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Ontario Liberals, Tories seek to ‘ram through’ bill benefiting construction firm, Horwath says

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, shown Sept. 9, 2013, is accusing the Liberal government of using a legislative accord with the Progressive Conservatives to ‘ram through’ a law to help a construction company that donated large sums of money to both parties.

MOE DOIRON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is accusing Ontario's Liberal government of using a legislative accord with the Progressive Conservatives to "ram through" a law to help a construction company that donated large sums of money to both parties.

Bill 74, sponsored by Tory MPP Monte McNaughton and supported by Premier Kathleen Wynne, would free EllisDon Corporation from a 1958 labour agreement that grants two unions exclusive rights to represent some of its workers. Ms. Wynne contends the legislation is necessary to put EllisDon on a "level playing field" with construction firms that do not have to use unionized labour.

A Globe and Mail analysis of Elections Ontario data shows that EllisDon, companies connected to it and its CEO gave a combined total of $125,960 to the Liberals in 2012. So far this year, they have donated $41,500 to the party. The PCs, meanwhile, received $32,400 last year and $14,815 in 2013 from EllisDon and its subsidiaries. EllisDon gave the NDP $1,930 last year and has given the party nothing to date in 2013.

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The EllisDon bill is one of eight pieces of legislation the Liberals and PCs agreed to fast-track this week. While the other bills in the agreement are not controversial, the NDP says the EllisDon legislation is "inappropriate" and allows the company to break the 1958 contract.

"The government and the Conservatives are ganging up to ram this bill through for the benefit of a donor," Ms. Horwath said on Thursday.

Ms. Horwath's party also accepts donations from companies and unions affected by government policy, but she maintained the EllisDon bill is unusual because it helps just one firm.

"[Bill 74] isn't about broad stakeholders, this isn't about the construction sector, this isn't about the trade union movement," she said. "This is about one single company."

Tom Howell, vice-president of labour relations at EllisDon, would not comment on Ms. Horwath's assertions. He said the bill "only seeks to uphold the status quo."

The company has long used non-unionized workers. Only in recent years did unions seek to enforce the 1958 deal. The Labour Relations Board sided with the unions in 2012, but gave EllisDon two years' grace to see if the government would change the rules.

Ms. Wynne said Bill 74 is getting the fast-track because her party and the Tories support it.

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With a report from Stuart A. Thompson

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