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Will Doug Ford’s Ontario PCs finally slay the Ontario College of Trades? Opinion

Now’s the time to abolish this reviled government bureaucracy


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August 28, 2018 by John Bleasby

Doug Ford and his new Progressive Conservative government in Ontario has delivered buck-a-beer, dragged sex public school education back to the 1990’s, and cancelled clean energy projects across the board. What about issues that directly impact the party’s populist base —the tens of thousands of skilled trades workers in the residential construction industry, their employers, and the young apprentices trying to break in?

One of Ford’s MPPs has latched onto the situation. “So many current workers will be retiring over the next 10 years,” Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop (PC) told Canadian Contractor. “The issues are the ratios and a broken apprenticeship system that makes it too difficult to get involved. Of those going into the system, only 50 per cent are coming out the other side.”

More and more professional associations are coming out publicly to demand that Doug Ford’s PC government resolve the apprenticeship ratio bottleneck and slay the OCOT dragon behind the province’s skilled trade current fiasco

A long standing family interest in the trades and politics
Dunlop’s concern for skilled trades and apprenticeships comes honestly. Not only does her family operate a multi-generational plumbing business, but her father Garfield Dunlop was the popular MPP for Simcoe North for many years. Garfield not only experienced firsthand the frustrations shared by many trade employers, he also spoke out publicly while an Opposition MPP. “The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) is an expensive duplication of a service that is already provided by the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Electrical Safety Board, Public Health and all building officials,” he told media at the time.  In terms of OCOT’s annual registration fee, he continued, “What do tradespeople get for their money? Absolutely nothing.”

Daughter Jill laughed when reminded of that statement. “I recently spoke to someone who used to work for OCOT. They said to me, ‘Your dad certainly wasn’t a fan of us.’  And I said, ‘That is a major understatement.’ ”

Can Jill Dunlop do more than just tilt at windmills?
Now that Dunlop is part of the governing party, she’s determined to keep the issue front and centre, a daunting task for a rookie MPP. Her private member’s resolution, passed with all-party support this summer, brought increased attention to the skilled trades issue. It was a good beginning, but actions are more important than words. So, Dunlop is taking it right to the top by initiating conversations with the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

And she’s doing more. Dunlop intends to convene a committee of  frontline, ground level employers plus industry associations beginning this November. The committee will gather input for both Ministries and put their ideas forward. “Since my resolution passed, I’ve been speaking with a number of different home building associations, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the Ontario Colleges.  A number of other groups have reached out to connect with me as well.”

Jill Dunlop (PC), the MPP for Simcoe North may be a rookie, but she is following the path blazed her father Garfield, the riding’s previous MPP, by pushing for changes to Ontario’s apprenticeship process.

It’s a two-way flow — Dunlop also hopes to send the government’s thoughts back to her group for feedback. “This is my own initiative — it isn’t Ministry driven or staffed. To begin, my office has put a survey together on skilled trades. We’re asking businesses about red tape, how many Ministries they deal with, which ones are easy or difficult, and the issues they have had to deal with in the past. We are also asking questions specifically pertaining to skilled trades in their businesses. ‘What are your key issues when dealing with skilled trades? Is it ratios? Is it the apprenticeship stigma?’  We’re taking this to Rotary Clubs and local economic development groups. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has also agreed to send our questionnaire to their local chamber members as well.  They’re bringing back good stories and I’m passing on the information.”

The elephant in the room is the despised Ontario College of Trades
Already Dunlop has already received a stream of sharp criticism aimed at the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT). After all, it is OCOT that has made Ontario’s apprentice-to-journeyman ratios the most onerous in the country and therefore the most difficult for small businesses to comply. “I see some of the comments that come up on my social media whenever we’re talking about skilled trades. People are always saying OCOT has to go. I also hear horror stories about their enforcement decisions. Whether canceling the College of Trades, overhauling it, or changing its direction, it’s quite clear that everyone is looking for a change.” Dunlop is also well aware of comments that OCOT does not sufficiently reflect the interests of ground level, independent (non-union) employers and the apprentices trying to break into various trades.

However, Dunlop is only one, lone MPP who cannot know what the timeline for change might be. While she is determined to keep the discussion and new ideas flowing in both directions, it will be up to her caucus colleague Merrilee Fullerton, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities(MTCU), to make any changes.

