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John Bleasby   

Few tears shed over PCs’ announcement that Ontario College of Trades will be wound down

Canadian Contractor

“OCOT was a red tape monster” — Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance

Building and trades associations have been quick to applaud the new Making Ontario Open for Business Act introduced in the Ontario Legislature this past Wednesday, despite complaints from many mainstream news outlets calling out the Ford government for freezing the province’s minimum wage at $14. In contrast, those involved in the construction industry are ecstatic over the announcements regarding reduced apprenticeship ratios and the winding down of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).

The Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance (OTSA) represents companies that employ over 400,000 skilled tradespeople across Ontario, and has been advocating for changes ever since OCOT was established seven years ago. “After years of calling for action to reduce barriers and red tape created by the Ontario College of Trades, we’re pleased this government is moving to address the concerns of so many employers and workers across the province,” said Patrick McManus, Chair of the OSTA. “These are the kinds of changes that make it possible for more employers to hire and train the next generation of skilled trades workers, and do it right away.”

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Strong support from employers
Importantly, employers themselves are speaking out in support of the changes that will see apprenticeship ratios reduced and OCOT removed from the landscape. “Small business owners want to grow. We want to succeed,” Lindsay Haley, President of Precision Contracting in Brockville, ON told Canadian Contractor. “The Liberal government had done nothing but put handcuffs on many small businesses, resulting in a total lack of growth and opportunity.  The 1:1 apprenticeship to journeyman ratio is a huge help, both for creating jobs for graduates and to provide an increase in production. It increases the chances for young apprentices to work in their field of choice.” Haley expressed his hopes that this was just the start of a continued “clean up” of restrictive business regulations.


Haley’s support was echoed by Hanna Taylor, President of Hotwire Electric in Toronto. “The 1:1 ratio is a great movement towards business and apprentices by allowing apprentices to be registered faster in small businesses, and allowing them to progress faster through the process to get their license,” Taylor said. “We are all committed at Hotwire to ensure the timely and professional development of all our electrical apprentices (309a) and seek the best methods to train and develop them.”

Richard Speare enjoys the unique perspective of being both a contractor and a carpentry instructor at Georgian College’s Barrie campus. “This is so overdue,” Speare told Canadian Contractor. “There is no reason ratios needed to be as they have been. This move will help many small companies contribute to training by taking on more apprentices. OCOT added absolutely nothing for those who were paying fees to them”

As overwhelming as the support for the new measures contained in the Act seems to be, there are some doubters within the skilled trade sector worried that changes will undermine the industry in some manner. One Canadian Contractor reader expressed concerns over safety. “If you were to flood every construction site with a 1:1 ratio tomorrow, it would be chaos. I personally would be afraid to go to work.” The fact is, however, Ontario has fallen well behind other provinces in Canada, almost all of which have had 1:1 ratios in place for years. For most in the industry, reducing the ratios in Ontario was a virtual no-brainer.

The post-OCOT world is full of opportunity
“The College of Trades was a red tape monster,” Patrick McManus of the OSTA told Canadian Contractor. “It provided no real benefit. There were duplicated enforcement services, and it created added administrative burdens for business. We had already been struggling for the last decade to find people to fill the roles in the existing operating environment. All we could foresee was the situation where we needed more bodies on a jobsite to do the same amount of work.”

For the OSTA, the future without OCOT is brimming with opportunity. “We think the biggest issue facing the trades now is the Skills Gap,” said McManus. “That’s really where the discussion around the trades table needs to be. We really want to participate in that because I think we have valuable input regarding where jobs are needed, the types of skills we need to train for, what regions of the province need which tradespeople.”

“Alas, poor Yorick!”

That sentiment is echoed by Michael Gallardo, Executive Director of Merit OpenShop Contractors Association of Ontario. “We now need to modernize the apprenticeship system to promote the trades as careers as a plan A, not a plan B,” he told Canadian Contractor. “Cutting the red-tape will mean less bureaucracy, making it easier for people to find work.  We want to be a part of the solution. It is important that the government receive input from all stakeholders. The open shop construction sector is the backbone of many, many communities throughout Ontario.”

Gallardo and McManus also agree that the union, non-union question is irrelevant. “We want to make sure all workers are given an opportunity to work and bid on all projects in Ontario,” Gallardo told Canadian Contractor. “This is an issue of fairness for all people.” McManus concurs. “The 1:1 ratio is really going to open up more jobs, bolster union construction, and increase membership in the unions themselves.”

OSTA’s McManus concludes by suggesting that a new coordinated effort by all industry stakeholders is vital. “This whole process of creating interest in the skilled trades over the last few years has been so disjointed,” he said. “Everyone has been working so independently. There really hasn’t been an organizing body to bring everybody together so we can all be rowing the boat in the same direction. We need to share our ideas and initiatives, and make sure we are not duplicating and triplicating. If we all came together we could do a much better job.”

