Reviewer's Update

August 2015


I hope you are all having a good summer. First, thanks to those who responded to my July update in which I signalled some key directions being considered for my report.  I appreciate the recognition of the degree of transparency we have adopted in this review.

My report is now being drafted with support from our small policy team and I expect to have a first complete draft ready by early September.  In doing this, I am maintaining a porous and transparent discussion with the Ontario College of Trades (the College), and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities; nonetheless, those working in the two institutions would confirm that the directions and recommendations in the report will be mine alone (although predominantly informed by what I heard in our province-wide consultations).

It struck me the other day that, in the course of this review, we are collectively taking some first important steps in bringing a public interest lens to the world of apprenticeship, training and the regulatory role of the College.  It’s important to state this.

The creation of the College involved a very significant transfer of rights and responsibilities from the oversight of government to the province’s skilled trades.  The College has taken on weighty responsibilities in important and impactful areas of regulation.

The privilege of self-regulation granted to the trades comes with the legislated responsibility of putting the interests of the public ahead of the interests of the trades. This duty to serve and protect the public interest is shared by other self-regulatory professional bodies in Ontario, such as the health regulatory colleges. This responsibility was introduced to the world of trades in Ontario with the passing of the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009 (OCTAA) in 2009, which created the College as a regulatory, self-governing, professional body.

The concept of “public interest” is not easy to define and it varies in different contexts.  In a regulatory setting it speaks to the importance of transparent, inclusive and rigorous processes with clearly understandable and impartial decision-making frameworks. It also requires a balanced approach to the interests of consumers, citizens, commercial interests and broad Canadian societal values.

Importantly, in the context of institutions with a broad range of stakeholders with widely varying interests, the public interest highlights a need to find a reasonable balance between these interests. This is a responsibility that I feel in conducting this review.  This is a responsibility that we all share.

This does not mean that a public interest test should trump all other interests at every point and on every issue.  But it does mean that the public interest should be a consideration in all aspects of College decision-making. And it also means that the public interest should prevail over private interests.

The College’s Board of Governors, together with its highly competent staff, have been exploring the meaning and impact of their collective responsibility to bring a public lens to their work and responsibilities.  While this will initially add another layer of complexity in an already complicated environment, it will also be an important guide-post in decision-making on policy and program development and service delivery.

The requirement for a public interest lens certainly helped me in thinking about the issues before me, as it has in my previous work in government and in other reviews. It’s not always easy to do this and it has made my work in the review all the more complex as I navigate through a number of powerful and long-standing institutional interests.  But it is the right thing to do and will almost inevitably produce the best long-term outcomes, which is what we all want for the College, apprentices and the skilled trades.

July 2015

It’s hard to believe that we are in the ninth month of our review.  We are now in the midst of sorting out the potential direction of our advice to the College and the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Our discussions with the trades, apprentices, employers, unions and training organizations have been enormously helpful.  Our conclusions and recommendations will be drawn from these discussions.

First some context—here are a number of tensions in College’s operating environment:

  • The College has both an advocacy role and a regulatory role and it is required to act in the public interest
  • There are obvious tensions, and different views and interests on the part of College stakeholders, depending on their role as employers, unions, trainers, and associations and coalitions of various sorts.  This is further complicated by interests based on sectors and sub-sectors, and by geography 
  • There is also a long, complex and often opaque history involving the regulation of trades in Ontario (and across the country)
  • For understandable and often beneficial reasons, there has been a long-standing involvement on the part of trade unions and employers with government in the development of trades and training regimes, particularly in the construction and industrial sectors of our economy.  For this reason, it is natural that collective bargaining and institutional interests are intertwined with the world of training, apprenticeship and trades development
  • Additionally, the past 35 years have seen the growth of more intense competition in all sectors of the economy, twinned with the increasingly rapid introduction of new technologies, materials and production processes.  Stakeholders hold different views on how to respond to these changes.  

In terms of overall directions, here is where we seem to be heading:

As I have suggested earlier, our recommendations will not satisfy everyone - especially those who would prefer to see us conclude that everything is working perfectly and should be left alone; or those who would like to see the clock wound back to a pre-College of Trades world. 

