Mention the Ontario College of Trades to someone in the construction industry and you are bound to hear a strong opinion.
The College has been a source of controversy ever since it was first created in 2009.
Some have argued — including the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) — that the College represents a “tax” on industry. Others have argued the enforcement responsibilities of the College have not been applied consistently across the sector, creating confusion among employers and skilled tradespeople alike. While others have simply argued that the governance of the College has lost its way from its original 2009 mandate.
However, almost everyone in the construction industry agrees that the College is broken.
PCA has been a strong advocate for change at the College of Trades. We believe change is necessary to better support the trades and the employers who hire tradespeople.
While the government had resisted making changes at the College for some time, the release of the Dean report in November 2015 made us cautiously optimistic.
In writing his report, former deputy minister of labour Tony Dean met with a wide range of voices within the trades industry — including employers and union representatives.
Dean deserves credit for producing a thoughtful and practical way forward to improve transparency and decision-making at the College. PCA was an active voice during this process and was encouraged by Dean’s open, impartial and independent analysis of the College.
While the final report does not provide answers to every concern raised about the College, Dean provides recommendations regarding scopes of practice, the classification and reclassification of trades, ratio reviews, and approaches to enforcement that we believe are practical and achievable.
Perhaps more significantly though, Dean’s recommendations provide the opportunity to improve current College processes while ensuring focus on the College’s original mandate. Dean emphasizes throughout the report that the College should be focused on issues that represent a “risk of harm” to employees on a job site.
PCA believes this emphasis on the priorities of workers and employers is why so many construction sector representatives were so supportive of the report. This is where the College can best demonstrate its value, rather than getting bogged down in jurisdictional disputes that don’t have a measurable impact on health and safety on the job site.
We were encouraged that the government moved so swiftly to endorse and accept the report, with a clear, unequivocal commitment to implement the recommendations.
However, we are now almost half way through 2016 and our industry is starting to wonder when this implementation will happen?
Since the release of the report and the government’s commitment to it (which was reiterated in the 2016 Ontario Budget), we have not seen substantial progress made on implementing the report’s recommendations. For example, some recommendations require new legislation to be introduced and so far this has not yet happened. The current session ended on June 9, meaning the government has lost an entire legislative window.
The release of the Dean report has been a positive step in building faith and trust in the Ontario College of Trades.
On two separate occasions the government has stated its commitment to implementing the report’s recommendations. But as we quickly approach summer and the end of another legislative session in Ontario, we are left to wonder when we might start to see the changes to the College that so many in our industry are seeking.
Darrel Reid is the vice-president of policy and advocacy with the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada. Send comments and Industry Perspectives ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.