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Controversial EllisDon Bill Defeated In

Ontario Legislature


By Susanna Kelley

A controversial bill to allow one of Canada's largest construction companies, EllisDon, to use some non-union employees outside the Greater Toronto Area, died in the Ontario Legislature Tuesday.

While construction workers looked on from the public gallery, Liberal and NDP MPPs defeated Bill 74.

Building trades unions had objected to Bill 74, setting aside a 1958 agreement, signed by EllisDon, binding it to use only unionized workers for all building trades in Sarnia.

The agreement was broadened to include all of Ontario in 1980 by Dr. Bette Stephenson when she was Labour Minister in the Bill Davis PC government.

PC Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton introduced Bill 74 as a private member's bill.

EllisDon said it needed relief from the Ontario-wide provision in order to compete on a level playing field with other construction companies.

Premier Kathleen Wynne originally supported Bill 74.

EllisDon has been one of the Ontario Liberal Party's biggest donors for decades, and more recently, donated money to the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

However, those donations became a political hot potato for the Premier when it became apparent the Working Families organization opposed the bill.

Working Families is funded by several unions in Ontario. It has spent millions on campaign advertising opposing the Progressive Conservative Party, including leader Tim Hudak.

Mr. Hudak has blamed those ads for his election loss and Liberal victory under Dalton McGuinty in 2011. 

Caught between EllisDon and Working Families, Ms. Wynne eventually appeared to take the labour side and withdrew her support for the bill.

However, in a parallel process, the Ontario Sheet Metal Workers union is seeking leave to appeal a Divisional Court ruling that the construction giant be allowed to use non-union labour outside the GTA - the same thing as Bill 74 would have allowed.

Both sides will watch that court case closely.

Should such an appeal be allowed but then fail, Ms. Wynne would be able to blame the courts for such an outcome, which would, in the end, give EllisDon what it wants.

The Sheet Metal Workers had also threatened to bring a Charter of Rights court challenge against the legislation if it had passed.

The union said the bill violated the guaranteed right to freedom of association.

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : October 30, 2013

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