Reaching a post-OCOT solution proves challenging

The Ontario government is changing the supervising system for the skilled trades sector. The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) is being eliminated ─ the question is what will replace it? Contractors, wholesalers and manufacturers from across Ontario shared their insights, concerns and ideas with HRAI during three consultation sessions held on December 16.

The sessions focused on questions of importance to the HVAC/R industry concerning approaches to skilled trades and apprenticeship. Attendees were invited to comment on governance of the skilled trades, enforcement and compliance, portable skill sets, and fees.

Suggestions in terms of compliance ranged from requiring wholesaler customers to present a licence and/or certification to make a purchase, to a permit process for vehicles.

“It is almost impossible to track contractors,” said Martin Luymes, vice president, government and stakeholder relations with HRAI. He noted that it may be more effective to spend enforcement dollars to “educate buyers, blanket the entire market.”

Considering how divisive the fee issue became for OCOT, where the “dollars” would come from and how they would be allocated will be a critical part of future discussions. Luymes thinks the complaints related to fees “were less about the dollars than what they were getting for the fees.”

In order to determine fees for a self-sustaining, self-regulating body “the real costs would have to be identified and that would depend on what the priorities are, education, compliance, etc.,” said Luymes.

Participants discussed just who would comprise the self-regulating body. There are currently 22 compulsory construction trades in Ontario. One solution that was proposed was to create a construction bubble with the companies/trades separated by work in commercial versus residential markets. “If you work commercial and residential ─ belong to both,” said Peter Inch, general manager, Roy Inch & Sons Heating Air Conditioning and Plumbing.

This solution, along with others on the table, would call for a lot of industry buy-in. Interests are not necessarily aligned, as seen in the response to the portable skill set legislation. Viewed by some as an alarming move to piecemeal work to reduce costs on the part of commercial companies, and by others as an eroding of the Red Seal Program, the portable skill set legislation will be a “big part of trades negotiation,” said Luymes.

Finding a solution will be complex. Input from the December 16 sessions is being reviewing and analyzed. HRAI will set up additional consultation sessions in 2021.

Contact Dorothy McCabe, HRAI government relations specialist – Ontario by email: [email protected] for details as they become available.


Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprentice Act, 2019, Schedule 40 in Bill 100 (2019 Budget bill) shifted authority over the trades to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), now the Ministry of Training, Labour and Skills Development (MTLSD); reduced or eliminated membership fees; and included the provision for portable skill sets where an apprentice or journeyperson could work in a variety of industries or trades and be trained in various skills across different trades. As an example, an apprentice or journeyperson could be certified in erecting and dismantling scaffolding and work in a variety of industries or trades with just this skill right away, with the option of completing further training later.

A five-member skilled trades panel and three youth advisors were appointed in October 2020. Phase 1 (October to November) of the Skilled Trades Governance consultation has taken place; the second phase is slated for January to May 2021).