Twitter bird logo


Restrictive Tendering: Protection For Whom?

Cardus Construction Competitiveness Monitor

January 17, 2017

Brian Dijkema and Morley Gunderson

It makes sense that most of our public debate about infrastructure spending focuses on revenue. Where will we get the money? Who will pay? How? Which tax structures will be needed to build our bridges? Should we borrow to pay for our water treatment plants and subway lines? If so, how much?

But too heavy a focus on revenue can lead us to neglect sound public policy focused on cost containment.

This paper is intended as a reminder and a spur. A reminder of the practices and data that allow governments to invest responsibly and in the public interest. And a spur to government, industry, labour, and others to consider that fair, open, and competitive tendering lightens that burden on this generation and the next.

PDF file - $free

Banking on the Margins

February 22, 2016

Brian Dijkema and Rhys McKendry

Our current payday loan market is failing consumers and society and government regulations alone cannot solve the current situation. Our new report, Banking on the Margins, aims at reforming Canada's payday loan market. In this report, we call for joint efforts between government, banks, credit unions and charities to provide customers with lower rate loans as an alternative to payday loans.
The report outlines a three pronged approach to for a small-dollar loan market that better aligns the interests of consumers with providers:

  • Moving government focus away from interest rate caps and towards mandating longer loan terms which can sustain the market while increasing affordability for consumers.
  • Partnership between government, charities, and financial institutions to provide funds for loan loss reserves which will encourage innovation in the small dollar market.
  • The introduction of social impact bonds which will reward organizations that achieve outcomes that enable indebted consumers.
PDF file - $free

Tuning Up Ontario's Economic Engine: A Cardus Construction Competitiveness Monitor Brief

April 9, 2015

Brian Dijkema

Toronto rightly calls itself the economic engine of Ontario. But Toronto's performance is hampered by legislation which prevents it from getting the best value for its construction projects. Why?

One of the reasons can be found in a 2008 Toronto city staff report which studied the cost implications of closed-tendering in Toronto. This paper reviews that staff report and finds significant methodological problems with it that lead to faulty conclusions. Particularly, the report failed to account for the variety of ways in which competition works. Instead, it focused on one small segment of competition: labour costs. The fact that the City's fair wage policy specifically restricts competition on labour costs makes the report's conclusion misleading. Further, the report focuses too heavily on the unionization or non-unionization of firms, rather than examining a wider range of variables which would affect competition and cost.
PDF file - $free

The Building Meaning Project Paper and Recommendations

November 19, 2014

Ray Pennings and Brian Dijkema

A social bias against employment in the skilled trades exists in this country. This culminating document of the Building Meaning project includes the Building Meaning in the Skilled Trades background paper, and our final series of recommendations for industry and labour stakeholders; educational institutions; governments; and researchers.

PDF file - $free

Hiding in Plain Sight: Evaluating Closed Tendering in Construction Markets

September 9, 2014

Stephen W. Bauld and Brian Dijkema

Ontario is faced with huge deficits and a debt that will hamper the province’s long-term economic prospects. In the face of this dire situation, Ontario’s government is turning over stones to find savings for the provincial budget. While many will focus on the need to make cuts in order to achieve this goal, there is a way to achieve significant savings in Ontario hiding in plain sight: opening up public construction procurement to competitive bidding.

Program director Brian Dijkema and lead author Stephen Bauld introduce the paper and its importance: video (1:30).

PDF file - $free

Canada's New Industrial Revolution

February 14, 2014

Russ Kuykendall

Canada is in the midst of a new industrial revolution which is changing the face of our economy. Resources— long lamented as the means by which Canadians served other, more developed countries—have instead held Canada steady through a global economic crisis and maintained an industrial core.

PDF file - $free

Competition and Cooperation

Small Steps Towards Reforming Canadian Labour Relations

December 19, 2013

Brian Dijkema

This policy paper presents the case for a new framework of understanding labour relations in Canada. Taking insights which move debates about labour beyond the pendulum of pro-union and anti-union policies, it proposes a new policy within a new framework.

This new framework limits the state; removes anti-competitive legislation that favour one means of workplace organization over another; and provides greater leeway for workers to easily choose and move among a variety of means of workplace organization.

In doing so, it eliminates policies which unreasonably diminish competition among unions, and fosters a competitive environment more conducive to labour relations innovation. The resulting diverse and competitive environment will lead to a more stable and more prosperous Canadian labour market.

