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2016 BTA Conference Highlights

Posted on October 14, 2016


The tone of this conference was a little more subdued than last year's, a little more somber, but that should hardly be a surprise. With low oil prices for the last year and expected to continue for at least the near future and with major construction projects that are currently underway expected to wrap up in the next year, attendees paid close attention to the presenters, who offered some explanation of what has been happening, what can be expected to happen and what they are doing to survive and even thrive in this new economic climate. Just like last year, we want to make sure that as much information as possible can be shared with as many people as possible, so below, you will find a summary of this year's conference, with links to presentations, wherever possible. If you have any comments or questions about what you see here, don't hesitate to contact us at info@bta.ca.

After the morning welcome from the Business Manager of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 8 and Chairman of the Building Trades of Alberta, Doug Worobetz, we moved right into the safety moment, presented by Warren Fraleigh, the Executive Director of the BTA, where he released the newest Stand Up for Safety video. It, as well as the two promotional short videos and the original video from last year can be seen here. on that same page, you can download and print materials such as promotional cards and posters, or you can contact us for those materials as well as hardhat stickers, which you can use to demonstrate your commitment to Stand Up for Safety.

We also were treated to a productivity moment, from Frank Engli, Turnaround Manager with Shell Canada at the Scotford Upgrader.

Bob Blakely, the Chief Operations Officer at Canada's Building Trades Unions provided an overview of the current climate for the building trades, as well as a review of how we got here and what we can expect to see in the future.

Following that, we had updates from two of our partners: Kathleen Thompson from Trade Winds to Success and Greg Matte from Helmets to Hardhats, who also released his new promotional video everyone to see. See Kathleen's presentation here and Greg's presentation here.

All of that happened before 945 in the morning - as you can see, the day was packed. After the coffee break, the conference resumed with a presentation from Sergio Falzi of the Mental Health Commission of Canada regarding a program called "The Working Mind": a program designed to address and promote mental health and reduce the stigma of mental illness in a workplace setting, based on a program from the Department of National Defence called Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR).

Following that talk, we had a very eye-opening presentation from Build Together, which concluded with asking attendees to sign a commitment card which would state that the person commits to supporting Respect in the Workplace by honouring the following four initiatives:

  • Education: providing and/or participating in training and programs related to promoting Respect in the Workplace.
  • Intervention: promising to speak up when they see see discrimination or harassment and encouraging other to do the same.
  • Conflict Resolution: adopting a restorative justice approach when dealing with discrimination and harassment.
  • Women in Leadership: promoting leadership opportunities for women on the job-site, at the union hall and in our community and encouraging women to pursue these opportunities.

Next was j'Amey Holroyd, the Director of Apprenticeship and Education for the Boilermakers Local 146, as well as the Chair of the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training board, to present the progress being made in the Mentorship program, and she didn't disappoint, providing wire-frame images for the online mentoring program being developed which would allow apprentices and mentors alike to record and track progress in a way that is both meaningful and engaging.

Warren then returned to present on the Marketing Group's and the Data Collection and Management Group's progress over the last year. In a nutshell, the progress in marketing has gone well and there is a well-defined plan for moving forward and improving engagement with the membership, and the Data issue is a perplexing one as there are many, many moving parts, but there was some engagement from all interested parties, including labour, contractors and owners.

Ending the morning, we had the pleasure of recognizing the second apprentice to win the John Tackaberry Future Leaders Award: Arden Callsen, and apprentice Ironworker from Ironworkers Local 720 in Edmonton. Click here to read his essay.

Following lunch, we had a speech and Q & A with Deron Bilous, the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. He reinforced the need to diversify the economy and let us know that the winning bids from the Petrochemical Diversification Program are still being determined, but it will be announced in the near future. He stepped out to do some work after that, but returned to be on hand for the presentations after the afternoon coffee break and stayed for dinner as well, interacting with the membership.

After the Minister's speech, we were given the run down on what to expect in the industry in the months and years to come by Bob Collins, an Economist from BuildForce Canada. After the BuildForce Canada presentation last year, we held a competition among the attendees to see who could most accurately predict the price of West Texas Intermediary stock on September 13 of this year. 238 people submitted entries, with predictions ranging from $34.00 to $97.50. The average guess was $62.69, but the actual price was $44.90. Five people predicted $45.00: Shelly Klassen, Terry Parker, Don Spurgeon, Mohamed Jomaa and Tom Andre. A draw was held to randomly select the one winner, that that person, who earned a $100 gift card to the restaurant of their choice, was Don Spurgeon. Congratulations, Don! 

Next, Pam Cholak, the Stakeholder Relations Manager from the Alberta Industrial Heartland Association presented on the goings-on with her organization, and dubbed Bob Collins "Debbie Downer", which unfortunately stuck with him for the rest of the conference.

Following the afternoon coffee break, the program was lead off with a discussion of sustainable and/or renewable energy initiatives being undertaken by four of our locals:

All great examples of how the Building Trades are moving forward and prepared to lead in this diversifying economy.

After our Brothers finished their talks, we welcomed two board members from the Resource Diversification Council: Dave Chappell, President of Williams Energy Canada ULC (since the conference, Williams Canada's sale to Inter Pipeline was completed, so Dave is now Senior Vice President or Petrochemical Development at Inter pipeline Ltd.) and Ian MacGregor, Chairman and CEO or NW Refining Inc. They both provided the crowd with updates on what is going on with their respective companies and took questions from guests and delegates. Here is Dave's presentation.

Rounding out the day, Warren returned with a short slideshow tribute and to provide an update the Rebuild McMurray Hope Fund, a fund administered by the BTA to be used to provide support to our neighbours to the north as they deal with the aftermath of the fire earlier this year. The money in the fund comes from donations provided by Building Trades Councils and Locals across Canada.

After dinner, we had a presentation from Rocco Rossi, the president and CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada.

The day was packed with information, but many agreed that it was the best conference they had been to in years.