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The HRAI GTA Chapter hosted a special dinner event in Vaughan, Ontario on May 29 that allowed Sandy MacLeod, HRAI’s new GM, to introduce himself to members and to lay out his view of future strategic priorities. Members were also introduced to George Gritziotis, CEO and Registrar of the Ontario College of Trades, who talked about his vision for the College going forward, including a re-think on their processes for reviewing and amending apprentice ratios in Ontario.

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MEMBER SURVEY

MacLeod reported on the results of an HRAI membership survey conducted during the fall of 2017, which provided a framework for highlighting the achievements and challenges of the organization. He reported that members view advocacy --advancing key issues and building trust with all levels of government, as a critical HRAI imperative.

The survey showed that in general HRAI received a high grade, with 70% of members rating the association at 5 or better on a scale of 1–7. Members were generally satisfied with the provision of programs such as thermostat recovery, consumer shopping research, CMPX rebates, call centre operation, training development, technical documents, market research, and financial benchmarks development. The survey, conducted by the Portage Group, was sent to 1,126 members, with about 20% responding.

“I’m a ‘glass is 70% full’ kind of person. But at the same time it’s clear to me that we have to do better. For example, some of you don’t feel that you are being heard by us,” said MacLeod. In the survey, members were less positive about whether they felt their voices were being heard, and our communication effectiveness was rated at 69%, slightly below average for trade associations. MacLeod indicated that more initiatives will be created to listen to members, reach out to members, improve and measure communication effectiveness, expand the membership base more broadly across the country, beef up future planning on education, career development, and promoting trades as a career.

“Those who use our services seem to be satisfied with them, but are they the right services that members care about? We want to find out.” He talked about the importance of gathering information from members and indicated that the organization would be using a series of very short 3-5 questions surveys that take about one minute to complete to acquire feedback on specific issues.

HRAI will also continue to closely monitor emerging standards and codes, including those in the dominant energy standards category, and of course, continue to provide a high level of HVACR industry advocacy with governments and other key decision-making bodies.

ECONOMY

MacLeod also presented some findings from the Economic Outlook report (jointly produced by Altus Economics for HRAI and CIPH) on the Canadian economy and specifically the construction industry. “It appears the increase in housing starts is a very solid trend being driven by increased employment across the country.” He pointed out that employment was up everywhere, except in Newfoundland, that real GDP growth is expected to be at 2% or better for the next couple of years, after hitting 3% in 2017. Inflation and mortgage rates are under control, and real personal disposable income is growing, albeit slowly.

ADVOCACY

MacLeod also noted that key advocacy trends include the door-to-door provisions of future climate change rules that will impact equipment that burns fossil fuels, the evolution of what he called the “challenging refrigerants file,” energy conservation standards and Bill 59, which regulates how HVAC services and equipment can be sold on consumer doorsteps in Ontario. He also mentioned that HRAI is closely monitoring internet marketing practices such as the Google Guarantee and Amazon sales of HVAC equipment. Other topics of interest to the attendees included rules from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), and of course, developments under Bill-70 which affect Ontario apprentice ratios.

We would be remiss in the age of Twitter outrage if we did not report that HRAI’s new GM admitted to being big hockey fan (and cigar lover) and included photos showing him preferentially sporting the jersey of a particular city’s NHL team.  Sandy challenged all members to sign up for our Mexico conference where members from the rest of the country can harangue him over this serious faux pas.

APPRENTICE RATIOS IN ONTARIO

A lively discussion accompanied the presentation given by  George Gritziotis, as members were very interested in the many issues surrounding the new Trade Classification Reviews (TCRs) referral process as well as  journeyperson-to-apprentice training ratios in Ontario’s construction trades. Gritziotis also touched on compliance, enforcement, and OCOT strategic priorities. He also emphasized and expressed that the college is attempting to evolve into a more open and approachable body, that is interested in helping sectors develop rules that are fair for everyone.

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One member at the meeting reported an example of an inspector driving by an AC installation done by a family company. They stopped for a spot check which resulted in hefty fines being issued given  a helper was not properly documented as an apprentice.  Gritziotis said he could not speak to this particular incident,  but he noted that OCOT was trying to be a much more strategic and thoughtful regulator when it came to compliance and enforcement, using its limited resources for cases that make sense, doing its homework before walking into workplaces, and thoughtfully employing ‘the right touch’ for enforcement.

With regards to ratios, Gritziotis also said that the Minister of Labour had approved a “12-month runway” (extension) for the current ratio review providing the College the opportunity to address concerns expressed after the first round of ratio reviews.  He acknowledged  some serious pain points in the industry and felt that greater discussion between all parties could help to alleviate concerns.  

On May 23, 2018, OCOT held a meeting on trades ratios which brought many  employers, unions, those involved in training delivery, and interested members of the public together. Participants (including HRAI) reviewed the current ratio setting  approach and Dean recommendations, shared their experiences, and suggested ways to conduct  consultations with stakeholders.

Gritziotis acknowledged that the HVAC industry consists mostly of small and medium-sized businesses and said he wants ratios to reflect a level playing field going forward. He also indicated decisions will,  have to be evidence based. “I’m bullish on data, but at the same time I recognize that some organizations have the ability to put forward their views because they have more resources at their disposal to put together submissions to the panels.” For this reason he said the College would be making efforts to gather its own data and to get out into the field, to learn more about actual conditions.