What does the government’s top brass say?
Canadian Contractor has been asking Minister Fullerton for the past several weeks to spell out her  Ministry’s position. Our pressure finally resulted in a statement issued on August 24. “Our government is committed to increasing access to apprenticeship training,” Fullerton told Canadian Contractor. “Creating good jobs in Ontario by revitalizing skilled labour is a priority for the government as the skilled trades sector will contribute greatly to Ontario’s growing and vibrant economy. We have heard concerns on all sides about journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios.  We’ve been clear that we are interested in finding ways to create an environment and training process that will expedite the creation of sufficient skilled tradespeople to make skilled labour a competitive advantage for Ontario.”

OCOT plays the “Rag the Puck”
In the meantime, it is interesting to note that OCOT has delayed its internal review of apprenticeship ratios beyond the originally mandated April 2019 deadline. OCOT’s delay-of-game bafflegab on its website will only further frustrate and enrage apprentices, trade workers and employers alike. “College staff are preparing for briefings with Minister Fullerton and senior staff at MTCU prior to continuing the review. Stakeholders and members of the public will be updated about the review once these discussions with government have taken place.”

As justification for the review delay, OCOT references an April 2018 decision by the Ministry of Labour under the previous Liberal government. “The Minister of Labour has approved a regulation providing the Ontario College of Trades with an additional 12 months to consult with stakeholders on potential improvements to the journeyperson to apprenticeship ratio review process and ratio criteria,” the website says. “The actual ratio reviews before a panel is now set to begin [our italics] in April 2019.” OCOT requested the delay earlier this spring in order to properly study the recommendations of the Dean Report released way back in November 2015, a study commissioned to look into, “issues related to the scopes of practice and the classification/reclassification of trades.”

While OCOT fiddles, and the building industry burns in anger over continued delays, it is hoped the concern and engagement brought forward by MPP Jill Dunlop’s ground level committee will be too great for the government to ignore.

Got feedback? Make your opinion count by using the comment section below,
or by sending an email to:
JBleasby@canadiancontractor.ca

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16 Comments » for Will Doug Ford’s Ontario PCs finally slay the Ontario College of Trades? Opinion
  1. wayne frayer says:

    i’m being blackmailed, it is a form of extortion, nothing is supportive to me, I will not support the OCOT,

  2. Shawn alexandre potvin says:

    OCOT is nothing more than a wasteful attempt to police and collect fees from an already difficult jobset. No one seems to like it or find it anything but a hassle. Listen to the people. Slay it.

  3. Raymond Hobbs says:

    My problem with OCOT is not a dollar value it’s a service that we all need We do need to drop the ratio but not before the schooling gets straightened out. When I signed my last apprentice they said it would be 2 years before he could go to school. He took the night classes that was at the 18 month mark better but still not good enough.

  4. Ray Marsden says:

    Well done Jill, good luck and keep it going, never let up on that nasty bunch, they are disgusting.
    They occupy fancy offices, draw massive incomes all from the hard working trades people.
    Can you imagine a qualified tradesman being told he can no longer refer to him or herself as a journeyman trades person if they don’t pay OCOT a fee.
    Every article I read is always about punishment and fines. I never hear a word about encouragement or respect for their members. They are a disgrace in our community. When they retire at a very early age they will collect a huge pension/benefits for as long as they live at the tax payers expense.
    What they can do well is talk and promote their own lavish ambitions.

    Cheers
    Ray

  5. katkanuck says:

    Hope he always “slays” the mandatory WSIB on LEGIT business owners. Another RAM & SCAM tax that businesses do not need. Covered ourselves for Disability and Liability!

    OCOT followed WSIB Mandatory and both should be removed! Scammers, thugs, mafia, and Unions

  6. Jim says:

    Get rid of ocot

    • Edgey says:

      Hopefully Doug rids us of the scourge known as OCOT,they effectively do nothing for the skilled tradespeople of Ontario other than to extort outrageously inflated fees from the pockets of hard working trades. As an Electrician of 43 years service I watched my license fee go from $60.00 every 3 years to $138.50 annually immediately upon the inception of OCOT. I’m not a math wizard but thats roughly a 600% increase,any common sense thinking person can tell when a government agency “is peeing on your shoe and telling you it’s raining outside” just because they know they can get away with it.