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12 Comments » for Few tears shed over PCs’ announcement that Ontario College of Trades will be wound down
  1. Andrew Walters says:

    I have been a licensed auto technician for almost 40 years, and I was always disgusted and angered by the fact that we tradesmen had to pay to keep out licenses updated. It was just a money grab with no benefit to the trades. Good riddance, for sure.

    • Gabrielle says:

      OCOT or not- you still had to pay to keep your license (which is btw… tax deductible) ONE (perhaps the only one) benefit of OCOT was that you paid 1 fee- regardless of the number of lisc. one holds- I have 2 and pay one fee.

      • Avatar photo Steve Payne says:

        Gabrielle, OCOT fees were on top of other license fees. You seem to be happy that, if you had two different trade license fees, that OCOT only put a surcharge on ONE of them? Is that what you are saying?

  2. Michael Chappell says:

    The 1:1 ratio is a huge step forward after years of inaction and a growing empire of red tape and OCOT regulation. I am glad to see the Ford Government taking proactive steps to clean this mess up.

    In my former employment as Provincial Coordinator for Construction Health and Safety of the Ministry of Labour, I dealt with OCOT frequently, and was never able to understand their focus on collecting fees over improving the availability and educational opportunities for skilled trades. It will take time to heal the damage done, but these changes are a positive move forward.

  3. Paul Franssen says:

    OCOT needs to go , as stated in all document the burden, costs and red tape put on employers and apprentices is not needed, the system ran fine when myself and others went through the program. Team members and on the road inspectors have a huge attitude for some reason, their backs are up and seem to ready for confrontation. If our companies treated customers like that well we both know we would not be in business long. If they treated trades people with respect and helped as opposed to pushing back it would have helped alot. The Ministry and all the people we have dealt with over years understand we want to learn our trade paperwork and regulations coming out the kazooo is NOT our strong suit.

  4. Paul Deck says:

    First, I’m glad the OCOT is gone. Fees doubled and I saw no change in service. Purely a make work project for university grads funded by the working men.
    Second, 1:1 ratio is not a good idea. It means companies will hire an apprentice instead of a journeyman because they cost less. Highly skilled guys will sit at home while newbies will hack their way thru jobs. Not safe. Stick with 3:1

  5. Garrett Reid says:

    So now the regulatory over site will move back to the Ministry of universities and colleges which is taxpayer funded and government run eh. Great to see my taxes go up. Why doesn’t the pc government shut down the other colleges, like the Ontario college of Surgeons, The Ontario College of Teachers, The Ontario College of Social Workers. The Ontario College of Pharmacists, etc. I guess blue collar workers will always be under the thumb…never professional.

  6. Mike Mineau says:

    The OCOT was getting to be yet another runaway entity like Hydro One. More regulations, red tape and costs. Fees to keep your licences jumped up considerably. Threats were there to yank your license if you didn’t pay up. When has any ” privatization” ever helped the consumer – the tradesman in this case. I was on OCOT’s mailing list for a number of years and all I seen was more regulations and costs. I realize it is tax deductible, but that’s besides the point. Threats of non compliance don’t go over well to anybody. Exactly, why do we have to pay to keep our certification? What’s the benefit? Good riddance.

  7. Jeff Cronk says:

    Finally, are they scrapping the whole organization, my renewal fees went from 20$ a year to 135$, all to pay for more beaurocracy. ESA next I hope

  8. Al says:

    I am glad, that the government is reducing the red tape, and getting rid of OCOT.
    I would like to see the ESA evaluated as well, and also CSA.
    I see many organizations misusing the word “safety”.
    1:1 aprentice ratio is a good idea to make apprenticeship easier accessible. In my trade, the required practical experience is 9000 hours. That is a torture. This should be reduced to 6000 hours and the school time increased.
    Today, many employers are asking for multiple trades, and the excessive time makes it difficult.
    Could we also clean up mistakes in the Certificate of qualification exam. Also adding a practical part to the exam would help.

  9. Questo says:

    To Jeff Cronk and Al,
    the college of bs as the ESA and CSA, these are all collective money agencies,, apparently. why any professional license trades person, have to be controlled by these caponies. why any license trades person can’t inspect their own work and signed for ? After all these so called inspectors aren’t responsible for any of their inspections. no liability what so ever, so why are they in place ? Ontario is leaving in the pass 1800. Lets hope Doug Ford will close down all these none sense agencies. There is no need for these thirth parties collectors.

  10. RJ says:

    It is interesting that a number of people that profess to be trades here do not support regulation. Enforcement and regulation are necessary “Red Tape” to help ensure that it is actually trades performing the work. This actually protects the public and your job! In addition the Apprentices benefited from regulation by having a body that ensured that they were following the objectives and curriculum. In the past this was done very ineffectively by the Ministry! Yep! Lets get rid of all the professional institutions that do not really have professionals in them!

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