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  • David Boudeweel-Lefebvre

Reform of the Québec construction industry: A necessary change

After more than three decades without significant change, Québec's construction industry is about to undergo a historic transformation. Since 1993, no government has dared to touch this sector, known for its rigid rules and established practices. So it was with a certain audacity that Québec's Minister of Labour, Jean Boulet, introduced a bill at the start of the new legislative session that would radically reform the sector.

 

Reactions to this announcement have been mixed. On the one hand, developers and builders welcome the initiative but feel the bill could have been more ambitious. On the other hand, unions have denounced the reform, reflecting the foreseeable tensions among the various stakeholders.

 

Highlights of the reform

The reform proposed by the Legault government attacks two historically untouchable pillars of the industry: worker mobility between regions and strict segmentation between different trades. Minister Boulet’s reform has three key objectives:


  • Reduce Québec's productivity gap with the rest of Canada, particularly on construction sites;

  • Mitigate the effects of the labour shortage in the industry;

  • Improve the governance of the construction industry.

 

Labour shortage and infrastructure projects

Québec's construction industry is facing a critical labour shortage. This reform comes at a time when massive investments are planned in Québec, notably by Hydro-Québec, with more than $150 billion in infrastructure projects in the works. The growing need to build and renovate hospitals, schools, roads and housing also requires a flexible and available workforce.

 

Proposed major changes

From May 2025, clauses restricting the hiring of workers from other regions will be prohibited. This measure is intended to facilitate mobility and access to employment throughout Québec. Another key aspect of the reform is the "decompartmentalization" of trades. Currently, there are 25 different trades in Québec, compared to seven in Ontario. The reform aims to reduce this number to five specialized trades, i to promote versatility and efficiency on construction sites. In addition, the reform aims to promote diversity on construction sites, including greater recognition of the skills of immigrant workers.

 

Reactions and potential impacts

While construction companies see these changes as an opportunity to improve productivity and make substantial savings, trade unions are expressing serious concerns. They fear a deterioration in working conditions, the quality of training and, by extension, the quality of construction.

 

Minister Boulet's proposed reform of the construction industry represents a potential turning point for the sector in Québec. It remains to be seen how this reform will evolve through parliamentary debate and negotiations among the various players in the sector.

 

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