  7. Questo says:

    Doug ford should use section 32 of the Canadian charter or rights and freedoms to get rid of the OCOT, and many others, the same way he may use to eliminate the city of Toronto councils. In doing so may collect back millions of tax payers dollars were wasted by liberal stupidity.
    The liberals wasted them selves way, with theirs stupid idealism.

  8. Al says:

    I am a qualified, experienced and knowledgeable tradesman, but can’t work in my field, because I have refused to join OCOT.
    OCOT is only about favoritism, protectionism, entitlement, gouging, licensing and policing.
    Please, abolish OCOT, I would like to renew my license.

  9. Marcel Blanchard says:

    It is with great interest that I have read your article in the Canadian Contactor regarding the broken apprenticeship system in Ontario and the super bureaucracy called the Ontario College of Trades. I have worked directly and indirectly with skilled trades for over 40 years and I fully agree with you that it is time to make some fundamental changes to the way apprentices are treated in our great province and abolish the Ontario College of Trades because it is not doing anything good for our young people in the trades. The College is also contributing to the present and future shortage of trades people, not only in urban Ontario but also in the rural areas. I live in eastern Ontario about a 30 minute drive southeast of Ottawa. We are experiencing the same problems that you have so well described in your article. A large number of our young people don’t come out of the trade apprenticeship successfully and are expelled from the trade by the College. They are sent directly to the street if they are not able to pass the interprovincial trades exam at 70% mark. We all know that many of the trades people are not good in school and at passing complex exams but they are good at the trade and respected by those they work with for their skills. The provincial trades license that could be obtained at a 60% mark some years ago has been abolished for some reason, surely not by anyone who know about trades, and replaced by an interprovincial trade license that need a 70% mark. That provincial license must be returned to keep our young people in the trade and deal with the skilled trades shortage that harms our economy. An interprovincial trades license is good but it is utilized by a very small % of trades persons who want to go and work in another province, which doesn’t help us in Ontario.

    Last week, , Ms Amanda Simard MPP for Glengary Prescott-Russell — greatly respected in eastern Ontario — and Ms Caroline Mulroney, Attorney General and Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs, were here in Embrun, for a round table to meet and listen to entrepreneurs and business people in eastern Ontario. The subject of skilled trades and all the problems you have expressed were presented to them by concerned entrepreneurs. The main concerns were the ratio situation and the expulsion of trades people who are not able to pass the interprovincial exams at a mark of 70%. They want the provincial lincense requiring a 60% mark to be reestablished to keep their good trades people working and their business running. We owe this to our young people who are not necessarily good in school and writing complex exams. The College of Trades has not done anything good for trades people but the College is sure taking a lot of money from them for no value at all. It needs to be abolished and the power given back to the Ministries responsible.

    All this to say that you have the full support of trades people and contractors in eastern Ontario. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance here in eastern Ontario.

    Regards,

    Marcel Blanchard, MBA

  10. lee worsdell says:

    This as been the worst thing for construction trade in years. As for small business trying to survive we cant find people to work. No one wants to try the trades because of what they need to go thru. Constantly honding workers at the job sites. There worse then the unions.

  11. Q5310s says:

    I glad to hear someone is finally doing something about OCOT. The increase from $60 every three years to $135 annually is outrageous.
    I have to also say that a licensed mechanic of 30 years experience like myself and only make 60 k a year with 80k in tools that you can’t claim at tax time is the reason I’m leaving the trade. May the powers that be could address pay as well if you expect apprentices and technicians to stay.
    OCOT should of been a union and then you’d see how things change when trades start to strike and the province grinds to a halt

  12. Dale P. Lahey says:

    I have worked in trades since I have completed high school, I completed two apprenticeship programs and for the past twenty years I work closely with apprentices in the educational sector. The ministry had complete control of the apprenticeship program with more success and did not dig deep into the pockets of apprentices. Since OCOT has been in place I have heard several complaints from frustrated apprentices about the lack of service, threatening demands and outrageous fees that these people can not afford to pay. The objective would be to encourage the youth to fill the needed positions in trades as people retire rather than discourage them all together because of to much red tape.

