DCN: Ontario College of Trades appointments create concern

Daily Commercial News and Construction Record
VINCE VERSACE – Staff Writer


Cautious optimism best describes initial reaction from construction industry officials to the recently unveiled Ontario’s College of Trades appointments council.

“Some very good people have been appointed and some with clear agendas have been appointed as well and that concerns us,” said Clive Thurston, president of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA). “If the college is not going to go forward in a manner to improve education, training and draw people to our industry it will be a problem.”

The province recently unveiled its selections to the college’s appointment council. Rod Cameron, former dean of technology at Fanshawe College, was named council chair.

The other seven council members are Pat Dillon, business manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, Hugh Laird, executive director of the Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre, Allan West, vice-president and director of the K.J. Beamish Group of Companies, Sue Allen, a certified tractor trailer fleet trainer and examiner, Colin Heslop, national director of the Skilled Trades Department for the Canadian Auto Workers, Gail Smyth, executive director of Skills Canada-Ontario and Norman Wolfson, president of Lecours Wolfson Ltd, a foodservice industry recruitment firm.

The council is responsible for making appointments to the governance structure of the college, including the board of governors, divisional boards, trade boards and adjudicators for review panels. The council will also act as the college’s transitional board of governors.

A main OGCA concern is that the council gets “down to the business” of bringing the college fully into existence. The college was designed to be a research arm to provide information and data on compulsory certification and apprentice ratios, said Thurston.

The college’s legislative framework earmarks review panel work on those two issues to occur before the college is fully established.

“How can you have a discussion on those two issues without having the college up and running?” he said.
“The makeup of this council leads me to believe that is where they are going to go instead of concentrating on the bigger picture of creating the college itself.”

The Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) supported West’s nomination to the council and it too believes that the college needs to be fully established before review panels begin their work.

“We need to take our time and make sure the college is fully implemented and that it has the research and staff capability to ensure those panels have the correct access to information,” said Karen Renkema, director of government relations with ORBA.

Dillon said he looks forward to working with his fellow council members, though he did expect more tradespeople on the council since the trades are present in many sectors of the economy.

“That being said, there is a lot of work to be done over the next two to three years,” he added.
Dave McDonald, president of the Merit Open Shop Contractors Association of Ontario, took issue with Dillon being selected to the council.

“It is not appropriate for him to be on the council — he is a political beast of his own interests and is very politically active,” McDonald said. “The council would benefit from having someone more impartial.”

During 2011 and 2012 the council will establish a framework for fees to support the college and develop a complaints, enforcement and discipline system to help the college govern its members, said the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

“At the end of the day, the council will be judged by its actions, not by its words,” said Sean Reid, Ontario Director of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada. “We welcome Chairman Cameron’s stated commitment to fairness and transparency. Some on the council have strong track records in that regard, while others do not.”