Insulators gain key advocacy wins in 2022 budget

Heat and Frost Insulators in Canada have much to be proud of following a busy but productive first half of the year.

Advocacy achievements and opportunities in the 2022 federal budget were highlighted during a visit to the B.C. Training Centre from the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough. This was then followed by a successful Canada Building Trades Union (CBTU) Legislative Conference.

As always, these opportunities yield more activity – and work. We are pleased to provide some highlights from the last quarter of advocacy, as well as a summary of key political and policy developments that continue to shape our activities.

Political update

We start by setting the scene with some developments in Canadian politics, as they have impacted the state of play for advocacy.

In March, there was a historic development that shocked many observers of Canadian politics and Parliament: Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government reached an agreement with the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP), led by Jagmeet Singh, in which the NDP has committed to support the current Liberal-led minority government and avoid an election until 2025 in exchange for policy commitments.

This deal came roughly six months after the last federal election, which saw a nearly identical makeup returned to the House of Commons.

The context of growing global uncertainty with the war in Ukraine and global economic challenges driven by inflation was certainly a factor in this agreement to provide political stability, especially given the instability that rocked Canada’s capital earlier in the year due to the convoy protests.

In return for their support of the Liberal government, the NDP negotiated commitments from the government on priorities that included dental care, pharmacare and strengthened environmental commitments. 

Not everyone in Ottawa, however, is happy with the agreement. The Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party, which is currently going through a leadership contest, have been united in their opposition to the deal.

So, how does the NDP-Liberal Agreement impact Canada’s Insulators? Most importantly, it provides stability in parliament after several years of tenuous minority governments, where the government could fall, forcing an election, if it loses certain votes – such as budgets.

The NDP-Liberal agreement included several commitments on the energy efficiency file, including:

• Advancing measures to achieve significant emissions reductions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Continuing to identify ways to further accelerate the trajectory to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050.

• Moving forward in 2022 on the creation of the Clean Jobs Training Centre to support worker retention, redeployment and training.

• Moving forward with Just Transition legislation, guided by the feedback received from workers, unions, Indigenous peoples, communities, provinces and territories.

• Moving forward in 2022 on home energy efficiency programs that both enhance energy affordability for Canadians and reduce emissions, with investments to support multiple streams including multi-unit residential apartments.

Whether it is the Just Transition, emissions targets or energy efficiency programs, there are opportunities for the Insulators to advance our priorities and ensure mechanical insulation is included in the government’s plans.

The agreement between the Liberals and NDP has shifted the balance of power in Ottawa, making way for a more progressive agenda over the next few years. This is particularly true for areas of long-standing, shared agreement between both parties, including housing affordability, access to healthcare, climate action, taxation and Indigenous reconciliation.

We will use this new landscape to watch closely for new opportunities to partner with government through both advocacy and program spending.

Emission reduction plan One of the areas of opportunity is the government’s new 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, which it has positioned as an ambitious but achievable roadmap of a sector-by-sector path for Canada to reach its emissions reduction target of 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Plan considered input from over 30,000 Canadians and stakeholders – including Insulators – and the independent Net-Zero Advisory Body. 

One of the key new initiatives of the Emission Reduction Plan is the commitment of $150 million for a Canada Green Buildings Strategy.

This strategy is intended to build off existing initiatives and plan out new policy, programs, incentives and standards needed to drive a massive retrofit of the existing building stock and construction to the highest zero-carbon standards.

This is an important opportunity to highlight mechanical insulation as part of the government’s strategy to reduce emissions in the industrial sector – a key priority for the Insulators.

The development of the Green Building Strategy aligns with the advocacy Insulators have been leading to focus government energy efficiency policies and programs on deep energy retrofits for the commercial, industrial and high-rise residential sector.

This Green Buildings Strategy is a great opportunity to ensure mechanical insulation gets the attention it merits as an essential tool in reducing emission by improving and maintaining energy efficiency, particularly in Canada’s industrial sector.

2022 Federal Budget

Another Insulator recommendation submitted to Finance Canada over the last two years, was to significantly increase federal investments in existing provincial energy efficiency programs, including through the Low Carbon Economy Fund.

In this year’s budget, the federal government committed an additional $2.2 billion to expand and extend the Low Carbon Economy Fund for another seven years (the fund was launched in 2017).

The budget also featured funding for the previously noted Green Building Strategy, as well as a suite of other notable energy efficiency investments, such as the expansion of the Industrial Energy Management System program, a Deep Retrofit Accelerator Initiative and a number of other related initiatives.

In the 2022 federal budget, the government made several significant investments to support the priorities Insulators have lobbied for over the last two years.

In fact, two of the five recommendations the Insulators put forward for this year were fully supported in the 2022 budget, namely the Labour Mobility Tax Deduction and an expansion of the Union Training and Innovation Program, doubling the overall investment to expand the program.

The federal government initially made available $85 million under the Union Training Improvement Program (UTIP), and in this budget, they have committed to double investments in the program.

Summa has worked with the Canadian Conference International Vice Presidents Paul M. Faulkner and Wade P. Logan to promote the UTIP program to business managers and training centres across the country, and to help them understand how best to submit applications.

Several training centres have been successful in applying for UTIP funding to date, and there will be new calls for proposals later in 2022.

Employment Minister visits B.C. training centre

Following the tabling of the federal budget, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, visited the British Columbia Heat and Frost Training Centre to announce the Budget 2022 investment in UTIP and the Labour Mobility Tax Credit.

Prior to making the announcement and talking to the media, the Minister toured the new training centre, met with fourth-year students in their classroom and met with Local 118 Business Manager Neil Munro, as well as training centre instructors and staff.

Munro was quoted in the Government of Canada’s news release regarding the announcement: “The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators welcomes the investments made in Budget 2022 to support workers and address barriers facing apprentices. The Labour Mobility Tax Deduction and the doubling of funding for the Union Training and Innovation Program (UTIP) demonstrate this government’s commitment to supporting the skilled trades. This UTIP investment will help more training centres across the country invest in equipment, training and the recruitment of underrepresented groups to graduate more highly skilled apprentices into green, sustainable jobs like our Heat and Frost Insulators.”

CBTU Legislative Conference

The 2022 CBTU Conference: Stronger Now marked the first time this event could be held in-person in Ottawa since 2019.

It was well-timed following a federal budget that delivered several key investments to support the growth of the trades and tradespeople. The CBTU agenda included engagements with Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan, Qualtrough and the attendance of the Prime Minister at the Parliamentary Reception.

Faulkner, who also serves as CBTU Director, benefitted from face time and dialogue with both O’Regan and Trudeau.

As noted, the government has committed to introduce a Green Building Strategy, for which consultations are slated to begin in the summer of 2022.

During the CBTU Legislative Conference, Summa organized several meetings for Insulators to maximize their time in the nation’s capital.

This included a meeting with the Director of Industrial Buildings with the Office of Energy Efficiency at Natural Resources Canada to advocate for the importance of promoting mechanical insulation as part of this strategy.

This was an opportunity to help educate the NRCan’s Office of Energy Efficiency on the critical importance of mechanical insulation to the government’s net zero building strategy and overall emissions targets. This was a productive meeting and we agreed to re-engage once the consultations are underway.

With some political stability in Parliament – at least for the time being – and a developing government plan to tackle energy efficiency in industrial buildings, the Insulators are charting an advocacy path to further the progress achieved so far this year.

For the moment, it is important to celebrate the victories along the way, including investments to expand the building trades through union-led training and tax incentives to support labour mobility.

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