More red tape, more bureaucracy, more expense — that’s how the Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA) summarizes new proposals from the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) for a new self-supporting “administrative authority” to oversee and improve building permit approvals and inspections.
According to the MMAH, the various proposals brought forward in late September were intended to ensure that, “registered building professionals remain up to date on Building Code requirements.” Minister Steve Clark invited stakeholder feedback as part of the announcement.
In response, the association representing over 1,900 professional building officials across the province released a comprehensive 30 page report titled, The OBOA Solution. It challenges the government to increase collaboration with existing industry players in order to “transform and modernize the delivery of its Building Code Services.”
The suggestion of a new administrative authority to regulate the province’s building industry appears contradictory for a government that promotes a desire to reduce red tape. In fact, much of the OBOA Solution casts doubt on the MMAH’s proposal.
“We’re not convinced that there is enough evidence to justify the creation of a new Delegated Administrative Authority,” said Matt Farrell, past president of the OBOA in a media release.
“This would add another layer of bureaucracy to an already costly and complex system and we think that municipalities and our sector partners need to hear further information about how this will benefit everyone”.
As an alternative, the OBOA advocates, “a co-regulatory role, where the OBOA will work with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and others expert stakeholders.” Given higher expectations in terms of accessibility, resource conservation, climate change action, and efforts to harmonize building codes across Canada, the OBOA believes it would be more effective to use existing training and supervisory infrastructure.
The OBOA report also states that, “there is an acute need for a review of Ontario’s building code regulations to ensure clarity, effectiveness and relevance in the midst of national efforts.
The professionals charged with applying, administering and enforcing building code regulations feel continuously challenged with understanding and interpreting its provisions.”
The OBOA therefore suggests that a Provincial Commission be established to oversee the development and evolution of the Ontario Building Code, and that the province itself be the sole source of Building Code Interpretations.
“First and foremost, the sector and the public deserve building code regulations that would result in the consistent application of building standards across the province,” the report says. Where further interpretation is needed to ensure consistency across all municipalities, the government needs to provide binding interpretations of code-related questions.
The OBOA believes this is best guided by, “evidence-based decision-making,” and administered, “through an effective user-pay model that can be accessed by the whole sector and consumers, not just building officials.”
The OBOA report also addresses the effects on the industry of the “Silver Tsunami” —increased retirements among current officials— and the resultant need to train and recruit new building professionals. They point to the OBOA’s history of building industry training innovation through their partnership with George Brown College.
This includes the standardized integration of training materials that allows seamless course delivery across all Ontario training platforms.
Therefore, they recommend that the Ministry recognizes the OBOA’s, “leadership, expertise and infrastructure that are already doing so much to encourage recruitment in to the official career path.”
With the report now in the MMAH’s hands, the OBOA expects further dialogue.
“We have had a great relationship with Minister Clark and are in constant conversation with him and his staff,” Farrell told the Daily Commercial News.
“We see good things with Bill 108 and other legislation aimed at increasing the professionalism in the sector. It’s encouraging that this government is committed to making long-needed changes, but there are still areas where both they and the building sector will need to see more evidence before any decisions are made.”