Labour shortage a challenge for homebuilders

Daniel MacEachern
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The chairman of the St. John’s Board of Trade says the biggest obstacle to sustained growth in Newfoundland and Labrador is a lack of available labour.

Denis Mahoney, chairman of the St. John’s Board of Trade, says the province is facing a significant demographic challenge. — Photo by Daniel MacEachern/The Telegram

Speaking to the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Home Builders Association on Tuesday, Denis Mahoney said the province is facing one of the most significant demographic challenges in the country.

“With a declining population, the amount that we’re all going to pay in taxes, to our towns or municipalities, to our province — they’re going to continue to increase to provide the hospitals, the schools, the roads that are needed to make this place liveable,” Mahoney told the association’s membership luncheon at the Fluvarium Tuesday afternoon. “And to pay off our

$8.6 billion in debt. It’s not, presently, a recipe for significant success, unless we come to terms with some of these fundamentals.”

Mahoney said the Board of Trade has been lobbying the provincial and federal governments to raise immigration targets and reduce red tape.

“We desperately need to grow our population in this province if we plan on still having families that are going to live in these new homes in the coming years,” he said.

Having said all that, Mahoney said he believes it’s an exciting time to live, work and invest in the province.

“But I tell you, we have some work to do to keep the opportunities going,” he said. “We have launched the idea of the boom, because it’s important to celebrate the success of these amazing opportunities that we’ve been given in this province. But if we’re going to celebrate the optimism, its successes and its potential, we have to figure out where we’re going to get the resources to keep it going.”

Victoria Belbin, the homebuilders’ association CEO, said Mahoney’s message resonated as its members need people to build and buy their homes.

It’s that interest that has prompted the association to step up its involvement in municipal politics, by sponsoring a mayoral debate Tuesday night and lobbying for a closer relationship with

St. John’s city council. Homebuilders’ ability to keep housing prices down is crucial, she said.

“We want to ensure that those people that are coming in that we want to attract, that they have options, where they’re going to live,” she said. “If we don’t, it’s going to be really difficult for people to be able to come into our economy and participate in the opportunities that are here now.”

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Canadian Home Builders Association, Board of Trade

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Jerry
    September 21, 2013 - 22:25

    I know of a man, a fully qualified 28 year old carpenter, who cannot find a single employer to hire him... he's been searching for four months and is newly married for 13 months, with a child on the way. He's strong, healthy, super competent and a great guy to be around with a wonderful and charming disposition but he cannot find work. Do you REALLY, REALLY want to know why? Because A) He will not and he cannot afford to work for minimum wage as a carpenter and head of household. B) He is a "Newly Landed Canadian" refugee and has been in NL for only 3 years C) He is Black, from Africa and unfortunately for him, he speaks English fluently but with a very strong accent. Those are the REAL ABCs of the CFA curse and the NL labor shortage byes, right quick. This article would be hilarious if reality was not as tragic as it currently is. Shortage of labor? The reason why all parties concerned in this article are so confused by this news piece is because it fails to mention one word and it also omits the mention of a strong NL mindset. The missing word actually should be inserted first, in the title and the word is "Cheap". The mindset?... well that's as black as coal byes: It's called Xenophobia.

  • Turry from town
    September 11, 2013 - 12:16

    Well said Sue.We have a declining population because young people are leaving for better wages not due to lack of economic activity. The wages the board of trade members and homebuilders assoiation do not want to pay. They want immagration from other countries where people make sweatshop wages and long to leave for the canadian dream.These people will work for minimum wage and their employers will be subsidizd for hiring them and the taxpayer will be on the hook.Simple solution with labour shortage,do what Alberta has done.If you pay them,they will come.

  • sue
    September 11, 2013 - 05:02

    If the homebuilders paid their labourers more money, then they would have more workers immediately. The cost of housing has tripled in the last few years, the workers pay hasn't tripled though. People would come from other provinces, just as Newfoundland has supplied workers to Ontario and Alberta for decades, people would come here to work if the pay and incentives were better.