First, the trades and the College would clearly benefit from a process designed to review and update the Scopes of Practice (SOPs) for trades.  Advice will be provided on how this might be accomplished and on the sort of elements that should be included in SOPs going forward.  This might be done in combination with a review of opportunities to consolidate and prune the 156 trades currently lodged with the College (some of which are inactive).  Some of the important aspects of such a review, which I think should leverage the expertise of College  Trade Boards and industry or other stakeholder groups, are: opportunities to update descriptions of trades; refining Scopes of Practice; discussion between trades of overlaps in their SOPs; and finding better ways to ensure SOPs and training standards remain current.

In terms of the use of SOPs in the classification review process, I’m continuing to consider the potential for voluntary trades to select elements of their SoPs for the purpose of seeking compulsory status and vice versa.  This might be an alternative to the current “all or nothing” approach to SOPs in the classification review process.  This would in no way dilute current training or apprenticeship standards, which would remain in their full breadth.  And I will emphasize that this idea is intended to maintain the integrity of the trades; that is, not to be taken to promote the concepts of “skillsets” or “sub-trading”, which I know have been controversial in the past. 

Second, the process for reviewing the classification of trades as voluntary or compulsory would benefit from some attention.  This must be broadly perceived as inclusive, transparent, evidence-informed and even-handed. This applies to the process—including onus and the degree of evidence available to decision-making panels, the criteria that guide decision-makers — and the way in which decisions are made.  I am considering options in all of these areas, including the nature of the decision-making panel.

Third, there continues to be a great deal of interest in the now-cyclical process for review of journeyperson to apprentice ratios, which currently apply to 33 trades.  As with the trade classification process we have learned a lot from the first round of decision-making and it is broadly agreed that there are opportunities for improvement.   As a starting point, we are looking at the origins and purpose of these ratios and the sort of criteria that would best reflect those purposes and desired outcomes.  This process must also be seen to be inclusive, transparent, evidence-informed and even-handed. In this area, too, I’m looking at the process steps from end-to-end, including the way in which decisions are made.

Fourth, we are examining practices flowing from the College’s enforcement mandate.  The focus here is on those activities which clash with previous Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) decisions, or with previous agreements made between workplace parties, on who-does-what on work sites.  These clashes are proving to be disruptive and must be sorted out.

This is mostly a construction sector issue and one which, in some cases, clearly involves historical work jurisdiction interests between trade unions.  I think this can be addressed without a full re-design of the College’s enforcement regime.  In any event, the enforcement function could benefit from some advice from stakeholders on approaches to enforcement. Second, more work needs to be done to address the identified conflicts between the OLRB’s responsibilities and the College’s responsibilities. I am considering several options, including a potential role for the OLRB where College enforcement activities intersect with the OLRB’s responsibility to settle disputes on work jurisdiction.

None of these four areas are straightforward or simple to deal with. And all, to some degree, attract a mix of interest in doing the right thing from the College’s and public’s perspective, and some deeply held institutional interests.

I’m not going to satisfy everyone, but this Review is about building the stature and credibility of Ontario’s College of Trades. In that sense, the public interest, alongside that of apprentices and tradespersons, should be paramount.  Institutional and private interests are a healthy part of the mix but should not be perceived to predominate.

June 2015

As we approach the end of June our meetings with several hundred College stakeholders, trade boards representing over 50 trades and a couple of divisional boards are winding down.  We have learned a lot about the issues covered by our terms of reference and have benefited from plenty of ideas to inform our report and recommendations.

I have been struck by how much my terms of reference focus on the College's regulatory role - which sits alongside its advocacy and training and professional college mandates. 

As we head into the process of sorting through all that we have heard the following observations might be of interest:  First, the breadth of the regulatory responsibilities delegated to the College is quite unique in the world of professional colleges. This makes it important that College processes are seen by the regulated community to be transparent, inclusive and balanced.  It's important that we take a close look at this. 

Second, the use of scopes of practice for trades has taken on new importance in the context of College processes. This is a central aspect of the review and certainly the most complex.  There are many interests associated with this area of our work and a key part of my job is to consider how these interests are balanced with the College's responsibility to recognize the broader public interest.

