Canadian Contractor

Alec Caldwell   

A one-way bridge for Ontario and Quebec contractors?

Canadian Contractor

Ontario contractors have to jump through numerous regulatory hoops to ever tackle a project in Quebec. Is the reverse true? Of course not!

Why is it that Quebec-based contractors can cross into Ontario and do construction work, including home renovations, without having to obtain any special licences or environmental certifications when the reverse is certainly NOT the case for Ontario contractors wanting to work in Quebec?

The unfairness of this situation is really evident in the National Capital Region. There, the construction laws change halfway across the Macdonald-Cartier bridge linking Ottawa with Gatineau, Quebec.

Even the snow removal services plowing these bridges have to abide by the differences in Quebec and Ontario law. On the Ontario side of the bridge, the plows have to use orange and blue flashing lights. These lights must switched to blue (only) lights on the Quebec half of the structure. Crazy! (Or should I say, in French, Fou?)

Contractors registered in Ottawa crossing these very same bridges to work in Quebec must obtain, beforehand, a contractor’s license from Quebec’s construction authority, the RBQ. At the RBQ, every contractor must pass a test on Construction Project Management, Site Safety Management and Administrative Management. These licenses attempt to show that contractors have business skills and are (likely to be) reliable in paying materials suppliers, sub-trades and labourers.


In addition to these tests, every contractor working in Quebec must also carry an environmental certification. And, last but not least, directors of contracting firms are required to hold accreditations in Technical Accreditation, Administrative Accreditation and Occupational Health and Safety Accreditation.

As you can see, the barriers to Ontario contractors working in Quebec are substantial. Quebec contractors face much fewer constraints coming into Ontario. Yes, there are WSIB issues, but Quebecers have a much easier time working here.

Now, what if homeowners in Ontario run into issues with a Quebec contractor and want to sue them? Well, they had better make sure that clauses exist in their contracts with these Quebec companies about the jurisdiction and applicable laws they’ll come under. Believe it or not, rules applicable to international law come into play when issues like these arrive, even if we are talking about two provinces in the same country!

It’s pretty clear that Quebec laws are designed to keep Ontario contractors from playing in their sandbox. Quebec contractors, meanwhile, are given free roaming rights.

Are we one country or not? Tell us what you think!

And let us know if you have had any experiences with this Ontario-Quebec double standard.

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9 Comments » for A one-way bridge for Ontario and Quebec contractors?
  1. Metallofu says:

    It’s unfortunate that we live in one country and there are double standards depending on which province one is raised in; living in; or working in.
    Most Canadians wouldn’t know that it wasn’t long ago that it was illegal to speak English in Quebec. But it would never be the other way around -illegal to speak French in other provinces other than Quebec. C’est desole’.

  2. Spot on Metallofu. In Quebec I see no English signs or English on the back of Corn Flakes boxes and more. I thought we all lived in the one country with equal rights. It seems they are allowed to put up an invisible fence to surround them to keep all us great true Canadians out!!!!!!

    What we need is a padlock on our side to keep them in and stop loads crossing bridges and coming in to Ontario, especially Ottawa and other provinces to do construction work.

  3. Tim Goforth says:

    Several months ago I wrote to you concerning an audit of my employee and subcontractor records by the CSST, to determine if sub contractors were in fact “autonomous” or actually hourly employees.
    My liability was substantial if they had ruled against my claim that most of my general carpentry and finish workers were in fact employees thus requiring me to pay CSST premiums retroactively.
    I did not take this lying down, and over the course of 12 months of fighting and auditing they finally came up with an “arbitrary” amount which they claimed I owed.
    I was fortunate enough to be able to consult with a former insider who told me that if one demonstrated willingness and financial strength to take the fight to the courts, that they would asses an amount to help cover their investigation expenses but not too much that it would only make sense to concede rather than get involved in a long costly legal battle.
    Sure enough they asked for 9K in arrears. I was ready to pay 5K but no more.
    They have now sued me and of course send me statements showing outrages interest rates on the “overdue” account. All current contributions are applied to the “past due” account.
    I’m going to fight this tooth and nail and have engaged legal council who specializes in Quebec labor issues. I’m almost looking forward to the fight because I’ll throw everything but the kitchen sink at them including potential violation of my constitutional right to outsource labor to independents, a practice which most corporations engage in as well as all tiers of Government.
    Too many services are delivered through employers, especially pensions, insurance and health care. This culture of offloading the delivery is itself a perfect example of exactly what I’m doing. It’s a new world and workers are going to have to become skilled and disciplined enough to administer their own lives.
    Tim Goforth
    Montreal Construction

  4. Jason says:

    Typical of the government kissing Quebec ass. They work for less, they don’t have the overhead Ontario guys have and their insurance is Cheaper, the work is substandard in a lot of cases and the clients don’t have any recourse. Are we waiting for someone to get hurt?
    I’m a small contractor now working by myself thanks to those guys, i had to lay off all my guys in part because of always losing bids. Shame on everyone who lets it happen.

  5. Sara says:

    As local contractor we totally agree. Allowing this discrimination hurts Ontario’s small business owners specially in Ottawa where we see so many one man guys during high season from the Quebec side.

  6. Tim Goforth says:

    My take on the issue of why it’s more difficult for Ontario contractors to work in Quebec than the other way around is quite simple. If the ultimate goal is to assure quality construction, safe working conditions, etc., one would be hard pressed to produce statistical evidence that Ontario and Quebec are any different in any category chosen.
    Logically then one might assume that the reasons for the harshly different regulations are totally unrelated to the quality of the workmanship, safety issues, etc., but rather to some bureaucratic body(s) or organization(s) that prefer to disguise their real agendas under the pretext of “in the best interests of the entire Quebec construction industry and consumers”.
    Where you will find a significant statistical difference between Quebec and Ontario is the number of people employed in the excessively large number and various syndicates, government bureaucracies, and construction related organizations all making a very comfortable living and very interested in not sharing a piece of the lucrative pie that corrupted governments have allowed to be baked because it smells and tastes really good to those at the trough (sorry, I meant table)

  7. Jean-Philippe Chaussé says:

    In Quebec, snow removal vehicles cannot use blue lights, as blue lights are for law enforcement vehicle, red are for emergency vehicles, and yellow are for cumbersome vehicles. Snowploughs in Quebec use yellow flashing lights.

  8. Paul Albert says:

    Exactly. Could not have put it better.
    How about equal standards. I personally refuse to hire québécois for my Ontario property. Would rather support local workers

  9. Esmail Khatib says:

    Im a contractor and I have seen so many things that are just not right at all on the Quebec side. The Ontarians not allowed to work in Quebec unless they get the RBQ which amounts to around $3500 a year I think but they work here free, not right. I have seen building inspectors only look at their scope of work and completely ignore something dangerous, a water compressor sitting right on top of a 1000 volt transformer, not right! All electrical outlets are certified even when upside down, ground is at the top, it’s supposed to be at the bottom, not right! If you write the English lettering larger than the French, or even same size, you will get fined, not right! I walk into A LOT of places and he says he only speaks French, I say only English he says I should learn! Canada is English shouldn’t he learn, not right?? They are finally getting something right, right on a red is finally allowed but not all Quebec, not right! Maybe in another 100 years they will finally agree WE ARE CANADIANS and together WE SHOULD STAND!!

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