Tony Dean acknowledges his review on certain aspects of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) may not please everyone, especially the naysayers who wish the College didn’t exist at all.
His highly anticipated recommendations are in, all 31 of them, and if fully-implemented they would change the way the College interacts with the industry, with suggestions encompassing four keys areas: scopes of practice, trade classification, ratio reviews and enforcement.
"I discovered in the early days of the review that there were a lot of people with a lot of opinions," Dean explains, adding since he was appointed by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in October 2014 he ensured his process was independent, open and consultative. Dean was selected to conduct the review because of his reputation and expertise, as he is a former secretary of cabinet and is known for leading an expert panel review of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2010.
In the spirit of transparency, Dean posted monthly updates to his website, received 109 submissions and hosted meetings with more than 300 tradespeople, employers and industry representatives in 11 locations across Ontario.
"I don’t think surprises are a good idea for anyone," he says. "In a review of this sort, with as many opinions and interests and a bit of a turbulent background, I wanted to minimize the degree to which people were worrying about things that were not going to happen and I wanted to think about the things that likely were going to happen."
Dean recently shared his thoughts, along with Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities Reza Moridi and David Tsubouchi, OCOT’s CEO and registrar, in an interview with Daily Commercial News.
One of the key recommendations Dean highlighted revolved around trade classification and reclassification reviews, where he suggests using independent experts to "ensure a strong and clear process that would yield lasting, credible decisions — while keeping the process external to government."
For example, trades seeking a compulsory status would be able to select either specific features of their scope of practice, or their full scope, for review by an independent expert panel, a release on Dean’s recommendations states.
"The question that’s being put towards a decision-making panel is a very big and impactful one that goes essentially towards who can do work and who can’t," Dean explains. "It was evident, that kind of standardized approach to classification reviews was one of the few pieces that was independent of the College … driven by experts in the field."
When it comes to selecting the decision-making panel, Dean acknowledges there are some details to be worked out, but "a roster of experts would be appointed by the minister in consultation with the College."
Then a chair would be appointed to designate panels of between five and seven people to hear classification reviews.
Another factor that will play a large role in the classification process is risk of harm.
"At every meeting, with every group, at every location in the province, I put the question to people directly: If you were making the decision, if you were determining today whether a trade should be compulsory or voluntary, what would be the key factor for you in making that determination? Every single individual and group started with risk of harm," he states. "We need a process that is absolutely defensible, bulletproof, demonstrably evidence-informed."
Dean also made recommendations on scopes of practice, or the type of work performed in a trade, stating there is a need for further review and an update, something Tsubouchi states had already started. This review would include trade board and other stakeholders and "no trade would be forced to change its scope."
"We identified the need to look at improvements. This is not something anyone at the College views as an obstacle," Tsubouchi says. "We will be working with the government in terms of these recommendations and the work is complicated. This may take a little bit of time to get there and set the priorities but we have a commitment to work with the minister’s office."
Dean states the review process would allow for clarification on various functions of the College, including apprenticeship and certification, promotion of the trades, ratio reviews and standards of practice.
"To be fair to the College, this is what it inherited," Dean adds. "It should be driven by the trades and trade boards. We’re never going to standardize them fully, there’s too much variation between the work of trades. We can move down the road towards more uniformity."
Journeyperson-to-apprentice ratio reviews were also on the agenda, but it’s an area where Dean states the College has been relatively successful. However, one recommendation would allow review panels to request their own evidence and research to inform decisions.
In terms of the College’s enforcement, Dean recommends OCOT "adopt a policy-based approach" and that the board of governors establish a compliance and enforcement committee to inform the policy.
"Collaborative College work on trade scopes of practice driven by trade boards would also help to clarify the goals of enforcement activity," the release notes.
He also suggests a new appeal mechanism to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) be established for future cases that arise where College enforcement clashes with the OLRB jurisprudence and workplace-based agreements.
"From the outset there were some concerns. It was my job to validate those and some I could validate and some frankly I questioned," Dean states of his overall recommendations. "If I had done everything that some of the College critics wanted me to do, there wouldn’t be a College."
Both Moridi and Tsubouchi state the government and the College will work together to ensure these recommendations are followed up on.
"We both will work hand in hand to make sure this report will be implemented," Moridi says. "We will bring the legislation to the house, as soon as we can, and hopefully that will pass as soon as possible so that the College will have the tools to implement those changes."
It’s a review that everyone should appreciate, adds Tsubouchi.
"Ultimately you’re going to have some degree of disagreement on the substantive issues, but it cannot be on the process. It cannot be questioned that the process was completely open and transparent," he states. "Tony came in as an objective observer."
Dean is a little bit more modest on his thoughts on the review.
"I had to find some ground in between, I like to think that I’ve done that," he says. "It’s now for others to judge whether or not I got it right."
INDUSTRY REACTION: Watch for construction industry comments on the Dean Review in future editions of the Daily Commercial News.
To read Dean’s full report visit, ontario.ca/deanreport.
For more updates follow Lindsey Cole @DCN_Lindsey.