Tony Dean says as his review progresses he is dedicated to listening to interested stakeholders who wish to provide their input on certain aspects of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) since their voice is essential to the process.
"I come into this fresh. Right now people are bringing ideas on how the College can be improved," he explains, adding he hopes to speak with tradespeople, employers, trade associations, trade unions, those at the College and within government, to name a few.
"We’ve got some big meaty issues to deal with. We now have to look at those issues through the lens of the public interest."
Dean was appointed by the province in October to undertake a year-long review of issues related to the scopes of practice, or type of work performed in a trade, and the process for determining whether certification should be compulsory or voluntary.
According to Dean’s February update on his website, www.deanreview.com, interested parties can write-in their submissions, a process that wraps up March 13.
After that he will be on the road, venturing to several locations around the province to speak with stakeholders. Throughout April Dean says he will be travelling to Kingston, Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Sarnia, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Toronto.
And while he can’t go everywhere, Dean states "I’ll do my best to ensure that those people who want to talk to us can talk to us. I don’t want anybody at the end of this saying they were left out."
Thus far Dean says the review has proved to be educational with various stakeholders commenting and asking questions.
"I think for the most part, there’s been an interest in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. With, first of all a couple dozen meetings under our belt with some of the major stakeholders, (and) with the consultation paper out now…the vast majority of the questions have been addressed," he says. "I’m much more in receive mode than transmit mode right now. I’ve got a lot to learn."
Dean, who is well known for leading an expert panel review of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2010, stated from the get-go he intended to make this process iterative and transparent, providing updates along the way. A consultation guide was posted on the website in January to answer any review questions and it states he will not be considering the existence of the College, redefining what a trade is, amending the scopes of practice for specific trades, reclassifying specific trades and reopening discussions on journeyperson to apprentice ratios for specific trades.
"Regardless of who I speak to, I think everyone is focused on the sort of College of Trades that they think will work best as opposed to whether there should be a College of Trades," he says. "I am pleased that there’s lots of enthusiasm."
OCOT, which oversees and regulates 156 skilled trades in the province, began accepting membership in April 2013.
The trade classification review process will be paused during Dean’s work, OCOT states, but the rest of the College’s mandate including enforcement will carry on.
Since its inception, the College has been met with some scrutiny from the industry, with some stating the regulatory body is bogged down in bureaucracy.
"They were asked to take on a lot. My observation is they’ve done well. They’ve made a great deal of progress," Dean says of the College. "At the same time, I think this is a timely pause to see how things are going in a few key areas."
Once all the stakeholder feedback is collected, Dean’s team will be "taking a hard look at what people have written in and what people have told us," he says.
"Over the summer, (I will be) starting to think about drafting some sections of the report and likely testing them with people," he adds.
"We’re not in this to surprise anybody in October. There is no point in marching down the road confidently with what I might think is a good idea if nobody else thinks it’s a good idea. The point is to listen, to learn and to give the minister and the College the best possible advice based on what we hear from stakeholders and based on the terms of reference. I’d like to think that fresh eyes in a situation like this are better than tired eyes."