The Ontario College of Trades (the College) is an industry-driven, professional regulatory body that protects the public by regulating and promoting the skilled trades.
One of the main responsibilities of the College is to ensure that individuals performing the skills of compulsory trades have the training and certification required to legally practise this trade in Ontario.
The College puts the decision-making in the hands of those that are directly impacted by those decisions.
The genesis of the College dates back to May 2007, when the Minister of Training Colleges and Universities signalled a review of compulsory trades and subsequently appointed Mr. T. E. Armstrong to lead it. After consultation and study, Armstrong delivered his report, dated April 28, 2008, in which he recommended the creation of an industry-led, self-regulating College of Trades.
Mr. Kevin Whittaker was then engaged to consult and make recommendations on how such a College should be implemented. Whittaker’s report led to the introduction of the Bill 183, the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009 which was passed by the Ontario Legislature and received Royal Assent on October 28, 2009.
COCA has been involved every step of the way. We sought the views of our membership and presented them in our submission to the Armstrong Review. We met with Whittaker to provide him our input and we appeared at the public hearings convened by the Standing Committee on Justice Policy which was reviewing Bill 183 to provide the advice developed by our College of Trades Task Force. Since the Bill received Royal Assent, COCA has monitored developments at the College very closely and has kept the membership well informed.
On April 2, 2013, COCA’s Board of Directors determined that we should adopt a new more aggressive role with regard to the College, that of a “watch dog” to monitor the affairs of the College in much the same as we scrutinize the WSIB, Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of Labour.
In October 2014, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities announced that Tony Dean, well known to the Ontario construction industry through his work leading the expert panel on health and safety, would lead a review the Ontario College of Trades.
In January 2015, Dean released his consultation documents with a deadline of March 13, 2015 for submissions. With such a tight timeline COCA scrambled to convene our OCoT Working Group and draft a submission with the assistance of associate member Sherrard Kuzz LLP. Because the Ontario College of Trades has long been a divisive issue for the construction industry, COCA worked tirelessly to ensure that all COCA members had the opportunity to participate in the process and comment on the final submission.
As Dean digested the input from more than 100 written submissions and the feedback from meetings with more than 300 stakeholders and considered the issues under his purview, he signalled his thinking through regular monthly reports on his website. As a result, there were few surprises when his final report was made public on November 20th.
Many of Dean’s recommendations were generally aligned with those in COCA’s submission. For example on the issue of trade classification COCA recommended a process that ensured decisions were made based on research and evidence. Dean recommended the responsibility for decisions regarding trade classification be made by a panel of independent experts with the authority to call their own evidence and that the key factor to be considered by these panels should be risk of harm.
With regard to determinations on journeypersons to apprentice ratios, COCA again stressed the need for an evidence based approach with the onus on parties seeking to alter the existing ratio to prove it is in the public interest to do so. Dean was comfortable with the existing process but recommended that clear criteria be established and that review panels should have the ability to call their own evidence.
COCA’s Advocacy Role
- In 2016 COCA’s College of Trades Committee continued to keep close watch over the province’s self-governing body for the skilled trades and kept the membership well-informed, including the Bill 70 amendments to the OCTAA
- In 2015 COCA’s policy arm was extremely active making substantive submissions to the Review of the Ontario College of Trades.
- COCA’s advocacy calling for a review of the Ontario College of Trades was acted upon and in November 2014 the government appointed Tony Dean to conduct a review of some of the most contentious aspects of OCoT
- In 2013, COCA’s Board of Directors approved a position paper that addressed the role of the Ontario College of Trades and struck a College of Trades Committee to position COCA as construction’s watchdog over the new self-regulating body for the trades.