Bill 51 to help Québec modernize its construction industry: Key measures for infrastructure projects

9 minute read
05 February 2024

This article was originally published on February 5, 2024, and has been updated to reflect the fact that the bill was enacted on May 28, 2024.

On May 23, 2024, the Québec government passed Bill 51,[1] An Act to modernize the construction industry ("Bill 51"), which mainly amends the Act respecting labour relations, vocational training and workforce management in the construction industry ("Act R-20")[2] and its corresponding regulations.

With Bill 51, Québec aims to reform the province's construction industry to increase its productivity and workforce, and thus meet pressing infrastructure needs (public transit, housing, seniors' homes, hospitals, energy infrastructures, etc.).

Various measures introduced by Bill 51 will have a direct impact on infrastructure project development in Québec.

A mobile, versatile and diverse workforce

Bill 51 has introduced the concept of "versatility", meaning that aside from work relating to a structure's stability or safe bearing capacity and to crane operation of any kind, journeymen on a construction site are now authorised to perform other tasks related to those covered by their competency certificate. Versatility is defined as:

"[…] Performing tasks that meet all the following conditions constitutes versatility:

(1)  the tasks are related to the tasks provided for in the definition of the trade of the journeyman;

(2) the tasks are part of the same work sequence and allow work, including preparatory or finishing work, to progress and continue; and

(3) the tasks are both of short duration and performed on the same working day."[3]

Also, as of May 1, 2025 (collective agreement renewal date in the construction industry), the Québec government will allow employees in the construction sector, subject to certain conditions, to work in all regions of Québec by eliminating regional protection clauses from collective agreements.[4]

With Bill 51, Québec will also extend the various measures promoting the inclusion of women on construction sites to "persons who are representative of the diversity of Québec society," i.e. Indigenous persons, members of visible or ethnic minorities, immigrants and persons with disabilities.[5]

Furthermore, an employee who is a woman or a person representative of the diversity of Québec society will no longer be required to meet the admission requirements of the program of study leading to a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS) in the trade concerned, nor will it be required for an employer to have guaranteed them at least 150 hours of work for them to be issued their first apprentice competency certificate.[6]

Optimizing the collective agreement negotiation process

To ensure timely renewal of collective agreements in the various sectors of the construction industry, and to avoid strikes and work stoppages that may ensue, the Québec government is setting up a Committee on labour relations in the construction industry, which will comprise equal representation from management and labour.[7]

In addition, as of September 1, 2025, the sequence for raiding and negotiations will be modified and the periods for such activities will be extended.[8]

Involving Indigenous communities

Bill 51 seeks to encourage the hiring of Indigenous workers on construction sites. It thus includes a measure now allowing for an Indigenous entity that has entered into an agreement with the Québec government under Section I.1 of Act R-20, the Kativik Regional Government, the Cree Nation Government or the Eeyou Ischtee James Bay Regional Government to hold a labour referral licence, in the same way employee, employer and contractor associations are authorized to do under Act R-20.[9]

New powers and obligations of the Commission de la construction du Québec

With Bill 51, the Québec government also grants new powers to the Commission de la construction du Québec and imposes new obligations upon it, including its participation in the development and implementation of government policies, strategic directions and measures and in projects promoted or funded by the government that may involve the construction industry[10] and the development of a strategic plan.[11]

Other measures

In addition to the key measures noted above, Bill 51 also introduces the following:

  • An increase in remuneration of arbitrators of grievances in the construction industry.[12]
  • A streamlining of the lineworker certification process.[13]
  • The possibility to renew a certificate of competency if an employee has been absent on maternity, paternity or parental leave, or because of the birth or adoption of a child.[14]
  • increased fines for violations of Act R-20, including fines being doubled for a second offence and tripled for a subsequent offence.[15]

For more information on Bill 51 or general assistance regarding any area of construction or infrastructure law, please contact the members of the Gowling WLG Infrastructure team.

[3] Bill 51, s. 72.

[4] Id., s. 69 and 70. A woman or a person who is representative of the diversity of Québec society and who holds a journeyman competency certificate, an occupation competency certificate or an apprentice competency certificate, and has worked for the same employer 400 hours or more in the construction industry during the first 24 months of the 26 months preceding the issue or renewal of their competency certificate can be assigned anywhere in Québec. An employer may assign, anywhere in Québec, any other employee who holds such a certificate, if that employee has worked for the employer 750 hours or more in the construction industry in Québec or elsewhere in Canada during the same period. An employee holding a journeyman competency certificate who has 15,000 hours or more declared in the monthly report may be assigned anywhere in Québec, regardless of the employer.

[5] Bill 51, s. 1, 3, 60, 60.1, 62, 63, 66, 67, 68, 68.1, 69, 73, 82, 83 and 88.

[6] Id., s. 64 and 68.1.

[7] Id., s. 5.

[8] Id., s. 9-22.

[9] Id., s. 30.

[10] Id., s. 3 and 4.

[11] Id., s. 4.

[12] Id., s. 76, 77 and 79.

[13] Id., s. 63.

[14] Id., s. 65.

[15] Id., s. 32-59.

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