Remarks for Russ Powers to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills Regarding Bill 69, the Prompt Payment Act. Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:20 am - 9:30 am., Room 1, Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park

Stated for the record:  
Russ Powers, President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and Councillor, City of Hamilton.

Monika Turner, AMO’s Director of Policy.

As my allotted time is short, I am leaving a more detailed analysis of the Bill and its challenges along with my remarks.

You have already heard from my colleague and AMO member, Her Worship Hazel McCallion, the Mayor of Mississauga regarding her city’s concerns with Bill 69. They are shared by many.  

When this Bill was introduced, AMO said to its sponsor and others in the Legislature that the Bill is so poorly conceived and drafted that the best advice we could offer was to exempt municipal governments from it.  

Other associations and groups do not support it either.  In fact, we are hearing that members of the construction industry see significant flaws with the Bill.  

Yes, there is prompt payment legislation in other jurisdictions, but this Bill goes so far beyond those pieces of legislation. We believe this Bill is seeking to remedy a challenge borne out of the structure of the construction industry by tying the hands of owners and contractors.  We don’t believe this is the right response.

Let me be clear -- this Bill will fundamentally affect municipal governments’ ability to exercise due diligence over public funds.  

Of late, the Provincial Legislature has been seized by the need for strong diligence in the expenditure of its public funds.  That is why there is some surprise that this Bill has progressed through the Legislature to this point.  

The Bill is fundamentally flawed.  I suspect that you will feel overwhelmed by the scope and scale of proposed amendments presented to you.  

Amending a Bill is in some ways a cherry-picking venture… will you land on the right amendment? Solve the right problem? Achieve balance?  Will amendments to one section create problems in others?  

While I believe this Committee wants to do a good job, I ask you – might your few hours of review here create legislation that could include a wealth of unintended consequences?  

You have a heavy task. The Committee will need to consider what will happen if you don’t get this Bill ‘right’.  

After the witnesses have been heard and the Bill is examined clause-by-clause, this Committee votes on the Bill as a whole, and whether to report it to the House.  Our best advice to you is to not report it back.  This is the request made in a recent letter to the party leaders from a variety of groups of which AMO was signatory.  You have a copy of it.

Let the stakeholders sit down to address the issue of fair and timely pay for workers on construction contracts.  Let the stakeholders discuss the problems and solutions.  This has never happened.  This Bill was landed out of the blue.  There was no consultation with AMO when Bill 69 was drafted, and I would venture to say not with others in the broader public sector.  

I would hope that each of you will agree that after listening to all the stakeholders that this legislation should not proceed; that this Committee should report to the Legislature that its advice is that the stakeholders undertake a coordinated review of payment issues.  

Give us the time to work together, to identify the problems and solutions.  We all have an obligation to create public policy that works, that provides an appropriate balance of oversight of public funds, quality work and timely payment.

Thank You.