Chris Gardner

The last 12 months have been unpredictable in the construction industry in Canada, a fact that Chris Gardner of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) knows. Chris is the current President of the ICBA and is intimately aware of the shifting landscape of the construction industry due to issues with the supply chain, labour, and the pandemic. Despite the industry’s challenges over the last few years, Chris is optimistic as the construction industry slowly starts to rebound.

The Value of Construction in Canada

This year the ICBA held its first conference in two years, a major accomplishment for an industry that formally relied heavily on networking. While the construction industry fared better than others in Canada because it was deemed an essential service, many factors still adversely affected the industry, including the worldwide labour shortage, and significant supply chain issues. About 10% of all economic activity in the province is construction-based. Over 250,000 women and men work in the industry in British Columbia, so the ability to keep the construction sector open was invaluable.

Mental Health in the Construction Industry

One evolving issue the ICBA is focused on addressing moving forward, is the mental health crisis. Chris highlighted that one in four Canadians is thought to have a mental health issue. This means that EVERYONE knows SOMEONE facing a mental health crisis, and the ICBA is working hard to support construction contractors and labourers affected by this.

The ICBA has created a program that makes it simpler for people to reach out for help, acknowledging that many in the construction industry aren’t always willing to talk about what’s bothering them. The goal of the ICBA’s support program, is to normalize mental health conversations, rather than suffering in silence. The suicide rate in construction is five times higher than the national average, and a shocking 55% of people who die from opioid overdoses worked in construction at some point in their life.

Future Shifts Within the Construction Sector

According to Chris, the field of construction is also shifting in other ways, such as a positive drive towards attracting women and Indigenous people to join the construction industry. While the construction industry is notoriously male-dominated, the ICBA wants to emphasize that there is a place for everyone on Canada’s worksites, in management positions, and throughout the industry. The demographic shift among leaders is helping to propel positive change. Chris outlined a significant generational sweep occurring, creating the potential for growth and new opportunities within the field. Therefore, the construction industry is worth observing over the next few years as it shifts into a new post-pandemic, more self-aware and community-reflective “normal.”