  13. Trades Person says:

    It is very disappointing that simply because of poor research and plain irresponsibility to spend tax payers money, our politicians do not even look at next door examples of fiascos that happened when they make similar decisions.
    Please see what happened in BC when 10 years ago they did something similar that our Ontario government is doing now to the trades by removing the Ontario College of Trades from the picture.
    http://bcfed.ca/sites/default/files/attachments/BCFED_apprenticeship_training_reprint_Feb_2018_web.pdf
    BC regrets what they did, and so will Ontario, but the problem is that those that make these decisions are not accountable for what they do, 10 years later they will not even be in power, probably. And again who is going to pay for it? THE GOOD OLD TAX PAYER.

  14. Rob Miller says:

    I certainly hope not. We ALL remember why we have OCOT. It was the government that took job specifics away from the Ministry of Labour with cut backs. And we ALL know how cut backs affect us. OCOT have been doing a great job visiting job sites. Policing them and protecting the skilled trades. If you don’t like them? Join a Union. Or leave the trades. Because it’s people like that, ruin things for everybody else.

  15. Trades Person says:

    Friends, it is so disappointing, that we as trades people are viewed as school drop out and therefore not very smart, but what is a further disappointment, is that in fact comments like this do attest to our ignorance and that of the Government, I mean some of us can’t even get the amount we pay OCOT right (by the way it is $135.60 not $138,50), and although I am a company owner, that will benefit tremendously with this, I just can’t stand when people resort to untruthfulness to get what they want .
    Let me set the record straight:
    1- The Ontario College of Trades has absolutely nothing to do with the ratios that were in place, the ratios were actually set back in 2002 by the ones that are now changing it to get the popularity vote, and get what they want, sadly blaming someone else for it.
    2- The Ontario College of Trades has nothing to do with the 70% pass and Red Seal, that is currently in effect, this was set by MTCU many years prior to the existence of OCOT. Keep in mind that the Act that OCOT enforces is OCTAA 2009, not OCTAA 2013 the year that OCOT came into the game.
    3- The poor completion rate again it has nothing to do with OCOT, as MTCU are still and have always been the ones that have this on their plate and never left to OCOT, and I can honestly believe that if it did, it would have been fixed, or on the way to get fixed.
    4- For those of you that claim that you can’t claim any tools and professional fees, again it is sad that you are this ignorant, please go find yourself a new accountant.
    5- OCOT does not and will not shut down any sites, as they do not have the power to do so, these are made up stories, and if they are truthful, than those who allowed it to happen were ignorant, and did not know the law. And you know that ignorance is not an excuse to allow someone to break the law.
    Speaking as a company owner I am very happy with the ratio change, I have currently 32 Journey Persons, that I pay anywhere from 25 to 30 dollars per hour, I will be cutting that in half and get a bunch of apprentices for minimum wage, I should be able to drag them a bit longer on their program, specially now that OCOT Inspectors will not be there.
    Now if I was a Journey Person working for someone else, like I was before, I would be very worried about my job right now.
    There are in-fact things, and 3rd party stories I heard, where certain OCOT Inspectors may have been less professional than what they should have, but this again falls back on those that experienced it and never said anything to the OCOT Managers, giving them the opportunity to deal with these individuals. I mean you will find this in every enforcement agency, they are commonly known as “Cop Wanna bees”.
    All I can say to you is that my interaction with OCOT Inspectors was always very professional, and reasonableness was always used, as I can even admit that ratios were an issue at my company. And the Inspectors were always willing to work with us as long as we were taking steps towards compliance. The Inspectors I dealt with were always very professional and helpful, and I feel for their job losses if they are not placed somewhere else.
    There are many things being said about OCOT, but I am certain that there are only 3 kinds of people doing so:
    1 – Those that have companies with compliance issues, and do not want to work towards compliance.
    2 – Those who are upset because the fees went up and do not want to pay fees of any sort anyway, as some of these were not even paying the 60.00 dollars prior to OCOT (I personally know a few).
    3 – Those in the underground economy.
    Now just ask yourself, who is really going to fully benefit from these changes? Yes the ones above.
    I am when it comes to ratio, but I am not happy that the 3 types of people above, will benefit from every aspect of it, and it will be a free for all.
    With or without OCOT, my business will keep moving, prior to OCOT the TQA was in place with no one to enforce it, all I can say is just be wise and get your facts straight before your start writing comments and saying things that are not truthful, simply to get what you want.
    And you do not need an MBA to be truthful.