PDF file - $free

Open Tendering Briefing Note

Ensuring Best Value for Federal Infrastructure Investment

May 21, 2013

Brian Dijkema

On May 21, 2013, Brian Dijkema presented this briefing note to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in Ottawa, ON.
PDF file - $free

Cardus Construction Competitiveness Brief

Region of Waterloo

February 20, 2013

Brian Dijkema

A potential labour monopoly could increase costs by up to 40 percent on over a 100 million dollars worth of work in the Region of Waterloo, says a brief released by Hamilton based think-tank Cardus. The paper estimates

  • A successful application in the Region of Waterloo could increase construction costs by up to 78 million dollars for 553,000 taxpayers in the Region of Waterloo
  • 28 percent of Ontario taxpayers are affected by municipal labour monopolies in construction
  • Labour monopolies affect almost a billion dollars worth of construction work in Ontario municipalities

For further information, or to arrange an interview, please contact Julia Nethersole at or via phone at 905.528.8866 x29

PDF file - $free

Cardus Construction Competitiveness Monitor

Ontario Municipal Construction Markets

October 25, 2012

Brian Dijkema

Labour monopolies increase costs by up to 40 percent on nearly a billion dollars worth of Ontario construction projects, says a paper released by Hamilton based think-tank Cardus. The paper estimates,

  • 25 percent of Ontario taxpayers are affected by municipal labour monopolies in construction
  • Labour monopolies affect over 750 million dollars worth of construction work in Ontario municipalities
  • The City of Toronto alone could save almost 60 million dollars using open tendering practices

For further information, or to arrange an interview, please contact Julia Nethersole at or via phone at 905.528.8866 x29

PDF file - $free

College of Trades: An Impossible Institution

September 8, 2011

Brian Dijkema and Michael Van Pelt

Ontario's College of Trades will not be effective in solving the very real problems with trades in Ontario, and will almost definitely increase the financial and regulatory burden on an already troubled sector. The COT is a far-reaching piece of legislation offering little confidence the College will objectively and responsibly manage Ontario's trades.

PDF file - $free

Where is the Research?

An Uneasy Case for Moving Trades from Voluntary to Compulsory Certification

April 28, 2011

The rapid movement towards compulsory certification by Ontario's College of Trades is occurring in a research vacuum. Thus, significant regulation of a wide swath of the construction industry is being built before the design stage is complete.

It is incumbent on us to carefully identify data incongruencies and gaps and to provide concrete evidence for changes which will have a significant impact on the construction industry in Ontario. This report highlights the areas where further research must be done.

Booklet - $9.00
PDF file - $free

Why Is Construction So Expensive in Ontario?

November 25, 2008

Ray Pennings

The deliberately provocative title is intended to highlight why the relevant data for properly answering the question is not being collected and available. Debates regarding construction labour have been trapped in an ideological pro- and anti-union paradigm. This paper argues that the debate needs to be reframed in a “competitive labour pool” paradigm that opens up new questions and frameworks which, when followed with a subsequent data analysis, may provide suggestions for improving Ontario’s competitiveness.
PDF file - $free

Tradescapes: Foreign investment in Canada and Canadian investment abroad

September 10, 2008

Russ Kuykendall

Over the past few years, much has been made among public policy opinion leaders of "the hollowing out" of Canada's industry by way of foreign investment, especially from the United States. But Canadian investment abroad is very strong, including in the United States. This discussion paper will look at foreign investment in Canada and Canadian investment abroad and consider its relationship to international trade.

PDF file - $free

Working Local: A study of Stationary Labour in Canada’s Construction Sector

September 1, 2008

Ray Pennings

Expanding on the findings made in Working Mobile, Ray Pennings further illuminates the labour situation in Canada's construction Industry by surveying local workers. Contact the Construction Sector Council to order a copy.

Book - $20.00


January 15, 2008

Russ Kuykendall

Tradescapes, a Trade Corridors summary document from the September 11, 2007 Roundtable (published January 2008). This document is a summary of the three prominent models for understanding trade: gateways, global value chains and trade corridors. This summary overviews each tradescape, including the strengths and weaknesses of each and how each serves the Canadian economy. The focus of this paper shifts to the ability of Trade Corridors to account for the strengths of the other metaphors, and how Canada's largest export sectors or Trade Corridors are focused on the U.S. market. Challenges arising from the three most valuable Trade Corridors are summarized and, then, how recent public policy has affected them. Finally, "the Canadian advantage" that arises from Canada's Trade Corridors is described—factors that position Canada favourably in respect of international trade with the United States, in particular.

PDF file - $free

Gateways, Global Value Chains and Trade Corridors

October 1, 2007

Russ Kuykendall

Gateways, Global Value Chains and Trade Corridors by Senior Researcher Russ Kuykendall was published in Policy Options for the 20th Anniversary of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (October 2007). This article argues that Canada's international trade policy prioritizes the Gateways model with a view to increasing trade with Asia, especially China. Meanwhile Industry Canada is focussed on global value chains. While there are strengths and weaknesses to the global value chains model, Russ Kuykendall asks whether it provides an adequate explanation for trade. Instead, he proposes that the Trade Corridors model best explains Canada-U.S. trade—Canada's most important trading relationship—and that the model suggests where Canada should pursue development of trade.

