Canadian Contractor

Steve Payne   

Toronto hydronics firm says their recent fines from Ontario College of Trades are unfair and punitive to small businesses

Canadian Contractor

The firm received two OCOT fines totalling $750 after installing a simple air handler that, it claims, should never require installation by OCOT-member heating and air conditioning mechanics

A family-owned contracting firm that specializes in boiler installations and hydronic heating in the Toronto area says it has been fined twice by the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) for installing an air handler that, the firm argues, involved work that has no safety or other reason to require the attentions of a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic.

One of the firm’s partners contacted Canadian Contractor last week, shortly after her firm received two Notices of Contravention from OCOT, one for $500 and one for $250. The fines were for work that the firm did last fall installing a Space Pak unit, a high velocity air conditioning system commonly used in homes without sheet metal unfaductwork. The contractor said an OCOT enforcement officer began an investigation on her firm last fall and demanded the names and addresses of all the subtrades who had worked on the project, including their payroll details and other information. The firm asked for more detail from OCOT as to the nature of any complaint, but OCOT refused to provide any other information, the contractor says.

“The product we installed, which is well-known in the hydronics industry, is called a Space Pak,” the contractor said. “It is all pre-engineered tubing. Yet they were trying to nail us on the ductwork. We told them, we didn’t do any ductwork. A Space Pak doesn’t require any ductwork to install it. The enforcement officer didn’t even know what Space Pak was. If they did know what it was, they wouldn’t have issued us this ticket. It was quite clear to us that she didn’t have the construction knowledge to decide that there was a violation of their regulations here. Which there clearly was not.”

The firm contacted its lawyers when OCOT began to individually question all of the subtrades who had worked on the project. “Our lawyer told them that we needed to receive details about any complaint against us in order to respond. Again they refused to provide any details and, after that, we didn’t hear from them for months. Then they walked in last week – two individuals from OCOT – and give us a Notice of Contravention for $500. A few days after that, we got another ticket in the mail for $250.”

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The OCOT tickets say that the firm “employed or engaged individuals within the Scope of Practice of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning System Mechanics as per Ontario Regulation 275.1, section 34.” The firm has 30 days to pay the fines. If they disagree with the charges, they have only one avenue of appeal, to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, within 15 days.

Contacted by Canadian Contractor, the Ontario College of Trades, through its media relations office Tracey Shepherd, said that the College would not comment on this particular case, citing confidentiality provisions of the legislation that brought OCOT into existence. But Shepherd did add: “We disagree with any claim that suggests an NOC (Notice of Contravention) was issued to any individual or business that was not engaging in a trade that requires a valid C of Q.

The contractor clearly disagrees.

“We told OCOT clearly that none of us at our firm are OCOT members because we do not fall under their jurisdiction. Yet, even though we did not need OCOT qualifications to do this work, we had a sub trade on the site who is a section 313 qualified AC installer.”

“All we are trying to do is run a family business, provide good products and good service to our customers, and we are in every way a legit, above-board, tax-paying and legal hydronics firm – with gas licences, TSSA affiliation and everything else required.”

“We brought up a number of concerns, all of which were steadfastly ignored by the enforcement officer. It was clear to us that the College was not acting in the interests of public safety in this matter, but was simply trying to justify imposing a fine on a small business.”

 

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7 Comments » for Toronto hydronics firm says their recent fines from Ontario College of Trades are unfair and punitive to small businesses
  1. Mark Mitchell says:

    Clearly a lack of understanding on the Ocot’s part. I’m a 313a Refirgeration mech, and I didn’t know I was responsible for an air handler. Usually its the sheet metal guy that hangs it, the plumber hooks up the hot water coil and the ACR guy does the cooling coil. What happens if they don’t pay the fine?? Do they get a bench warrant issued? Or do they lose their fishing licence?

    • Avatar photo Steve Payne says:

      Mark:
      Firms and individuals that don’t pay OCOT fines get very nasty verbiage indeed on the OCOT searchable database, warning the public that they are disreputable operators. (Well: “Not in good standing,” etc. is pretty well that, isn’t it?)
      There is an effort from the Canadian Hydronics Council, we understand, to try to sort out these issues with OCOT and its “enforcement officers” and we will be reporting on that soon.
      Thanks for your take on this matter.

      • Mark Mitchell says:

        Wow. So its basically a threat, that no one will ever read. I’m gonna try and get one of these fines!

  2. Rodney Lava says:

    Doug Ford needs to end the stupidity of the OCOT. They are a group that has no idea about anything other than how to collect money. I am an electrical contractor that see illegal electrical work being done everyday by unlicensed electrical contractor and electricians. When the OCOT is asked they tell you that it is ESA job in Ontario to enforce those rules. The OCOT is nothing but a money grad set up by the Liberals to put more money in the governments pockets.

  3. Matt Benschop says:

    Typical red tape from a beaurocratitic mindset inventing issues to justify and fund themselves

  4. Chris Langman says:

    Ontario uses it’s bureaucracy as a form of soft tax collector and a method of discouraging small business.
    MoL, MTO, OCOT, WSIB, etc. enforce unnecessary laws and regulations, meant to insulate large unionized corporations from smaller, hungrier, highly-skilled trades.
    The sad reality of the situation is, in order to combat the Keynesian Goliath which prevents sensible free market solutions, independent operators would need to organize, thereby creating a squabbly, corruptible union or governing body. The very thing which caused the initial problem.
    If my family were not settled in the police state of ontario, I would have left long ago.
    The only recourse is to disobey.

  5. Questo says:

    Doug Ford should eliminate the beast called Ontario corruption on trades (OCOT) and collect back the millions of dollars of tax payers money this beast was set on motion. When was set by the Liberals, was around 89 million now for sure is much more. Ontario apparently became to attractive for parasites collectors agencies. OCOT its nothing but a grab agency, like them so many others. No progress when parasites are in demanding payment for their insane quality of work. Who needs this garbage ?

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