Barrie Construction Association concerned how COVID-19 could affect supply chain and ability to finish projects on time

Need legislation to exempt contractors and sub-contractors from liability for project delays

Delays getting materials to job sites and possible shortages, related to the pandemic, are a concern for the Barrie Construction Association (BCA).

President Scott Garrett said Wednesday the BCA’s 400 member-companies are also worried that supply chain problems could delay construction projects and lead to penalties.

“First and foremost, we need to protect our workers – and also we need to protect our member companies from delay claims and completion clauses in contracts,” he said. “Contractually, companies…are obligated to finish by certain dates and at a certain time. If they invoke these clauses in contracts, it could literally bankrupt many, many companies.”

The BCA is involved in non-residential construction and related businesses – so this could affect general contractors, subcontractors like plumbers and electricians, heating and ventilating companies, but also associate members like architects and engineers, surveyors, consultants and insurance companies, what Garrett calls the ICI – industrial, commercial and institutional construction.

The Council of Ontario Construction Associations has recently drafted a letter to Premier Doug Ford and other Ontario cabinet ministers, asking for draft legislation to ensure that contractors in Simcoe County and across Ontario don’t get hit with these penalty clauses for being late or for delayed work.

“We need legislation to exempt contractors and sub-contractors from liability for project delays to the extent that they are caused directly or indirectly by the pandemic or pandemic response measures,” said Alison Smith, BCA executive director.

Disruptions to the supply chains which feed needed materials to construction sites are also a concern.

The Canada-US border is closed to tourists, shoppers and other non-essential travellers; not to trade, however. But supply chains are run by people, and if these people get the virus or decide to self-isolate, there would be fewer people doing the job.

“If it (COVID-19) continues to grow as it has in other countries, then both the American and Canadian governments will have to take further action, right, and what does that look like…maybe they’ll have to shut down everything,” Garrett said.

“Is that the next step? How does that affect not only our industry but our economy and the health of our province.”

The supply chain includes concrete for job sites, structural steel, heating ventilation and air conditioning equipment, IT cabling, door hardware and anything that’s manufactured outside North America that’s relied upon – including materials from China.

Despite the anxiety and fear caused by Covid-19, Garrett says there are stories which show the character of Canadians.

He went to Costco in Barrie Wednesday morning to buy some groceries for his parents. There was a 10-minute wait just to get into the store, but he was able to pick up chicken, fruits and vegetables.

“I’m really proud to say that through all of this people just seem to be treating people with a lot more patience and empathy,” Garrett said. “There’s no rushing and there’s no butting in line and there’s no ‘I was here first’, that kind of thing. So I’m really happy to say that it looks like everyone’s just getting along.

“It’s doing the best that we can, to get through this together. I think that speaks volumes to the quality of the people here in not only Barrie but in our province.”

Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an $82-billion aid package to help Canadians and businesses – including income supports, wage subsidies and tax deferrals.

It includes $27 billion in direct support and another $55 billion to help business liquidity through tax deferrals.

This aid aims to help Canadians pay for rent and groceries, to help businesses continue to meet payroll and pay bills and to stabilize the economy. It could start flowing in weeks, the PM said.