PDF file - $free

Trade Corridors Roundtable: Next Steps, A Discussion Document

September 11, 2007

Russ Kuykendall

Trade Corridors Roundtable: Next Steps, A Discussion Document, prepared by Senior Researcher Russ Kuykendall for the September 11, 2007 Roundtable. This paper examines the leading models of trade that Canadian businesses employ. Special attention is paid in the paper to the concepts of trade corridors, gateways, global supply chains, clusters, cross-border regions, and the anglosphere.

PDF file - $free

Six Trade Corridors to the U.S.: The Lifeblood of Canada's Economy

July 1, 2006

Russ Kuykendall

Six Trade Corridors to the US: The Lifeblood of Canada's Economy by Russ Kuykendall, in Policy Options (July-August, 2006). Kuykendall drills down on the numbers, and finds that Canada-US trade can be broken into six corridors, largely along regional and sectoral lines, such as the Ontario-Michigan automotive corridor, and the Alberta energy corridor.

PDF file - $free

Working Mobile: A study of Labour Mobility in Canada's Industrial Construction Sector

March 1, 2006

Ray Pennings

A comprehensive investigative research report that gives the construction industry a better understanding of the various factors relating to worker mobility in the large industrial and civil engineering sectors of the industry. Using a survey of mobile workers, the study analyzes results, and offers recommendations based on the survey findings.

PDF file - $free

Greenlighting Trade: A Trade Corridors Atlas

December 1, 2005

Michael Van Pelt and Russ Kuykendall

Greenlighting Trade: A Trade Corridors Atlas, written by Senior Researcher Russ Kuykendall, explains the "big idea" behind trade corridors. The study argues that the six largest sectors of Canada's export trade to the United States illustrate the usefulness of trade corridors. The Atlas proposes concrete next steps, to thinking about the movement of trade in North America. Finally it proposes a philosophical framework grounded in the idea of "sphere sovereignty" that informs our development of trade corridors and that suggests trade requires the active participation of institutions, organizations and associations. Trade and trade corridors cannot be framed by government-to-government relationships alone.

Book (104 pages) - $10.00

Greenlighting Trade: Sample Chapter

December 1, 2005

Michael Van Pelt and Russ Kuykendall

Sample chapter from Greenlighting Trade: A Trade Corridors Atlas (2005), written by Senior Researcher Russ Kuykendall.

PDF file - $free

Stepping Forward 2005: The Face of Construction is Changing

December 1, 2005

Ray Pennings

A compilation of the findings and ideas tabled at the Stepping Forward 2005 conference. This document is invaluable for the wealth of experience it brings together and distills to address some of the most serious challenges facing the Construction Industry.

PDF file - $free

A Special Relationship: Canada-U.S. Trade in the 21st Century

April 25, 2005

Allan Gotlieb

A Special Relationship: Canada-U.S. Trade in the 21st Century, by Allan Gotlieb, former Canadian Ambassador to the United States and Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs. The formation of various “trade corridor” organizations, argues Gotlieb, reflects a profound reality that underlines the history of our relationship: North American integration has resulted not from high-level public policy nor central direction from activity that is overwhelmingly bottom-up, reflecting the vast preferences and habits of our population, from one end of our country to the other. To put it in its starkest terms, it is these habits or preferences, not the policies of government, that turned the economic axis of Canada from East-West to North-South. Read Gotlieb's remarks, prepared for the Trade Corridors Roundtable, Monday April 25th 2005, Toronto.

PDF file - $free

Moving Trade

April 5, 2005

Michael Van Pelt

Moving Trade (2003), an introduction to Trade Corridors by Michael Van Pelt, President of the Work Research Foundation. Never in the history of our world has there been so much debate and discussion about moving trade. Behind the technical and sophisticated discussions about security, border issues, transportation infrastructure, traffic, economic development, urban planning, customs and immigration, or international relations is one central concern—moving trade.

PDF file - $free

Collective Representation: A Conservative Defence

April 1, 2003

Ray Pennings

In remarks prepared for the 2003 Civitas Conference, Ray Pennings puts forth the idea that industrial relations and company profits would benefit if conservatives considered the ways in which worker organizations can promote freedom and choice, participation in institutions, and non-governmental solutions to social problems.

PDF file - $free

Competitively Working in Tomorrow's Construction

July 1, 2002

Ray Pennings

Taking as its basis a thorough literature review and data collected from interviews with a range of construction industry leaders, this study is an informed and descriptive discussion of trends and movements within the industry. Ray Pennings provides insight and analysis of major issues concerning the construction industry, such as construction labour relations and industry innovations.

Book - $50.00

Buying a Labour Monopoly?

An Examination of Job Targeting Programs (JTPs) and Their Operation in the Canadian Construction Sector

July 1, 1998

Ray Pennings

This document assesses the operation of Job Targeting Programs and their impact on the construction industry in Canada. The study raises a number of pertinent questions about JTPs and concludes that in practice, JTPs are guided by motives that go beyond cost competition and are part of an attempt to defend a particular system of craft organization in the construction industry.

PDF file - $free