For only the second time in its 80-year history, the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) presented a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of an individual who has made significant contributions to the association and the industry.
For Paul Raboud, this distinction crowns a career devoted to construction and many years as an OGCA director and past chairman. The Daily Commercial News spoke with Paul just minutes after the award ceremony at the opening dinner of the recent OGCA Conference and AGM.
You seemed genuinely surprised to receive this award tonight?
I was totally caught off guard! It’s a tremendous honour.
You are now leaving the Board of Directors after 16 continuous years of service. How do you put that into personal perspective?
This is now an opportunity for a younger fellow to have the same opportunity that I had — to learn more about the industry and to meet people in the industry. It’s a real growth opportunity.
What can you tell us about your construction background?
I grew up in Edmonton and was originally going to be a dentist! However, as I was putting myself through university, I started a small business forming basements during the boom in the late 70s and early 80s in Alberta. I hired my best friend and a couple of other guys. I really enjoyed the work. That’s when I realized I was not cut out for dentistry and switched over to civil engineering.
You’ve worked your entire career with Bird Construction?
I started as a student with Bird for the summers, and they offered me a full-time job when I graduated. However, the market was horrible in Alberta at the time, so they said if I wanted a full-time job, I had to move to Ontario. I was only 22 years old and it was an adventure. I was later transferred to B.C. in 1989 to open an office out there after the original union office decertified. When I moved back to Ontario, my boss Paul Charette, chairman of Bird, was also the chairman of the OGCA. When he retired from that, he gave the opportunity to a young guy to learn. And that’s how I got invited to join the OGCA board in about 2003.
How do you view the issue of collaboration within construction industry?
The relationship between contractors is interesting. You might think that you are competitors. Yet, you are and you aren’t, particularly given the amount of joint venture work out there. At times, it’s a struggle to get people to collaborate. In general, the industry is heavily populated with type A, free-spirited kind of guys. I think a lot of times the instinct is, “I don’t need to cooperate, I’ll do my own thing, I’m a free, independent spirit kind of dude.” But there are times when there are contract conditions that as an industry we don’t like, with the government for example.
How have you seen the OGCA evolve over your 16 years on the Board?
We’ve had unbelievable success in terms of the stature of the organization. I think we are the go-to organization. Most members see advocacy as our number one mission. In terms of the OGCA representing the industry, we have tried to take a positive, collaborative approach on issues. Government has become used to that idea when they come to us — we give them something constructive. They have a goal, we have a goal, and together we can work to find positive solutions.
What are you going to do with all your spare time?
To be honest, I’m super busy right now. I like to be busy! I have three boards that I sit on. It’s been a big-time commitment with the OGCA, and I will continue to do some of that, but I won’t have any trouble filling the gaps.