Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an interview with Jeremy Power and Samuel St Jean with Cotney Construction Law. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast here.
Heidi Ellsworth: Hello and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips. This is Heidi Ellsworth with RoofersCoffeeShop, and I am so excited today to be visiting with some of our roofing professionals from up north. And these are the gentlemen from Cotney Construction Law out of Canada, Jeremy Power, and Samuel St-Jean who are both just starting with Cotney Construction Law, but are true blue Canadians, and we can't wait. I'm so excited to have this conversation because I don't always get to visit so much across borders. So Jeremy, welcome to the show.
Jeremy Power: Thanks, Heidi happy to be here.
Heidi Ellsworth: Awesome, and Samuel, thank you for being here.
Samuel St-Jean: Thanks Heidi I'm happy to be here too.
Heidi Ellsworth: Great. Well, everyone loves Cotney Construction Law. So you two are definitely in the right spot. We think the world, you guys are doing such amazing things. But before we kind of get into what's happening up in Canada with Cotney, Jeremy, can you talk a little bit about yourself and some of your background and just who you are?
Jeremy Power: Sure. I grew up in the East Coast of Canada in Newfoundland, St. John's. Went to law school in the East Coast, University of New Brunswick. I've been practicing law in Toronto for about a year and a half when Trent Cotney reached out to me and I was a little apprehensive at first because you know, it was a unique opportunity I suppose, one I didn't expect. But I'm super happy to be on the team now. And yeah, it's been a great experience so far. Obviously it's a little weird starting a job when you can't visit any of your colleagues or even go to the country where your head office is. But yeah, it's been great so far.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's excellent. Now and tell us just a little bit while we're on this thing about where's your office on for Cotney? You are out of Toronto. Just give us a little bit about the office there, and what you're covering?
Jeremy Power: Yeah. The office is right downtown at Yonge Street, the Toronto Star Building, but obviously we haven't ... I mean, physically I haven't really spent any time at the office. I'm actually working from a cottage right now and we've been doing a lot of work and like I said, it's just weird, right? Starting a job in this environment. I guess I started in early June and yeah, it's been weird the whole time from that the COVID perspective, but it's been great. I mean, we do a lot of work for contractors, subcontractors. We've had some litigation, a lot of contractual work, a lot of labor and employment work. So the office is busy and yeah, it's been a laugh, it's been fun.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's awesome. That's awesome. And then Sam, and I'm going to go with your more familiar Sam instead of Samuel. Because we were being all formal at the beginning. But introduce yourself a little bit, tell everybody about where you come from and that you're out of Montreal. So let's talk a little bit about that too.
Samuel St-Jean: Yeah. I grew up in Quebec, the French speaking province of Canada for those down south of the border who were not familiar with that French part of Canada. So I grew up in the Laurentian region, which is just up north from Montreal, about an hour and a half north from Montreal. I grew up in a pretty much construction related family. My father's a contractor, so pretty much have been on construction sites my whole life. Then I came down in Montreal to study law in University of Montreal. Then I was just starting my fourth year of practice in commercial and civil litigation in Montreal when Cotney approached me to open the firm here in Montreal. So it started in September now, so.
Heidi Ellsworth: This is all brand new for both of you, just getting started.
Samuel St-Jean: Yeah. Especially opening a firm. I mean, we've had our own respective experience before in practice. I was practicing for almost four years before. But opening a firm in itself, obviously with the help from the main office, but it's a whole other thing in itself, so. Yes, it's a brand new thing for us, at least for me.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yes and you know what I love too is Sam, when we talked before you talked about your dad being a contractor and kind of growing up in the trades, I was very similar. I grew up in the trades with my dad and that just brings a whole nother level of understanding as you're working with the contractors too.
