Bob Onyschuk, head of enforcement for the Ontario College of Trades, talks about the powers his officers have to force contractors to prove their credentials
March 21, 2014 by Robert Koci
Bob Onyschuk is the director of the “compliance and enforcement division” of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).
The job of his enforcement officers is to ensure that workers in the 22 “compulsory” trades for the OCOT are paid up and doing their jobs properly. Or at least paid up. (In our industry, plumbers, electricians, HVACR technicians and sheet metal workers are “compulsory.” Carpenters are being reviewed to see if they should become compulsory as well.)
After a presentation to a small crowd at the recent CMPX show in Toronto for the mechanicals industry, I had the opportunity to follow up on a comment one of our readers made online regarding the extent of his enforcement officer’s powers. (See the comment here.) The comment suggested OCOT enforcers cannot disrupt a job site or stop trades from working in order to confirm their good standing with the college unless they received a formal complaint about that trade or company.
In this video, Onyschuk seems to dance around the issue of whether a complaint against a contractor is necessary in order for OCOT to force them to show their credentials.
Here is the transcript of the discussion…
Onyschuk: Right now, we kind of live on complaints, but it doesn’t stop us from, for example, if we see new home residential going up, right, we’ll go on the site, we’ll go into the site trailer and we’ll find out where the certified trades are.
Koci: You have the authority to do that under the charter of the College of Trades? Or is there another charter that allows you to do that?
Onyschuk: It’s under the Provincial Offences Act. We are POOs, Provincial Offences Officers. And in the Act, if you look under certain sections, it tells you when we have the authority and where we have the authority to be.
Koci: Not in the Ontario College of Trades Act but in the Provincial Offences Act? Or in both?
Onyschuk: Both. You have to be a Provincial Offences Officer to be able to enact certain parts of the legislation. You have to be both. So if someone complains to me that, let’s say, Ace Plumbing & Heating hires illegal workers, unqualified workers, if I come across an Ace truck sitting somewhere, I can’t… I can go up to the door and knock and say, ‘Hi, I’m with the College of Trades, and I can show them my credentials, I have a warrant, I have all that stuff… I have to tell them that, “You have to give us permission to come in, but we have a concern.” If the homeowners says, come in, we’ll go…
Koci: But it has to be inspired by a complaint, though?
Onyschuk: Not necessarily. If I drive by and I see Ace’s truck there and I know I’ve heard we’ve got some trouble with Ace…
Koci: Oh, I see, it doesn’t have to be a formal complaint…
Audience Member: So it can be like profiling. There’s Ace’s truck, let’s go check up on this guy. Is that what you just said. That’s what I thought I heard.
Onychuk: No, I said if I have a complaint that talks about Ace hiring unqualified workers then I can go and, say, if I run across Ace somewhere, I can go and check…