Third, I committed at the outset of the review to be transparent and iterative in the way this work would be conducted. I think this is being done.  Taken together, the May and June updates are clear in pointing to the things I'm focusing on.

I can also say that, as I might have anticipated, the lion's share of our conclusions and recommendations will almost certainly be drawn from written advice provided to us (available on this website) and in subsequent meetings.  I'm not expecting to surprise anyone when I land on recommendations.  At the same time, tackling a number of complex issues which intersect with some deeply held, and often opposing interests, means that I'm not going to make everyone happy. But it has been clear in our many discussions with a sophisticated and thoughtful community that this is well understood.  And, besides, it's not in my terms of reference.

In my next update I hope to be more specific about early thinking on directions and potential recommendations.

In the meantime I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable summer.

Tony Dean

May 2015

The review team is now wrapping up our consultations and still meeting people and organizations on a daily basis through the next couple of weeks.  We are benefiting from thoughtful advice and information which will directly inform our thinking and the content of our report to the Minister and the Chair of the College’s Board of Governors. We will have heard from over 300 individuals and representatives of organizations and 40 trade boards representing over 50 trades and spanning the four sectors covered by the College's mandate. 

We have travelled the province and heard from individuals and apprentices in the trades, large and small employers, training organizations, trade unions and industry associations.

All have spoken about the important role of the College in promoting and elevating the trades as well as streamlining access for those interested in apprenticeship. 

A large number of concerns have been raised about the classification process established to determine the status of trades as voluntary or compulsory. Issues include onus, timelines, inclusion, the role and use of evidence, the usefulness of existing criteria for decision makers and the make-up of the decision-making panel. 

The use of Scopes of Practice (SoP) in the classification process has also been actively discussed. There is a widespread belief that many of the SoPs are outdated and inconsistent formats and would benefit from a thorough review. 

There are some concerns about the process established for reviewing journeyperson to apprentice training ratios but this varies by sector and region. Like the classification review process, the use of evidence and the existing criteria for decision making has emerged as issues here. 

The SoPs for trades has also emerged in discussions on college enforcement activity for compulsory trades. In some cases enforcement activity based on SoPs is clashing with previous decisions made by the Ontario Labour Relations Board in sorting out jurisdictional and work assignment disputes between trade unions or between a trade union and an employer. Our mandate requires us to provide recommendations on this matter. 

Going forward, the next few weeks will be dedicated to analysis and options development. In mid to late June we will start to signal our early thinking on some aspects of the terms of reference and more ideas will be tested in July and August.  
Thanks to the many groups and individuals who have participated in the review this far and I look forward to the months ahead.    

Tony Dean


April 2015

We are now approaching the six-month mark in hearing from apprentices, individual trades-persons, employers, unions, training organizations and others.  We are learning a great deal and are now beginning to see the complex nature of some of the issues encompassed by our terms of reference, and some potential options for approaching them.

I’m writing this update from Sudbury, where today we wrap-up a week of very helpful discussions here, and in Thunder Bay, with those who wished to talk further about their written submissions in our review process. This follows meetings throughout last week in Sarnia, Hamilton and London and, before that, in Kingston and Ottawa.  It has been a treat to hear the perspectives of those who live and work in Ontario’s regions, and who face quite unique challenges.  As we finish this week, we will have met with several hundred organizations and individuals across the province.  This listening phase will continue for another several weeks and we are still learning new things every day. Thanks to all those we have met and heard from so far and we look forward to seeing and hearing from many more in the weeks ahead.

Best wishes,
Tony Dean


March 2015

After a steady build, our review is gathering pace. In the write-in phase of our consultations, which closed on March 13, we received 107 submissions from College trade boards, individuals, single-trade and trade sector employers and unions, training providers and independent businesses.

There is an equal split between submissions from the Greater Toronto Area and other regions of Ontario. A majority come from the construction sector.

I am working my way through the submissions. They are helpful in responding directly to the questions asked in the Consultation Guide. This is especially the case for the many submissions that describe the character and shape of some of the issues and opportunities raised by my terms of reference. The submissions are equally helpful in offering ideas and potential opportunities to improve the operations of the College falling within the scope of our work. Thank you to those who have written.

