Tony Dean seeks input for review of contentious OCOT scope of practice, compulsory certification issues

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Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Tony Dean has started the consultation process to review the Ontario College of Trade’s (OCOT)  scopes of practice (SoP) and the “process and criteria for the classification or reclassification of trade as compulsory or voluntary.”

He issued a 25-page “consultation guide” in late January, showing the complexity and challenges of the issues he has been asked to resolve.

“During the review, I will be guided by my terms of reference and by the following principles,” Dean wrote. “The review will be independent, policy-based, informed by research and evidence, open and transparent, engaging and iterative.  In consultation with the college, I will provide the minister (of training, colleges and universities) with analysis, advice, and recommendations in a final report.  I will be acting impartially from both the Government of Ontario and the college in conducting this review.

In his consultation document, Dean writes that the scopes of practices “for Ontario’s 156 trades are set out in four regulations made under the OCTAA (Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act) – one regulation for each of the construction, industrial, motive power and service sectors.”

“The SoPs were essentially carried over form the previous system as they were adopted form the regulations and training documents under the Trades Qualification and Apprenticeship Act and/or the Apprenticeship and Certification Act, 1998.”

In the OCOT’s brief life, the scope of practice and compulsory certification process has created challenges, especially for the labourers union, where work traditionally performed on job sites has been deemed the responsibility of certified trades. Adding to the challenges, the OCOT has received a proposal for compulsory certification for general carpentry, where work may be handled by other trades or labourers on most job sites.

The certification and scope of practice controversies within the labour movement reached the point that Premier Kathleen Wynne made an election campaign promise to put a hold on compulsory certifications pending a review – and this is Dean’s mandate.

“Reviewing and amending existing SoPs or drafting SoPs for any trades that might be prescribed in the future may be a challenging endeavour if there is not a common approach to the concept, structure and format of the SoPs,” Dean wrote in his consultation notes.  “While consideration of these types of request have been put on hold by the college until this review is completed and any relevant recommendations are implemented, the college will eventually need guidance on how to engage trades in the review of SoPs, and in particular, on what to include or exclude from a SoP and what format to follow. This area of decision-making falls within my mandate and will be part of the review.

“More fundamentally given the college’s duty to serve and protect the public interest, the review should explore whether the inclusion or exclusion of activities in an SoP is consistently aligned with the protection of the public interest,” Dean wrote. “For instance, should the SoP for a compulsory trade include all the work of the trade or only work that may pose a risk of harm to the public, tradespeople, or the workers on the job?  The issue is closely linked to the matter of compulsory certification and the classification and reclassification of trades.”

If these issues aren’t challenging enough, Dean also has said he wishes to review multiple uses of standards of practices and overlaps between them – which can cause conflicts on the job site.

As well, there are issues relating to compulsory certification.

“In the current system, when a trade is classified or reclassified as compulsory the entire SoP for the trade is deemed to be compulsory as proposed to particular activities within the Sop; it is an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach,” he wrote.  “However, it is not always clear that this approach to reclassification is aligned with the College’s duty to serve and protect the public interest.

“Questions arise about whether every single activity in a voluntary trade SoP should become compulsory (and therefore restricted to members of the OCOT) when a trade is reclassified form voluntary to compulsory, and vice versa,” Dean wrote. “Greeter clarity also sees to be needed regarding the purpose and objectives of compulsory certification, and the linkages between compulsory certification, SoPs and the public interest.”

Dean expects dozens of responses to the request for written consultation to be submitted by the March 13 deadline. This will be followed by a provincial tour where he will invite stakeholders to meet and discuss their ideas, further research, and a final report.

Written submissions will be received and then posted publicly on the deanreview.com website.

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