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Last November, Ontario’s new government enacted Bill 47, which introduced sweeping changes to Ontario’s labour and employment-related legislation. Among the changes were fundamental alterations to the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009 (OCTAA) that included the introduction of “one-to-one” journeyperson‐to‐apprentice ratios for all construction trades that are subject to ratios, a moratorium on the creation of trade classifications or re-classifications to prevent further splitting of trades into different categories and the winding down the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).

At the time, the government promised a “replacement model” for the regulation of Ontario’s skilled trades and apprenticeship system at some point in “early 2019”.  HRAI has been in regular conversation with the office of the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) throughout this period, awaiting news and offering advice when requested.  HRAI’s inputs to the government have been informed by a survey of members conducted in January.  The results of that survey were reported in a previous issue of e-Insight (click here).

While HRAI’s survey provided some key insights into the priorities of members in relation to training and apprenticeship support, it did not provide clear direction on a single preferred model for governance, other than a majority of members expressing support for the idea that ultimate oversight should go back to the MTCU (where it resided before the creation of the College of Trades).

Ontario’s New Legislation

On April 11th the government introduced its Provincial Budget and, as part of that process, presented for first reading “Bill 100, An Act to implement Budget measures and to enact, amend and repeal various statutes.”  Bundled into this Bill were 61 new or amended statutes, including Schedule 40, the long-awaited “Modernizing the Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2019,” which, if passed, will establish a new governance model for the skilled trades and apprenticeship system. The new system will be a Ministry-led delivery model with industry input in training programs and regulation.

To be clear, Schedule 40 of Bill 100 is what is usually described as “enabling legislation,” whose main purpose is to create new regulatory powers for the government – in this case the Minister of Training Colleges and Universities (currently Merrilee Fullerton) – without spelling out how those powers will be implemented.

Nevertheless, while most of the details about how trades training and apprenticeship will be administered will come in the more detailed regulations that are yet to follow, there are some clear indications in the Act about how the government intends to proceed. 

First, the act gives the Minister power to (among other things):

a) prescribe “trades” and “skill sets”;

b) prescribe “restricted activities”;

c) issue policies describing the activities of trades and skill sets; and

d) approve training providers for apprenticeship programs.

The Act makes notable distinctions between the terms “trades,” “skill sets,” and “restricted activities.”  We can reasonably expect that the naming of specific “trades” will follow the traditional definitions with which the industry is familiar (especially since there is a commitment in the Act to remain within the Interprovincial Red Seal Program).  The introduction of “restricted activities” as a separate category, however, is new.  From an enforcement standpoint, it appears that the focus going forward will be on these restricted activities, which will exist as a subset within trades and may be included in one or more trades or skill sets. The details of this approach will only see the light of day in the form of new regulations, but this direction is surprisingly consistent with the new approach to enforcement that was being introduced by OCOT before its mandate was terminated.

Secondly, the Act gives the Minister the right to appoint a “Registrar of Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship” (a public servant), whose duties will be similar to those of the Chief Registrar that existed under OCOT – i.e. to issue certificates of qualification, establish apprenticeship programs, register training agreements, administer examinations and perform other administrative duties.

Finally, the Act permits the Minister to delegate some of its functions to “administrative authorities” which will be governed by administrative agreements. This provision leaves the door open for the Minister to assign key responsibilities to new or existing agencies where the function might be better delivered. A hypothetical example of this might be the delegation of responsibility for the promotion of careers in skilled trades to an existing agency like Skills Ontario (a move that many respondents to the HRAI survey strongly supported).

All of this suggests that there are a number of pathways that the government can take as it sets about to revamp the system for trades training and apprenticeship in Ontario. The main effect of the new Act, therefore, is to shift the primary authority for these matters back from the College of Trades to the Minister of Training Colleges and Universities.

Transitional Issues at the Ontario College of Trades

Meanwhile, the Ontario College of Trades is going through a slow, orderly wind-down.  HRAI has been advised that a number of functions will remain with OCOT until a new administrative capability has been established at MTCU.  During the transition period the College will continue to deliver on its core services, including:

  • Issuing or renewing certificates of qualification and other credentials,
  • Verifying credentials on worksites for compulsory trades,
  • Undertaking trade equivalency assessments, and,
  • Supporting labour mobility through credential verification

Fee Changes

The College of Trades also recently announced that, upon the request of the Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities (effective immediately), annual membership fees have been reduced or eliminated as follows:

  • $0 for Apprentice class members
  • $0 for Journeyperson Candidate class members
  • $0 for Tradesperson class members
  • $60 for the Journeypersons class

OCOT also stated that, while it implements the changes necessary for fees administration, it has placed a temporary pause on membership fee collection: “Effective April 12th, the College temporarily ceased sending out invoices or accepting payments and will begin again at the new rate as soon as possible, but no later than July 5th 2019.”  OCOT adds that “fees at the new rate will be assessed for the period of the temporary pause and will be due after it ends. Fees paid prior to the rate change will be credited towards either OCOT membership fees or the future fee model, as appropriate.”

What’s Next

Recent discussions with the Minister’s Office suggest that there will be an “extensive” consultation process with industry that will feed into the process of writing new regulations (staffers say “it will be thorough but not quick”). As a first step, the Minister will be appointing a “Chief Training and Skills Advisor” – an “expert with extensive industry experience” -- whose job will be to review all existing trades, consult with industry, and make recommendations to the Minister over a two-year period. Only when this initial process is completed will the Ministry commence with writing detailed regulations. 

As noted above, some of the key administrative functions will remain with OCOT by necessity until the new regulatory framework is finalized.

HRAI will be actively engaged with the Ministry in the months ahead and will be facilitating discussions with industry to feed into the yet-to-be defined Ministerial consultation process.

For more information, contact Martin Luymes at 1-800-267-2231 ext. 235 or email mluymes@hrai.ca