Construction in Quebec continues despite restrictions – Montreal
The construction industry has not slowed down despite new measures issued last week by the Legault government when it imposed a curfew, according to the Association de la construction du Québec (ACQ).
Under the latest public safety measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19, construction in the province is required to reduce its activities “to the minimum necessary to ensure the fulfillment of commitments” and to adjust work shifts “to limit presence on construction sites … at the same time.”
The “fulfillment of commitments” clause means, in fact, that all current projects are continuing.
“Everything that is in progress is considered essential,” says Guillaume Houle, spokesperson for the Association de la construction du Québec (ACQ), which represents entrepreneurs in the institutional, commercial and industrial sectors.
Respecting existing commitments is essential in the housing sector, says François Bernier, vice-president of the Association of Construction and Housing Professionals of Quebec (APCHQ).
“We have all these sites to deliver over the next few months,” he says, noting there are 20,000 sites scheduled for delivery in the first half of 2021.
“Obviously, if there was a delay, there’s the possibility of leaving people on the street. Respecting existing commitments is also respecting the people who are waiting for their units. We do not have much leeway if we are to meet our deadlines.”
There are also penalties for late deliveries to consider, Houle says.
“Several contracts put on hold in the spring (during the first wave of COVID-19) are currently litigating late delivery penalties in court,” he says.
Several new contracts now contain “COVID clauses,” which ensure that “the client, whether public or private, is relieved of responsibility and delivery delays due to COVID and measures additional sanitation to be put in place. All the burden is on the contractors,” Houle says.
The government’s decision to allow current construction projects to continue is based in part on the recent drop in construction site outbreaks compared to previous weeks. The most recent data reports 33 outbreaks on construction sites as of Jan. 2, or 4.5 per cent of the total outbreaks in all workplaces (excluding hospitals, CHSLDs, schools, and daycare services). The number of confirmed cases stood at 134 people or 3.7 per cent of the total.
This is a significant drop from previous weeks when there were up to 60 outbreaks and nearly 200 infected workers. As of Dec. 19, the construction sector accounted for 8.6 per cent of all outbreaks in the province and 5.8 per cent of infected workers.
The decrease is being attributed to the construction hiatus during the holiday period.
“No one can claim to be perfect in the management of the pandemic and the construction sector is no exception. On the other hand, we took charge. We have very strict sanitary measures to respect on construction sites and we continue to remind our members that these health measures must be applied as strictly as possible,” Houle says.
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