July 15, 2018
An April ice storm followed by an unusually cold, late spring challenged all sectors of Ontario’s landscape industry. Landscape Ontarios’s past president, Tom Intven, called it the toughest spring of his 40-year career. He invited members to share their stories through LO’s Enews.

Blake Tubby, designer, estimator and project manager at Arbordale Landscaping in Concord, Ont., says his company lost two- to three-weeks of production in April. Arbordale is currently playing a catch-up game, which Tubby says is hard to explain to customers, whose memories shortened as the days grew longer.

“The amount of winter kill has been extreme this spring,” said Mark Burleton, manager of grounds and greenhouse, official residences division of the National Capital Commission. “Ottawa has been severely hit this year, where surprisingly, even well established yews, cedars and cypress in protected locations have died, or had severe die-back.”

“It was encouraging to hear others who have been in the field longer than me are struggling too,” said Mark Veenstra, owner of Small Jobs Landscaping in Newcastle. “I actually think that the struggles started in the fall; the winter came quick and hard. There was no warning snowfall, it just froze, leaving us stranded in the middle of a job. The first snowfall of early December didn’t melt until February. This set me up to be chasing my tail in spring, which was cold, and as we all know customers don’t call if it doesn’t feel like spring. The home shows were slower, then the calls started coming, all at once. All this on top of the typical stresses of spring, getting the trucks ready and filling in the staffing gaps. I ended up overworking, not sleeping enough and got knocked down by a stomach virus for a week. So I am in full agreement this spring has been harder than others.”

A positive offset came from Paul Doornbos, owner of Thornbusch Landscaping in Lansdowne. “Compared to last year, it’s a dream so far. We started off messed up with another tough April with regards to cash flow and momentum, but now we’re going strong and trying diligently to manage customer expectations through strong communication. If the weather continues to cooperate, we could see a record-breaking first quarter.”

On top of weather, Greg Cameron, president of Cameron Landscaping, North York, was frustrated by Ontario’s regulatory climate: “Bill 148 is the icing on the cake to kill off small business. In particular, the minimum wage increase upsets the entire wage structure; industries whose biggest expense is labour, such as ours, are hardest hit. The personal emergency leave provision, with no ability to verify legitimacy of an illness, is subject to total abuse — most companies are fed up with lame excuses. The automatic two days’ paid leave after one week of employment is an additional expense with a compounding effect. What’s stopping an employee who’s not satisfied with a new job, calling in sick to be paid two days? I have no issue protecting employment for those who legitimately need personal emergency leave, but the rules have been strictly written to obtain votes on the backs of small business. If not changed, it’s guaranteed businesses will give up or move out of province to a more business-friendly environment.”

Thanks to Tom Intven for giving members an opportunity to sound off.