Over the past several weeks I have been meeting with as many Trades Boards as possible. More of these meetings are planned in the coming weeks. These boards play an important role in the College’s governance structure and this is likely to grow over time. The boards have been generous with their time and in sharing information and advice. This also gives me the opportunity to hear the perspectives of the Service, Industrial, Motive Power and Construction sectors represented at the College. An additional benefit is that Trade Board members also reflect the diversity of regional perspectives.

I’m learning fast. This is a world with a long and complex history and many moving, and closely interconnected, parts. The terms of reference touch on many of those parts. In view of this complexity, there is little doubt that the College and its Board, CEO and staff have done very well in getting Canada’s first College of Trades up-and-running.

A common perspective in the submissions I have looked at so far is an interest in seeing the College grow and succeed, although there are a healthy variety of ideas about what this means and how it should be achieved.

It’s also clear that a review is seen as important at this point in time, and college stakeholders and trade boards are ready to actively participate. I’m encouraged by this because I’ve said from the outset that my report will be guided to a large extent by the expertise and advice resident in the College and those many individuals and organizations forming its broader community of interest.

Regional in-person consultations start April 9 in Kingston, followed by visits to Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Sarnia, Thunder Bay, Sudbury and the Greater Toronto area. I’m looking forward to hearing more from those who have filed written submissions and to hearing regional perspectives on the hard work ahead.

Best wishes,
Tony Dean


February 2015

This is my second update on the review.  I’m continuing to hear from stakeholders, mostly with questions about the scope of the review and our engagement process.  Many of these questions are answered in the consultation guide that was posted on this site in mid-January.

Beyond the write-in phase of the consultations, which concludes on March 13, 2015, I will be travelling to several locations around the province to hear first-hand from those who wish to speak to their written submissions.  These sessions will be held during April 2015 in Kingston, Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Sarnia, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Toronto (probably in this order).  I have heard those who have suggested that some visits to smaller locations in Ontario will be important and I’m looking at ways to accomplish this within the context of our travels.

There have been vibrant discussions about the Ontario College of Trades (the College) as it was designed and operationalized and it is clear that many individuals and organizations are keen to share their thoughts and advice during this review.  I’m very much looking forward to this since I have much to learn from these consultations and I come to this work with an open mind.  I will be dependent upon the expertise and experience of College stakeholders including tradespersons, employers, trade associations and trade unions as well as those at the College and within government.  I have also started to meet with some of the Trade Boards, which play an important role in the governance structure of the College. 

We are still at a very early stage in this process so I’m listening carefully and learning as I go.  I don’t know yet where this review will take us.  My starting point is that we have a College and we all want it  and its processes to work efficiently and effectively for both the trades and for the public.  This is my lens for the review.

I look forward to receiving written submissions and to our April meetings and the discussions we will have beyond that.

Best wishes,

Tony Dean


December 2014

This is a brief update on my activities since my appointment as Reviewer in late October of this year. First, I want to thank the many individuals and organizations who have sent messages of support about my appointment and the virtues of a review at this time.

In early November I contacted over thirty College of Trades (College) stakeholder organizations around the province, and have since responded to inquiries from several more. There is a great deal of interest in my mandate and in the processes I will be using to engage College stakeholders in the review, as well as the timeframe in which I will be doing this.

In the coming days a Review Work Plan will be posted on this web site. This will provide a step-by-step look at our planned activities over the next 11-months and give you a better sense of what can be expected.

A detailed consultation guide will be published on this website in January, 2015. It will provide some background information on the College and my mandate and will also invite written responses to a number of questions. Once the guide is posted, those wishing to send me written submissions will have 6-7 weeks to do that.

Following this, regional, in-person, consultation sessions will be held in the spring of 2015, (likely in March and April). The details and locations of these regional meetings will be posted on this website shortly.

This update has been shared with the office of the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), the Honourable Reza Moridi, the Board of Governors of the College, and MPP’s from the Opposition parties at Queen’s Park who have expressed an interest in the review.

I will be writing these updates every 6-8 weeks.

Best wishes for the holidays.

Tony Dean