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Dean Review Consultation Questions

Written submission to Dean review

Submission number: DR-92

Name of organisation making submission: DR-92 Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA)

Dear Mr. Dean:

On behalf of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), we would like to provide you with the following written comments for consideration in your review of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).

The OGCA represents the 193 member companies working in the general contracting industry and are responsible for over $10 million of work in 2014 in Ontario.  We operate on many fronts to improve the general contracting industry in areas including health and safety, education, excellence, contracts and procurement and skilled trades.

Our members are a mix of those who are signature to building trade unions and open shop firms.  The concerns we have for the direction taken by the College are jointly shared, regardless of firm size or affiliation with construction unions. We do not view this as a labour relations discussion but of a government agency being accountable to deliver economic and social programs in the public interest.

OGCA was an early supporter in the creation of the College.  We believed that the opportunity was to recognize the skill challenges and needs and act as a catalyst to provide vital research and promotion of the trades.  It was positioned to serve the public interest in assuring skills training would be made available to meet the needs of our industry and support the growth of Ontario.

The direction of the OCOT has met none these expectations and if the current direction continues, it will reduce access to both training and trades. The OGCA has no faith in the College to act in the interest of contractors, tradespersons or the public interest. We are asking for bold leadership from the Reviewer to make recommendations that will reorient its function and direction.

OGCA has joined with other construction industry associations to commission Dawson Strategic to produce a background research, “Modernizing Ontario Skilled Trades System”. This is a broad discussion about the economic and regulatory challenges handicapping the development of skilled trades. It is a reflection of the type of discussion that should have been encouraged by the OCOT. It doesn’t directly address the specific issue in the Consultation Guide but instead speaks to the reality of the construction trades and the need for pragmatic solutions to a growing challenge.

The OGCA is an active member of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance (OSTA) and has participated in the development of their submission which we fully support. Attached is their submission with comments on the questions you have posed in the Review Consultation Guide.

We will not repeat the OSTA observations and recommendations in this submission.  Please refer to the OSTA submission for these individual comments.

Recommendations:

On page 10 of the Consultation Guide you state:
 “The privilege of self-regulation granted to the trades comes with the responsibility of   putting the interests of the public ahead of the interests of the trades”.

  We support this statement as we believe the OCOT has tended to act for narrow self-interests that may be in conflict with the interests of those in the trades, those attempting to enter the trades and the public.
 
 The College must be re-aligned so that it is driven by public interests. Those who have a direct interest in the outcome of policy and program development of OCOT should not have control of the process. This includes the use of OCOT as a form to fight jurisdictional issues. It must be positioned as a neutral body or it will not achieve credibility with business and many of the trades that are required for it to survive political change.

The decision making process is a labour relations model that is completely inappropriate for public interest body. The process must feature accountability and transparency with the public interest the prime focus. Other bodies such as the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) are established and suitably positioned to manage labour relations issues. .OCOT should not operate an adjudicated model but instead be positioned to develop and promote solutions to the challenges of the trades.

A new entity, similar to the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council (HPRAC) model is best suited to achieve public interest outcomes.  This model will be built on research, evidence, expertise and a consultative process, as an arm’s length body from the College it will generate evidence informed research and advice as a foundation upon which consultations will be conducted. It will make recommendations to the Minister based on its findings.

In summary the OGCA submits:

  1. To achieve a public interest outcome a new entity (not unlike the HPRAC) must be created with the responsibility for the provision of evidence based research to support the need, or lack thereof, for heightened regulation of the 156 skilled trades.
  2. The evidence based research will afford the Ministry the opportunity to access unbiased information through:
    1. literature reviews,
    2. jurisdictional reviews to assess best practices, mobility of skilled trades; and
    3. jurisprudential reviews to assess overlapping regulatory bodies thereby minimizing duplication.
  3. This entity could allow for holistic considerations far beyond the seven criteria currently guiding both the compulsory and ratio review processes at OCOT.  Holistic considerations are critical to successfully protecting the public interest.
  4. This entity must be independent of OCOT.  The entity should provide the Minister with advice following a consultation process in which the stakeholders who will have had access to relevant research and opportunity to provide submissions.
  5. The OCOT should not attempt to take on this function.  Rather, OCOT should re-focus on its duty to serve and protect the public interest in carrying out its objects and functions under the Act.
  6. Serious consideration should be given to providing pre-existing Ministry of Labour experienced forces (inspectors) with OCOT enforcement as opposed to creating additional overlapping enforcement mechanisms.
  7. We respectfully submit OCOT should focus on the:
    1. Ongoing development of standards, curriculum and initial licensing;  
    2. Promotion of the skilled trades to both potential members and the users;
    3. Coordinating roles (i.e. a web portal) for both the users of tradespeople and the    tradespeople themselves to navigate the existing regulatory schemes efficiently; and
    4. The development of internal responsibility systems, a complaints system and a public registry for practicing skilled trades.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide submissions toward the review of OCOT.
 
We very much look forward to meet with you to further our submissions.

Yours very truly,

ONTARIO GENERAL CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION

Originally signed by David Frame
Director Government Relations