The parliamentary assistant to Ontario’s Minister of Labour Laurie Scott said recently the Doug Ford government did not shirk in consultations with stakeholders before it announced Bill 47 on Oct. 23, which will simplify trades apprenticeship ratios and see the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) folded by the end of next year.
And even if some stakeholders felt blindsided by the announcements, Thornhill MPP Gila Martow suggested at a recent construction sector event, it is imperative that the government move quickly to ensure companies looking to invest in Ontario don’t spend their money elsewhere.
“The rules and regulations we are talking about are really red tape, a lot of it, that is hampering business development,” said Martow during an interview while attending the Ontario General Contractors Association safety awards breakfast held in Mississauga Oct. 26.
“Obviously we want as many people as possible to be aware of the initiatives we are working on. I think we all understand how fast we have to work and how desperate we are to get that investment because every day we wait, there are companies looking elsewhere to invest. “Sometimes when moving so quickly, the message has trouble getting out as far and wide as you’d like. I am sure the minister would like to share the message as much as possible.”
Besides the decision to institute a 1:1 journeyperson-to-apprentice ratio across the board for construction trades and to scrap OCOT, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act will stop the certification of compulsory trades, roll back a planned $15 per hour hike to the minimum wage and undo worker benefits and working conditions approved by the previous government.
The Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario said it was given no advance warning of the impending moves and the council invited OCOT CEO and registrar George Gritziotis to make a presentation on future College directions at its annual convention in early October.
Ian Cunningham, president of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations, said his council had advocated on workplace scheduling and similar issues with the new government but he knew nothing of the plan to axe OCOT.
Patrick McManus of the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance said his group had an idea of the government’s direction but not the specifics. Sean Reid of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada said the PCA has had conversations with the Ford administration regularly since it took office.
The previous Liberal government spent 13 months consulting with stakeholders on reforms to OCOT through the Tony Dean review beginning in October 2014 and then it was another 13 months after Dean submitted his report until the reform legislation was passed, in December 2016.
The Ford government, elected in June, marked its first 100 days in office Oct. 6.
Martow commented that with labour, cannabis and education consultations all taking place in recent months, “People have actually joked with me, you are consulting and consulting, are you actually doing any work because it sounds like all you do is consult.
“All I can say is we have had roundtables with businesses in every riding across the province, that we have all done our best, including myself, to invite as many business community stakeholders to those roundtables.
“I would advise anyone who feels they are not getting the messages to let the minister know they’re disappointed and on behalf of the ministry I apologize if they weren’t told of something but on the other hand, that is always the challenge in government.”