PCA Concerned About New College Appointments Chair

Daily Commercial News and Construction Record
VINCE VERSACE – Staff Writer


Tim Armstrong is the perfect choice as the newly appointed chair of the Ontario College of Trades appointments council, says the provincial government, but some construction stakeholders remain unconvinced.

“Tim was an obvious choice, his report on compulsory certification contained the idea of a college of trades,” said John Milloy, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

“In the work I did with him, we had a lot of discussions on the college. His whole philosophy was that to piecemeal all these issues, like compulsory certification and apprentice ratios, was fine but he thought a better approach was to look at apprenticeship as a whole.”

Armstrong is a labour lawyer, mediator and arbitrator who has held a range of senior positions such as Chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, Deputy Minister of Labour and Deputy Minister of Industry Trade and Technology. He authored the 2008 Compulsory Certification Project Review that gave rise to the college. Rod Cameron was the chair of the college’s appointments council, but recently stepped down.
“Rod Cameron did a great job,” said Milloy. “Tim brings a wealth experience and as a former deputy minister in the field, though he was not on the (appointments) council, he knows all the players and provides some good leadership.”

Provincial cabinet typically makes an appointment to a position such as the appointments council chair. This selection is then sent to a committee of the legislature for a review. With the provincial legislature currently prorogued and headed to a fall election, cabinet made the appointment, said Milloy.
“Obviously, now headed in to the election, this was done by cabinet as a short-term selection for six months,” said Milloy.

The next steps for the appointments council are appointments to the college’s governing board and divisional boards. The council is the college’s transitional board of governors. There are 21 positions available on the board of governors which will administer and manage the affairs of the college. The 21 positions include four members from each of the college’s four trade sectors of construction, industrial, motive power and service.

The Ontario chapter of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCAC) believes the appointment clouds the compulsory certification issue the college is in charge of administering.

“With all due respect to Mr. Armstrong, it’s hard to see how the industry can now expect a fair hearing on compulsory certification when one of the issue’s most established proponents will now be in charge of picking the adjudicators,” explained Sean Reid, PCA Ontario regional director.

“It is like giving your favourite team the right to pick all the referees for the match. We know how this game will end.”

The Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), which previously withdrew its support of the college, stated it expected a more neutral figure in the political, management and labour spheres for the chair position.

“Mr. Armstrong is extremely well-respected and I liked his report, but I am I am surprised at his appointment with no disrespect meant,” said Clive Thurston, OGCA president. “I am not saying he won’t be neutral, but if you look at his background and though he has an exemplary level of service, he is too close to this. They needed a fresh set of eyes.”

Milloy does not believe Armstrong is too close to the college through his previous work.
“You need someone like Tim Armstrong who understands all the intricacies of this and the minutiae and different interests that are part of the sector. It was his vision and he understands the intricacies.”
Pat Dillon, business ma nager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, also said Armstrong is the right person for the position. Dillon also is a member of the college’s appointment council.

“It is a good thing because he obviously believes in the college and he is a seasoned professional who will steer this through,” said Dillon.

Karen Renkema, director, government relations, Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA), said Armstrong deserves the respect that many construction industry stakeholders have for him.

However, ORBA is “not quite certain” that the author of a report, which called for the college “based on one specific issue — expanding compulsory certification” will be able to serve the impartial leadership role expected of a public government appointment.

“In his report Mr. Armstrong concluded ‘that there is a strong probability that compulsory certification results in net overall benefits’, ” noted Renkema.

“Now, Mr. Armstrong will be leading the appointments council which is charged with appointing ‘objective’ adjudicators to consider compulsory certifying a trade. Will his bias affect the appointments to the College of Trades?”