Moving couch

Bricks & Sticks

by Desi Auciello

Desi Auciello is the 2006 GTHBA President, and is also president of Cachet Estate Homes.

Deportation Dilemma Faces Federal Government

Date: April 7, 2006

If there's an upside to the recent deportation of a number of failed refugee claimants, many of whom are skilled construction workers, it's that it has brought into sharp focus the broader issue of the skilled labour shortage faced by the residential construction industry.

The Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association has more than a passing interest in the issue. Our builders, working hand-in-hand with the trade contractors and skilled workers, have built more than 40,000 new homes and condos each and every year for the last six to seven years, generating over 700,000 person-years of employment along the way. Given the forecasts for growth in the GTA, we can expect to remain very busy for many years to come.

Throughout the boom, our workforce has been aging and attrition has taken its toll. In a perfect world, retirees would be replaced by new entrants, but young people are not exactly entering the skilled trades in droves, despite our efforts to promote careers in construction. While career promotion and/or retraining is our most preferred solution to the skilled labour shortage, we have had to look to temporary foreign workers as a stopgap measure.

In the last few weeks, however, we have witnessed the deportation of a number of skilled workers who have exhausted their immigration appeals. While not passing judgement on the actions of the federal government, we do note the irony of losing skilled workers out the front door when we have the federally sanctioned CREWS program (www.constructionworkers.ca) to help employers bring skilled workers into the country on a temporary basis.

There is no question that our immigration system is in need of an overhaul. The Canadian Home Builders' Association has written to federal immigration minister Monte Solberg urging changes to the point system to provide increased points to skilled trades, as well as changes to the employer obligations vis-a-vis temporary foreign workers.

The CHBA adds that "the regularization of undocumented workers without recourse to deportation is an issue that deserves action" (it is widely accepted that there is a sizeable segment of skilled workers in the industry who are truly undocumented).

The GTHBA urges the federal government to give as much weight to maintaining the integrity and fairness of the immigration system as it does to ensuring we have the skilled labour force necessary to allow the residential construction industry to continue to contribute to Canada's overall economic prosperity.

Our CREWS program, and our standing proposal to regularize undocumented workers, seem like logical platforms upon which to build practical, yet creative and sensitive solutions.

National Home Show

The National Home Show kicks off this weekend and runs through Sunday, Apr. 16 at the National Trade Centre, Exhibition Place. With more than 800 exhibitors offering every home product and service imaginable, the National Home Show is widely recognized as among the top consumer shows in North America.

Apart from the opportunity to comparison shop, the National Home Show offers a wealth of expert advice, celebrity guest speakers and entertaining features such as the 2,500 sq. ft. dream home built by Modulex.

The GTHBA presents Destination Renovation, which includes one-on-one consultations with our professional contractors, a photo gallery of before/after photos of renovations of all types and budgets and a wealth of free renovation information. Visit www.renomark.ca for more details and to pre-book your renovation conversation.

For complete show details, visit www.nationalhomeshow.com.