13th Annual National Symposium: Managing Risk in Construction Contracts and Projects

Witten by Jenna Collignon, Staff Writer at Matrix Group Publishing

Last month, the Canadian Institute hosted a virtual conference that spanned two days and consisted of a variety of talks and panels, all on the theme of Managing Risk in Construction Contracts and Projects.  During both days of the conference, the conversations revolved around the careful planning of construction projects including topics from prompt payment legislation to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the construction industry, and costly litigation to the ethical aspects when considering your joint venture partner.

All in all, this was a great combination of meet-n- greets, resources, panels, talks, question and answers, and live polling to bring together members of the industry across Canada.  The organizers did a fantastic job in keeping the multitude of topics fresh and exciting throughout the day, engaging listeners within the talks, and conducting networking opportunities during breaks.


And even though the conference was held virtually, attendees were still involved, and brought into the conversation from the comfort of homes and offices across the country and world.  Panellists posed questions to the chat as they discussed their topics, and answered any questions that came from the chat as well, keeping the flow from talker to listener open and moving.  The conference was held through the online service Hopin, which streamlined the whole event.  By moving seamlessly through the lobby, which held all the necessary information for the attendees, into the sessions and the networking and resources, attendees could easily navigate the virtual conference space.

A feature used during the sessions was the live poll feature, which gathered live data from listeners that the panellists could then discuss within minutes.  This functioned as a great tool to engage with attendees, even more so than the simple question and answer component of the chat.

Day 1: Think Tank on Effective Project Management in a COVID Era: From Force Majeure to Defending Against Delays and Impact-Related Claims.


On both days, the conference would start out with opening remarks from Neil Abbott at Gowling WLG, and Jennifer Suess of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, who would welcome attendees to the event and introduce the array of topics that were going to be discussed during the day.  Abbott moderated the sessions for both days, guiding attendees and panellists into each session, as well as moving things along to the next topic and speakers. 

On the first day, there were a variety of speakers from all over Canada.  Here is what some of them were discussing:

Day 1: Deconstructing Construction Law Reforms Across Canada: Lessons Learned from the Ontario Experience.

During the ‘Deconstructing Construction Law Reforms Across Canada: Lessons Learned from the Ontario Experience’, attendees heard from Bill Deley, GHD; Barbara Capes, Kiewit Canada Inc.; Paul Dipede, Corebuild Construction Ltd.; and Howard Krupat, DLA Piper (Canada) LLP

“Engaging in a really transparent conversation early on in the stages of your construction project; making sure everyone’s expectations are aligned is crucial to keeping everyone on the same level,” said Deley.

“Communication between our procurement lawyers and the operational lawyers is critical,” said Capes.  “They need to understand what accounting is looking for, and what the owner is looking for, and where we can find middle ground.” 

The‘Ins and Outs of Construction Liens & Common Pitfalls to Avoid’ session was discussed by Brian Chung of Aird & Berlis LLP; and Damon Stoddard at Heal & Co. LLP

“If there is no certificate or declaration of substantial performance, liens expire after 60 days following the earlier of the contract completion date, and the date the contract is abandoned or terminated,” said Chung.

“The biggest question that comes up is, ‘can I just go and do it? Can I just start a notice of adjudication?’  You can commence your adjudication online and start the process toward resolution,” said Elise Teitler, ODACC/ADR Chambers, during the ‘Fireside Chat on Adjudication’.

On day two, we began with a discussion on the ‘Dispute Resolution for Construction Projects: Assessing Improvements to the Process and Determining Which Method is Right for You’, moderated by Jesse Gardner, Singleton Urquhart/Reynolds Vogel LLP; Ian Marshall, Bot Construction Group; Lorna Cuthbertson Tardif, HKA; and Jay Nathwani, Crosslinx Transit Solutions Constructors

“More procedure isn’t always better; there are different ways of feeling victimized during disputes: you got justice, but it was so consuming of both your energy and money and you feel victimized by the process, or you don’t get justice at all,” said Nathwani. 

“We know disputes will arise [in the process], so we have to plan for them… Early intervention is called for,” said Marshall.  “You make it work.”

Day 2: Leveraging Technology in Legal Services to Create Efficiencies and Security.

During the conversation about ‘Leveraging Technology in Legal Services to Create Efficiencies and Security’, there was an interesting conversation led by Yuri Bartzis, Pomerleau Innovations Manager – Canadian Buildings Operations, about the technology behind the daily collection of data on site via wearable sensors.

“By having data day by day where work is actually being completed on site and comparing that to schedules, we can catch anomalies and start reviewing man hours that we are actually spending on location compared to the baseline of man hours,” said Bartzis.

And finally, during the last session of Day Two, Amee Sandhu of Lex Integra, and Julianna Fox at WSP Montreal, led the conversation titled, ‘Ethics 101: Critical Issues to consider in Selecting your Joint Venture Partner and Managing Relations’

“The most common risk in any organization is a third-party corruption risk,” said Sandhu.  “Anti-corruption laws can hold you liable for third parties, if they are acting on your behalf, and you do not have as much control over third parties as your own organization.”

“All of these topics are such important topics – the challenge is to step back and see how all of them interrelate into the project work we do,” said Fox.  “It is equally important to look at the details of a project AND to take a step back and do risk assessments.”

This conference brought together those in the industry to really consider how they deal with real-world changes and challenges.  The world has drastically changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and, in 2019; many of the issues being discussed at this conference were not being contemplated at all.  

Make sure to join us in 2022!

13th Annual National Symposium: Managing Risk in Construction Contracts and Projects

About the Author

Jenna Collignon joined the Matrix team in 2019, fresh out of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Honours English Degree.  When asked what she most likes about her position as an editor at Matrix, she has trouble answering. “That’s because,” she says, “what ISN’T there to like?  There is something new on my plate every day, with new challenges and lessons to be learned along with that. It also doesn’t hurt to be part of such a great team.”