Harris tables Fair and Open Tendering Act to end labour monopolies

QUEEN’S PARK — Today, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris tabled the Fair and Open Tendering Act, which, if passed, would preserve and maintain competitive bidding for public infrastructure projects tendered by Ontario municipalities and school boards.

“My private member’s bill is based on two fundamental principles. The first is fairness. I believe all Ontarians, regardless of their affiliation with a particular union, should have the right to work on publicly funded infrastructure projects,” Harris said at a media conference today.

“The second is open competition. When all qualified unionized and open-shop companies have the opportunity to compete for contracts to build bridges, new schools and other public buildings, municipalities and school boards can ensure taxpayers get the highest quality work at the lowest possible cost.”

Harris’s bill would prevent municipalities and school boards from becoming trapped in labour monopolies by exempting them from the construction-sector provisions in the Labour Relations Act. Over the years, certain unions have successfully exploited a legal loophole in Ontario’s outdated labour laws that allows them to certify municipalities and school boards as if they were construction companies.

Once this happens, these public-sector employers are required, by law, to contract out all publicly funded infrastructure projects to companies organized by a specific union. This unfair practice, on average, restricts 70% of qualified contractors from working on public projects and increases infrastructure costs by 40%.

Certain unions have already trapped several public-sector employers in labour monopolies, including: Hamilton, Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie and the Greater Essex County School Board. And now, the Region of Waterloo is at risk of becoming the next victim of this legal loophole at a cost of roughly $78 million a year.

“Labour monopolies drain millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money out of communities every year that should be used to improve the level of services and quality of life for residents,” Harris concluded. “It’s not fair to Ontario taxpayers to have the cost of projects escalate simply because our outdated labour laws prevent open competition. That’s why I’m calling on all members of the Legislative Assembly to join me in supporting the Fair and Open Tendering Act.”

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