Samuel St-Jean: Well. Yeah, that's what I'm often saying that even when I was doing commercial litigation at large, not necessarily construction specific, but commercial at large, you always get a different perspective when you kind of know the behind the scenes from any entrepreneur. And then when it comes to construction, they're the kind of entrepreneurs that are different also. So it definitely helps to come from that background because I know the reality that they're facing and maybe I'm more familiar with their stresses, I guess. Just about practicing law, especially litigation it's so fact related, it always helps to know the facts. I mean, when you're dealing with a file that's about foundations, if you know your way around a construction site and know the language, it always helps. When you do banking law and if you don't know nothing about banking, you're starting with kind of a penalty already.
Heidi Ellsworth: Exactly, exactly. And that's why I've been so impressed because Jeremy, I know that you came in and you really launched into Canada and built a relationship along with, I know Trent was involved with this too, with the Canadian Roofing Contractors Association. And now you all are general counsel for the CRCA. Jeremy, I mean, that's really getting to know the contractors really taking it from, I love this ground grassroots. So tell us a little bit about what's going on with CRCA and Cotney?
Jeremy Power: Yeah. So pretty early in my days when I came on, we were in discussions with Bob Brunet, who's the national executive director of the CRCA. And we wanted to get involved with them because obviously the firm is full service to the extent that we help everyone in the construction business and do all sorts of other work. But the firm really has roots in the roofing industry in the U.S. So when we opened Cotney Canada, or at least at the time it was just the Toronto office. Now we have Quebec as well in Montreal, but we really wanted to get involved with the CRCA any way we could. And so after some discussions, we're the GC for the NRCA in the U.S. I think that may have helped, but yeah, they took us on as general counsel and yeah, it's been a great ride ever since. We're doing a lot of work for their members. And as I was telling you before, we're building a library for them, which has been pretty fulfilling. It's been sort of an experience and getting, for me, I don't come from a huge construction background. I've done some work in private practice in construction, but since helping them build this library, I've certainly learned a lot more about the nuances, because it's meant to be a practical resource. It's not really a resource for lawyers. It's a resource for people who are in the roofing business. So it's been fun, yeah.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's amazing, that's so cool. To be able to kind of bring all that and just start at the beginning and really see something grow. Now, I am assuming it's in both English and French, the library, as you're going?
Jeremy Power: It's funny you should bring that up, it's in English right now. Sam and I were discussing earlier, Sam is helping us both add Quebec law because ... I'll that Sam talked about this in a sec, but basically Sam's going to help translate what we've completed so far, which is basically one rough draft of the entire library for now. And then as Sam can explain, Quebec law is a little different. So he's going to tough tasks because he's got to translate and he's got to adapt and add in new provisions for Quebec specifically. So, Sam you want to talk about that?
Samuel St-Jean: Yeah. Well, these are kind of two levels of translation as I like to say. You translate the language and translate the legal aspects as well. You have to put it into Quebec legal language. I was speaking with some colleagues, these are nuances. And sometimes they're not really obvious, but it's in the language. And sometimes it goes as far as legal implications too, legal obligations. But most of the time it's more of a cultural difference. And so you got to take that into consideration because I think rest of Canada and the U.S. are even more similar than rest of Canada is with Quebec I think. So on that aspect we have to make sure that we identify those nuances and make sure that we get them because we want to be as useful as possible for our interpreters who are going to go into the library and use it. If you're an interpreter in Quebec, you've got to make sure that these apply in Quebec, so.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. And so talk a little bit more about that, Sam and then just as we're looking at putting together, you are really bringing about a whole new area, and I know this there's a lot of changes in the law, just culturally, language and everything. How are the contractors? I mean, they just must love the fact that you are native. You get it, you're from that area that has to make a big difference.
Samuel St-Jean: Well, from the get go you have to be licensed in Quebec to practice in Quebec. So it's definitely a plus. I would kind of be of less use if I wasn't licensed to practice in Quebec, as we were speaking with Jay when we kind of first met. When your licensed, then Jake can explain that a bit further if necessary. But I think when you're licensed, like let's say in Ontario, the procedures to get licensed in other provinces are really light. Whereas if you want to be licensed in Quebec, even though you passed the bar in Toronto, you have to go through the whole process again and pass the bar again. And vice versa. I'm licensed to practice in Quebec and I couldn't really practice elsewhere unless I passed the entire bar of that province. This is just to underline how different Quebec is from the rest of the provinces. And then when you apply that to commercial law, you have a whole lot of differences that stem from that.
