalized the compensation for the eligible participants of the former program, which amounts to a total of $5,090,000. This is consistent with the government’s initial estimate of the final costs and commitment to wind down the program in a responsible way that minimizes impacts to hardworking taxpayers.

“This closes the book on the cap and trade carbon tax era in Ontario. But in one week, the federal government will impose a brand-new job-killing carbon tax, punishing the hardworking people of Ontario,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Our government remains part of a growing coalition of provinces across Canada that oppose this cash-grab, which raises the cost of essentials like home heating and gasoline.”

“While some cited that the wind down of cap and trade would cost taxpayers billions of dollars, we are delivering on our commitment to an orderly and transparent wind down of the cap and trade program that respects taxpayers,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “This will be the final chapter in our promise to Ontario families to eliminate the ineffective cap and trade program, putting up to $260 per household back in the pockets of the people of Ontario.”

Notices of the final compensation were sent to participants who applied under the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018.

“Ontario remains committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, fighting climate change and protecting our environment without a carbon tax,” said Phillips. “Solutions such as our proposed emissions performance standards, a key part of our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, will help us achieve Ontario’s share of our emission reduction targets, while recognizing the unique circumstances of our economy. After all, you can fight climate change without a carbon tax.”

Quick Facts

  • On October 31, Ontario passed the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018 that officially removed Ontario’s cap and trade program law from the books.
  • The total compensation amount is $5,090,000 for a total of 27 participants.
  • The federal carbon tax will cost a typical household $258/year in 2019 and will rise to $648 by 2022.
  • The federal carbon tax on fuels takes effect in April. It will increase the price of gasoline in Ontario by 4.4 cents per litre. This will rise to 6.6 cents in 2020, 8.8 cents in 2021, and 11.1 cents per litre in April 2022.
  • The federal carbon tax will increase the price of natural gas in Ontario by 3.9 cents per cubic metre. This increase will rise to 5.9 cents in 2020, 7.8 cents in 2021, and 9.8 cents per cubic metre in April 2022.
  • As outlined in Ontario’s environment plan, Ontario is committed to meeting its share of Canada’s 2030 target. From 2005 to 2016, Ontario reduced its emissions by about 22 per cent.

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Attracting Young People to Skilled Trades

Addressing labour shortages in Ontario’s construction industry. Tuesday, March 26, 2019 By Zandile Chiwanza

As the demand grows for skilled labour throughout Ontario, recruiting and retaining young people in the trades is a topic at the forefront of key stakeholders’ minds. Earlier this month the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) and the Ontario Residential Council of Construction Associations (ORCCA) hosted an event in downtown Toronto to examine the issue of the skills shortage in the construction industry.

Setting the tone for the event, Ontario’s Education Minister Lisa Thompson reinforced the government’s commitment to supporting students and guiding them into successful careers in the trades sector.

“We need to build a foundation for guidance counsellors and students so that they know there are opportunities ahead when they embrace construction,” Thompson said in her keynote speech.

Promoting a culture shift
“What I hear from our members in the construction sector is that the number one challenge that they have is a shortage of talent,” Janet De Silva, Toronto Region Board of Trade president and CEO said in the panel discussion.

In order to harness the full potential of skilled trades, Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini told attendees that key players in the industry need to have the courage to implement a real “culture shift.”

“If we don’t act we’ll have over 5,000 jobs that will go unfilled by 2021,” Piccini warned.

According to a report Retaining Employees In The Skilled Trades (REST), prepared by Job Talks and Q.I Value Systems Inc., the trades boast high job satisfaction levels. Yet, recruitment remains a challenge. The research finds that many construction workers and industry stakeholders agree that the industry has a marketing problem.

Here are some of the recommendations highlighted in the REST report to attract young people to the skilled trades industry:

  • Leverage the industry’s massive network in recruitment;
  • Integrate construction early in the education system;
  • Invest in high-quality media production; and
  • Mobilize companies and associations to address retention.

The panellists added to these suggestions when Janet McFarland, a Globe and Mail reporter who served as moderator of the panel discussion, polled them on how the industry can overcome the stigma that trades are not for straight A students or the academically inclined.

“Challenge the ingrained bias against the trades from a grassroots level,” De Silva urged.

Lindsay McCardle co-author of The Behavioral Economics (BE) approach to recruitment report, agreed. Aside from stigma, negative parental influence is a major deterrent for young people considering a career in skilled trades.

“Having the general public including parents have a better understanding of what is involved in these jobs can change the misconceptions that employees in the trades industries lack intelligence or problem-solving skills,” said McCardle.

Co-written by James Stewart, this report highlights steps guidance counsellors, career development organizations and training institutions can implement to attract young people to the skilled trades through eight best-practice examples.

McCardle said BE principles can be applied to recruitment in construction in a tangible way by getting the community to think “trades first”. This kind of pre-commitment will have a big impact on students.

“Get into schools as early as the elementary stage to enhance access to information,” agreed Patrick McCanus, director of government relations and communications at Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association and chair of Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance. “And put more direct information into the hands of guidance counsellors.

“There are more options than plumbing, carpentry and electrical. There are hundreds of trades and were not advertising them well enough,” he added.

The next steps in closing the skills gap in the trades industry
“The crux of the skilled trades gap issue is that we’ve lived with the mantra that wage will draw growth in our sector,” McManus said.

In his opinion, the industry needs to find more innovative approaches to attract young people to skilled trades.

“I’m sure most people in this room go home and continue to work; that’s become more common,” he pointed out. “Promote that there is true work-life balance in the construction industry.”

McManus also emphasized the importance of moving towards stackable and modular training and competency-based training to continue to remove barriers of entry into the trades.

McCardle noted that guidance counsellors are strapped for time and don’t get to do a lot of career guidance because they’re focused on supporting mental health and handling crises for example. She calls for a distinct type of guidance counsellor, solely focused on careers.

“Separating those two roles and responsibilities could help to place more emphasis on professional development,” she said.

The youngest panellist, Julia Zahreddine, site supervisor, Bridgecon Construction Ltd, recalled that the careers class in her high school didn’t highlight any skilled trades. She was drawn to the industry when the Heavy Construction Association of Toronto came to her class for a school visit.

“I’m here because I had the opportunity to apply for a scholarship,” Zahreddine said.

As a recent graduate and a young person who has worked in the heavy civil construction industry for more than a year now, she insisted investment in scholarships, co-op programs and active marketing will influence and attract a diverse group of young people to the industry. As one example, she cited an interview series profiling careers in the skilled construction trades, produced by Job Talks, in which she appears.

Currently, the average age of an apprentice is 27. As a wave of retirements looms, it’s important to help people interested in the trades find the applicable career pathways much sooner,  at 18 or 19 years old.

Panellists explored several ideas on how to continue to introduce trades to young people as a viable career option. As a final thought, they all agreed that pathways into the industry need to be improved and simplified by focusing and centralizing information in order to successfully target millennials and ensure a future workforce.

Zandile Chiwanza is the online editor of Facility Cleaning and Maintenance and Canadian Property Management. 

Photo courtesy of Aonghus Kealy, director of communications, RESCON. Tags: