Canadian Consulting Engineer

Feature

Quebec firms shut out of Ontario

Consulting firms have been used as a powerful pawn in the construction game played out between Canada's two most populous provinces this fall.In May, Ontario passed Bill 17, "The Fairness is a Two-Way...


Consulting firms have been used as a powerful pawn in the construction game played out between Canada’s two most populous provinces this fall.

In May, Ontario passed Bill 17, “The Fairness is a Two-Way Street Act,” as quid pro quo legislation meant to even the playing field between Quebec and Ontario construction companies. For a long time Ontario construction companies had been complaining that Quebec did not allow them to bid on projects, and now the Ontario government was fighting back.

The Ontario legislation, however, dragged construction professionals into the squabble for the first time. It specifically included “consulting services, including architectural or engineering services,” thus preventing Quebec companies from doing Ontario government projects and making it extremely onerous to bid on non-government work. Firms had to register with a special Jobs Protection Office, and incorporated entities had to post a $10,000 bond.

Six Quebec consulting engineering firms were refused permission to bid on Ontario contracts because of the new law. The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, Ordre des Ingnieurs du Qubec, Association des Ingnieurs-Conseils du Qubec, and Professional Engineers of Ontario all wrote to the provincial government objecting to the legislation.

However, the Ontario government’s ploy of using consultants as a bargaining tool to persuade Quebec to change its rules seemed to work. By the end of November both provinces were set to lift their rules excluding ex-provincial construction workers and firms from their borders.