Heidi Ellsworth: Wow. Wow. Jeremy, what are you seeing across the board? Just with, I know you both are working national, but to how ... As you're talking about contractors, I know we talked about this a little bit before, but when you're talking about contractors wanting to come to work into Canada and vice versa over the borders, we kind of talked about this before. And I don't know why, but this kind of what you were talking about, the differences between Quebec and all the different provinces, there's a lot to understand for anybody working up there.
Jeremy Power: Yeah. I mean, Sam's right in that Quebec is certainly a special case when it comes to the legal stuff. But when you're talking about working, and I think this is what you were saying about bringing people in from the U.S. for instance, is that what you mean?
Heidi Ellsworth: Yes, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jeremy Power: Yeah. That's regulated nationally, federally as we say here. So I've done some work on that actually for the library for a bit. I mean, there's a lot of cross border roofing companies. So then there's different types of visas, working visas you can get, and there's different arrangements you can make to make sure you can operate in Canada. Now, so if you were like, you're on the West Coast of the U.S., right? You're in Oregon?
Heidi Ellsworth: Yes, yes.
Jeremy Power: Is that right? No?
Heidi Ellsworth: Yep.
Jeremy Power: So you're in Oregon. So I mean, you're pretty close to BC, if you wanted to work in Vancouver and I'm sure there's a lot of Washington State companies in particular that would have cross border operations in BC, you could set up a satellite office in Vancouver if you were a Washington State company. Then you have a Canadian base for your operations, then it's a lot easier to bring workers in and out. Without getting too far into the weeds on that. Yeah, there are a lot of different things you need to take into account with immigration law. And the COVID-19 pandemic is not making it any easier. Because if you're a company that wants to operate in Canada, not only do you have to go through all the rigamarole and protocol of getting in any way, whether that be corporate or corporate rules, immigration rules, labor rules. Now you've got this added layer of complexity to deal with. So yeah, it's not a good time for cross border travel.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, no, no. So tell us a little bit about what are you seeing up in Canada right now with COVID? And how's it affecting down in the States and [inaudible 00:16:11], because you guys work as a group with all of Cotney, roofing is still really busy. What are you seeing up in Canada?
Jeremy Power: In Ontario business has been, it slowed a little bit. Before I started with Cotney, and I'm sure Sam will agree, like March and April of this year were very weird, very, very slow for everything. Because even construction stopped for a while. But everything else stopped. Now since May construction, roofing, any ... In Ontario and in Canada, generally with everyone being home, residential work has gone crazy. I don't know if it's like that in Quebec, but in Ontario it's insane. And British Columbia is the same. I mean, those are the two provinces I do most of my work for, and it's like all residential right now. And it's really like COVID has helped that, so.
Heidi Ellsworth: Right. That's what we've seen down here too. How about up in Quebec, Sam? What are you seeing there?
Samuel St-Jean: Yeah, I don't know if it's going to resonate with you down in Oregon or elsewhere in Canada. Here in Quebec, the media kind of treated these as waves. So we've had the first wave of COVID around March and then the second wave of COVID just hit apparently. At least that's how they describe it here in Quebec. So beginning of October Quebec just entered into a second general lockdown. And I can just resonate with what Jeremy was saying. I kind of noticed it too, that this time around is different than the March first wave. In March I think maybe because the illness was new and authorities didn't know how to handle it, but everything shut down. Construction sites, culture, shops, restaurants, everything. Now they kind of went more, I don't know, selective the way they handled it. So it depends on which industries you're in and construction luckily seems to be spared so far. So there's been a second lockdown in general when it comes to restaurants and culture and all that stuff. But construction this time around stayed open. And I don't think it's applying right now, but it's going to definitely apply for the future. I heard the authorities are planning to, pardon, I'm looking for my word sometimes to invest massively into infrastructure. So I think so far from what I've gathered from clients, yes, residential sector has been really strong all summer long. I don't know if people are buying cottages up north. I don't know if people are getting out of building houses instead of buying condos here. But yeah, residential has been really strong and single household residential. But I think infrastructures and public work is going to come sooner than later when they're going to try to rebuild the economy, because obviously everyone's in here right now. So they're working on a plan and I heard that this plan involved public works [inaudible 00:19:58].
