Huntington Property Group employees, from left, Matthew Boucher, Jessiah Hines and Mike Nazvesky follow behind BK Realty Development contractor Brad McKinnon as concrete is poured.Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 06, 2022 at 11:00

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Work continues at the site of the former Finnish Labour Temple as crews poured more than a dozen truckloads with about 102 cubic metres of concrete to form half of the walls for the underground parking area on Wednesday.

Brad McKinnon, BK Realty Development contractor and owner of the site, says they will need the same amount to pour the other half of the parking area on the northwest side of the building. 

“It had to be done in two parts, said McKinnon. “It was just too much concrete, too many materials — and just a shortage of labour. We don’t have enough guys.”

He says there’s more construction happening this year because people are still playing catch-up from projects that never got started or completed last year.

“Everybody’s full steam ahead right now,” McKinnon said. “You’ve got shipping containers backed up in China, labour shortages because people have reconsidered their career paths and huge shifts in the population of where people are working. The economy is trying to catch up and reorganize itself.”

Despite shortages, things moved along smoothly on the jobsite Wednesday, and McKinnon credits his team and collaborators — Scott McNab, owner of Huntington Property Group, and Marco Vallelunga, owner of A1 Concrete Ltd. — for clearing the roadways and access points for the cement trucks, planning and co-ordinating the big job.

“A1 Concrete has been incredibly accommodating. They’ve shifted deliveries for smaller contracts around and allocated a portion of their portland cement to our project here to make sure that we have what we need.

Ultimately, McKinnon estimates about 350 to 375 cubic metres of concrete will be used, once the floors are poured and the building is complete.

Across the province concrete, steel and lumber are challenging to acquire and according to Harold Lindstrom, manager of the Construction Association of Thunder Bay, it’s not so much a shortage of materials, but rather a logistics problem.

“First, let’s define shortage. There’s a difference between the inability to get and the inability of timely getting,” says Lindstrom. “The whole country is waking up and demanding things because we’re coming out of COVID and people are asking for (more building materials) because we’re trying to restart everything.”

Lindstrom says Thunder Bay continued construction through the pandemic but contractors faced shortages of steel, lumber and aluminum, which in turn caused prices to soar due to supply falling short of demand. He called it a “catch-up” problem.

So far, Lindstrom hasn’t heard of any construction cancellations, but contractors are having to shift jobs around by using the material they have on hand for small projects to get them done.

In a response email to The Chronicle-Journal, the Ready Mixed Concrete Association of Ontario said the province’s concrete industry has been experiencing unprecedented challenges regarding the supply of raw materials required to produce concrete in 2022.

“The demand for construction materials remains at an all-time high, both in Ontario and in the adjacent provinces and the states that we border, and global supply chain issues, combined with equipment and labour shortages, are having a very detrimental impact on our industry’s ability to meet all the concrete needs in the Ontario marketplace,” they said.

The cement association said these issues are further compounded by three of the five cement plants in Ontario having significant equipment breakdowns that have required emergency repairs. Multiple concrete plants around the province are facing closures of up to a week.

This has all culminated in very significant raw material shortages that have dramatically impacted the ability of the concrete industry to produce concrete.

The association says concrete and aggregate supply disruptions were taking place prior to this emergency situation which will exponentially cause raw material supply constraints to continue throughout the remainder of 2022.

This item reprinted with permission from The Chronicle-Journal, Thunder Bay, Ontario