Raising the standards for all workers

July 31, 2023

On March 28, the Government of Canada released the 2023 Federal Budget, which included strong investments to build Canada’s green economy. The definition of prevailing wage outlined in this budget is one of the strongest in Canada’s history. Tying incentives to a prevailing wage that incorporates union compensation, including benefits and pension contributions, will raise workers’ living standards, maximize benefits for the entire economy and create good-paying, middle-class jobs as Canada transitions to sustainable energy.

The government has an opportunity to make significant progress towards Canada’s net-zero goals. We applaud Natural Resources Canada for obtaining and considering the diverse perspectives and impacts its net-zero strategy may have; now it is time to make bold moves to decarbonize buildings. Canada is falling behind on its Pan-Canadian Framework measures, and an increase in retrofit rates, from 1% to 3-5%, is required to reduce green-house gases emissions. For Canada to meet its goals, regulations must include time-bound commitments for net-zero emissions and energy efficiency standards.

Industry is ready to support this transition. We are ready to grow and meet the demand by welcoming Canadians into the skilled trades, and we will collaborate with the government to continue driving Canadians towards a career in the trades. Students, minority groups, new Canadians and transitioning workers should continue to be a priority.

As Canada pursues the retrofitting of all buildings to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, SMART members will play a critical role.

The Canada Green Buildings Strategy cannot leave any Canadian behind and must include cooperation with provincial, municipal and Indigenous governments, as well as appropriate provisions of support. Without a strategy to support low-income Canadians, Canada will not achieve net-zero emissions. These five million Canadians have been largely left out of the energy transition to date – even though low-income family dwellings tend to account for a significantly higher proportion of emissions in housing building stock. The green buildings strategy must also consider the unique characteristics and needs of Indigenous housing. We must continue to make this a priority.

On June 15, forward progress continued when the government tabled Bill C-50, which addresses Canada’s transition to a carbon neutral economy while supporting workers and creating sustainable jobs. Among other things, this bill would create a sustainable Jobs Partnership Council to encourage sustainable job creation and support workers and communities, as well as establish a Sustainable Jobs Action Plan and Secretariat. As Canada pursues the retrofitting of all buildings to hit net-zero emissions by 2050, SMART members will play a critical role. HVAC uses 35% of the energy in buildings (up to 65% in the residential sector); energy efficiency improvements will reduce carbon emissions. We must use our expertise and be a resource for local, provincial and the federal government in achieving sustainability goals.

To close: On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to thank retired General President Joseph Sellers for his years of dedication and service during a career of passion and advocacy, of representing workers in all sectors, from the local to the International level. You have been a strong leader and a voice for the inclusion of all workers in our organization, ensuring that we have each other’s back. The programs and initiatives that you fostered and promoted will be a great legacy for SMART. We wish you a long and healthy retirement, enjoying time for yourself and Beth along with friends and family!

In Solidarity,

Chris Paswisty
Director of Canadian Affairs