Heidi Ellsworth: So Cotney Construction Law is well-known for their safety and for what everything they do in the States with OSHA and also Cotney Consulting Group, which launched as you all know this year and your part, even work with too, they do turns of helping contractors with safety and manuals and all of those kinds of things. So Sam, what are you seeing right now that the contractors in Quebec need when it comes to safety? I mean, what kind of things are you doing for them to help them stay in business? And in the U.S. we're calling them essential workers. I'm not sure if that's the same, but tell us a little bit about kind of, what are some of the main conversations you're having with your contractors around this?
Samuel St-Jean: Yeah, well, what we have here as equivalent for OSHA is the C-N-E-S-S-T, which is a governmental body regulating all aspects of the industry, not only construction, but it applies to restaurants as well when it comes to safety in the workplace. But obviously when it comes to construction, this entity is pretty strong and pretty present because construction is ... There's a lot of safety matters that come into play maybe more than other sectors. So the CNESST. They've been really quick and really proactive when COVID hit, because obviously everybody wanted the construction industry to restart after the first lockdown. So they've been really clear about the measures that contractors have to put in place here. We see that contractors have been taking this really seriously, at least in the city. I don't know about less populated areas. Sometimes it's you get less visibility. So maybe people are less, not scared, but maybe less worried about all of the complication. Because you know, there's a distinction also between Montreal and then the rest of Quebec. Montreal, obviously is a city. So we're a red area right now. And the rest of Quebec is not as red. So maybe safety measures are less strict elsewhere, but here what we've seen is contractors taking this really seriously. You can, when you walk around the city, you see panels with safety measures and they're indicating pretty clearly to their employees how to deal with this. And I've read in the news actually at the end of last week, there's a coalition here, grouping all contractors, general contractors in Quebec. And they were actually saying that they were going further than what the CNESST has been requiring in terms of protection. So they're requiring people to wear the mask as soon as they're within two meters let's say. Whereas the official requirements are less strict than that. So people have been, I guess, really seriously, because they don't want to see a second lock down in the construction industry.
Heidi Ellsworth: No, that's amazing. Jeremy, what are you seeing in the rest of Canada, what are some of the top issues for contractors right now that they're really focused on to where they need to prevent risk, need your services? What are some of the hot topics?
Jeremy Power: I would say the most common question we get is, do I have to pay someone who's symptomatic to stay at home for 14 days? And that doesn't have a clear answer. I mean, depending on the person's employment contract and labor laws and the province you're in and federal labor laws, no one's really sure. And so the federal government of Canada recently announced this program. It's a new iteration of one we already had. It's called the Canada Recovery Benefit. And for the next 26 weeks, if at any point you get COVID or you test positive and you can't go to work, you can get $500 a week from the government. If you don't qualify to get paid from your job anyway. Obviously if Sam or I got COVID and we were in the hospital, we'd still be getting paid, right? Because it's just, if you're on salary, you're probably still going to get paid. So if you're in the construction business and your project manager or someone you probably have on salary has to go home for two weeks, you may just pay them. You may have to. So the thing is, if a laborer or someone who is a contractor of some sort can't come to the job for two weeks, A, what happens to the job site? Does everyone that came into contact with that person have then go home for two weeks and do I have to pay them all? And you know, they're questions surrounding what to do about that. That's been something we hear every day pretty much.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, that's big.
