Dean Report recommends changes to Ontario College of Trades
Still ridiculed by some as nothing but a "trades tax," the controversial Ontario College of Trades, founded in 2013, will likely gain strength from bureaucrat Tony Dean's recent report to the government
By Steve Payne
When it opened for business in 2013, the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) was opposed by a “Stop the Trades Tax” Coalition which argued that the organization would add little value to our industry while it collected annual fees (currently $135.60 a year) from “compulsory” (forced to join OCOT) tradespeople. Compulsory trades include, at present, electricians, plumbers, sheet metal installers and heating, plumbing and refrigeration mechanics.
OCOT was depicted by more cynical contractors as a political gift/bribe/private envelope to the province’s powerful labour unions. It was predicted by many that carpenters, drywallers, painters, tile-setters, and dozens of their “voluntary” trade brothers and sisters would soon be given compulsory status, too. The most suspicious renovation contractors predicted that soon they would have to sub out almost all their work to OCOT-member trades (read: unions) – or break the law.
At the same time as this kind of fear and loathing clouded the OCOT’s mandate in our industry, the Liberals decided to hire long-standing labour bureaucrat Tony Dean to hear presentations from “stakeholders” about where the OCOT should go from here.
That report is now in. It was delivered to the Ministry of Colleges, Trades and Universities (MCTU) on Nov. 20. You can read the 150-page report here.
While it’s hard to summarize a 150-page report in one sentence, it appears obvious that the Dean Report will provide the government – and the OCOT – with all sorts of ways to ramp up the powers of the OCOT. Currently, only 22 of several hundred trades in the province are “compulsory.” The OCOT has not been quick to add new ones.
Expect that to change. Decisions on whether a trade should be made compulsory should now be, the Dean Report recommends, referred to a new 5- to 7-person review panel. Dean recommends the reviewers be appointed by the Minister of Colleges, Trades and Universities (currently Reza Moridi) in conjunction with the OCOT. The report urges that some of those members come from outside the industry.
Before the Dean Report, OCOT officials always argued that the OCOT was great because now each industry was policing itself; the OCOT was not a government agency. OCOT spokespeople repeated this mantra every time the College was criticized as a government bureaucracy with no accountability. Now, if this particular recommendation is followed, a single politician, Moridi (or his successors), will be able to personally decide – with OCOT input – who should be on a panel to judge whether, say the carpentry profession should be a “compulsory” trade. If this all goes through, it’s going to difficult for the OCOT to continue to claim that the trades are regulating themselves.
Not surprisingly, reaction to the Dean Report from various industry groups has been varied.
The Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance, representing 45 employer members, was largely positive – or at least open-minded – saying it “welcomed the opportunity to work with the (MCTU), the (OCOT) and the province’s network of training education institutions to close Ontario’s skills gap.”
The carpenters union (Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario) criticized the Dean Report for slowing down the process (presumably of making their trade compulsory, though they don’t actually state that). The carpenters’ press release says that the Dean recommendations will “inevitably result in yet more delays in protecting the public and tradespeople. Mr. Dean’s recommendation to create a new expert panel outside of the College, to review trade classifications, not only weakens the College by removing one of its core responsibilities, but also creates an unnecessary new organization.”
The Progressive Certified Trades Coalition, on the other hand, said that the report might cause the government to move too quickly. “(We) are united in (our) concern at the government’s decision to move hastily in implementing recommendations contained a review of the Ontario College of Trades. The fact that the government would move unilaterally without discussing the recommendations with stakeholders is troubling considering how wide-ranging Dean’s proposed recommendations are,” said James Hogarth, business manager from the Ontario Pipe Trades Council.