This is one of the main selling points of TCE’s pump storage project being proposed for the DND property north of Meaford. Eight hundred workers from all construction trades are being solicited. You would almost get the impression that there are men and women sitting around idly just waiting for the call to start work next Monday morning at 7.
A Regional Economic Study completed by EMR Consultants Canada Ltd and released in April of this year estimates the required direct labour force to be 1,033.
The EMR study gives more clarity on the number of workers required to construct the project by showing us where all of these workers could be sourced from. It is interesting to note that of the 1,033 men and women required only 14% of the workers will be drawn from our local construction trades.
EMR has divided the sourcing of the workforce into three regions. The first is the local or Regionally Sourced Area (RSA). This includes the counties Simcoe, Grey, and Bruce. It is somewhat surprising, though not unexpected given the scale of the project, that the region closest to the project will provide the least number of workers at 141. The large majority (86%) of the required direct labour force is to be sourced from greater Ontario ( 778 workers) and Canada (114 workers). A large portion of this group are likely already employed by large construction firms that specialize in these types of projects, such as the Highway 400 extension from Parry Sound to Sudbury.
Although a portion of the 141 might relocate to the Municipality of Meaford isn't it more likely to expect that they will stay in their local communities where they already have established their lives and will instead just commute to the project site?
More importantly I think we need to ask, will this group of RSA workers be interested in leaving their present trade work for the lure of a new opportunity? They may already be well satisfied with their present employer, working conditions, closer proximity to work, level of pay and benefits.
We also need to consider that if they leave their present employment in our local construction industry, who will replace them to continue working on our own much needed housing and other projects. We may find that we are left with lower skilled and quality workmanship to maintain our local construction industry. This is already a concern on the minds of our local self-employed contractors. How will they find enough 'good' help to work for them?
Of the provincially and nationally sourced 888 workers how many of these would actually relocate to our municipality with their families for just four years of work? Many of the trade positions might be far less than the four years due to the type of skill needed only for certain phases of construction.
EMR in their study also revealed that TCE will have challenges in getting enough tradespeople to do their work. This problem exists because there is an overall shortage of the number of tradesmen in Ontario due to an aging workforce and the difficulty in attracting young people to careers in the trades.
The ERM analysis paper points out other obstacles that TCE will have to overcome in the areas of adequate housing and the use of the local infrastructure to access the DND property.
On the surface it may seem like a big win for our municipality but when you begin to explore deeper it’s not so apparent as to how much economic benefit there may be in it for us.
The Municipality of Meaford has so far been able to avoid the over-commercialized development that has come to Collingwood and Thornbury. We still have the small town and rural (St. Vincent and Sydenham) flavour that many of us desire and want to preserve for as long as possible. Let us not slip up and give our community over to 'industrialization'.
Robert Greenfield, Meaford