Jeremy Power: Yeah, yeah, and there's no clear answer. And also safety protocols. How do I set up my job site to ensure that I'm following all government orders. And in Ontario, like you just talked about OSHA, in Ontario it's called OSA, the Occupational Health and Safety Act. So very similar. There's all sorts of protocols from that agency and from the federal government and from the provincial government. So a lot of people are just confused about what they should and shouldn't do. So yeah. I mean, I think there's some COVID fatigue going on with the workplaces and with people generally. So, I just try and tell my clients that develop safety protocols, write them down, follow them and just try and keep up with what the government says or government agency says. And if you can't figure it out, ask me and I'll take a stab at finding out what you should do.
Heidi Ellsworth: Right, that's good. That's good. I think that's what everybody needs right now. I mean, that's what we're seeing across the board is just like things are changing so fast. And it's just, you got to take every day as it comes and kind of look at what's being said, and who's saying it and how to keep our contractors working and safe.
Samuel St-Jean: Yeah. Kind of a bounce back on that. You can see that there are kind of two types of regulating bodies. There's obviously the government which emits directives and tells people what to do and what not to do, but there's also just the own self-incentive of not losing business. And I think that's what we're seeing with contractors here. One is much of they're following the regulations emitted by the government, but they're also just self-regulating because they don't want their guy to go home for two weeks. I mean, even-
Jeremy Power: Yeah, yeah. I agree, Sam. That's what I'm seeing in Toronto too, Vancouver. I mean anywhere where there is a lot of construction going on, it's the same thing. They're going overboard with the protections and that's a good thing. And I'm happy to get these questions, but it's hard to know if you're doing everything correctly, but it does seem to be that everyone is trying their best. So what more can you ask really?
Heidi Ellsworth: I know, I know. Well, you know what? I think Canada is pretty lucky because they've got you two and they've got the Cotney Construction Law and Consulting and all the things, the great things they do. So I guess overall, thank you. I mean, this has been so insightful and a great look into. I personally am just like, "We're North America, we're all together." But we have some different things and it's cool to see you all bringing that to the table for the roofing contractors and all contractors, all subcontractors, all construction up in Canada. So last thoughts, Jeremy, any last thoughts or anything you want to share with the roofing? Both Canada and U.S.?
Jeremy Power: I think roofers and all roofing professionals should be cautiously optimistic. I mean, construction and roofing obviously has continued through the pandemic. I mean, let's hope that we're at least halfway through this thing now, I hope. And I think that as long as, roofing professionals and people in the construction industry of all stripes just keep their eye on the prize, get through this tough winter with as many protocols as you can. Don't panic if someone gets COVID or if there's an exposure. In Canada you've obviously got benefits. In the U.S. hopefully Congress will figure something out soon. And I think, generally just be safe, follow your protocols and work should continue. And things will be fine.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yes, I love that. That's wise. That's exactly what we need to hear. And Sam, what do you have for us?
Samuel St-Jean: Well, what I'd say to contractors in Quebec is, look both sides, look to your employees and make sure there is the directives. You can go on the CNESST website for resources. You can go on the app GCHQ website, the SEQ website, which are all organization here in Quebec for all directives in terms of health and safety. And look on the other side to your clients and make sure that both you and your clients, and this could be another podcast and another topic one day, but make sure that both you and your clients are aware of the situation and reflect that carefully in the contracts that you sign. I think these would be my two advices to the contractors.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. Watching your contracts. I know Trent has done a lot of webinars on that. That is a great next podcast for us to talk about that for Canada. So excellent. Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you so much for being on the show today.
Jeremy Power: Thank you.
Samuel St-Jean: It's a pleasure.
Jeremy Power: No problem. Thank you very much.
Heidi Ellsworth: Thank you. Thank you, Sam. And thank you, Jeremy. And thank you everybody for listening. This is a Roofing Road Trip from RoofersCoffeeShop. My name is Heidi Ellsworth and I welcome all of you to visit The rooferscoffeeshop.com. Listen to all of our podcasts on our Read, Listen, Watch navigation on the site or on your favorite podcast channel. So please subscribe and we'll look forward to seeing you again. Thank you and have a great day.