May 2021

Welcome to COCA's monthly Newsletter. Unless noted otherwise, all articles written by COCA President, Ian Cunningham.

Chairs Corner
For Canadians who have likely never experienced systemic racism, it is easy to deny its existence. 

Systemic racism is a ripple effect from years of racist and discriminatory practices, and as individuals, it is normal to feel helpless and discouraged. But being more aware of it should make us work harder to promote social accountability. Initiating change starts with you.

I came across an article on the University of British Columbia's website entitled "Systemic Racism: What It Looks Like in Canada and How to Fight It" (March 19, 2021). It talks about how we can help initiate change by taking into account three basic principles: Reflection; Education; and Speaking Up.

Reflection: The first step is that we must accept that racism lives within our society. This may make us feel uncomfortable and challenges our notion of race and culture, but it will allow us to see racism in new ways.

Education: To move forward, it is important to confront our past with racism as a society. Knowing our past history with racism provides us with the necessary tools to fight against injustice. The COCA Anti-Racism Tool Kit is an important step towards this end.

Speaking Up: Don't be afraid to speak up! Challenge yourself by bringing up conversations in your workplace. It is not easy to talk about racism but you should not shy away from it. I encourage you to read the UBC article on the Four Steps to Navigating Difficult Conversations About Racism (March 15, 2021).

We can play an active role in working against oppression and towards equality. We must find ways to focus on marginalized groups. Education is key to effectively defeat systemic racism. If you haven't already done so - create a corporate Anti-racism Statement and discuss it at your next company meeting. Print up the COCA Anti-Racism Tool Kit and pin it up on your company's bulletin board. Post the COCA Anti-racism Posters. Promote conversation and engagement amongst your staff and co-workers. Let's make things right.

COCA 2020 Year in Review
COCA’s 2020 Year in Review takes a look back at 2020, at our accomplishments and a glimpse of what lies ahead.

Download/view the Year in Review in Magazine magazine view:

Download/view the Year in Review in Magazine single page view:
Government Bill Proposes New Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship System 

On Thursday, May 6, 2021, the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton, introduced Bill 288 An Act to enact the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, 2021 (BOSTA for short). It is the long-awaited and much-anticipated legislation that enables the establishment of the province’s new skilled trades and apprenticeship system to succeed the one currently overseen by the Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development and the Ontario College of Trades.  The proposed system essentially embodies many of the recommendations contained in the Phase 1 Report of the Michael Sherrard Skilled Trade Panel.   

Like the current system, it will be overseen by two organizations, the Ministry and a new Crown agency to be called Skilled Trades Ontario (STO) and it proposes a clear separation between training & certification under the aegis of STO and compliance & enforcement under the purview of MLTSD.   
STO will be governed by a board of directors of not more than 11 people including the chair. Board members will be selected based on their governance competencies aligned with legislative objectives of the organization (not representing a certain union, trade, or other organization) and appointed by the Minister. The Minister will also appoint a Registrar & CEO to lead the new Crown agency’s operations. 

Here are how the various responsibilities will shake out once the new system is up and running and fully functioning: 

Skilled Trades Ontario (one-stop-shop, one window) 
  • Apprentice registrations 
  • Development and maintenance of apprenticeship training and curriculum standards 
  • Development, maintenance and administration of examinations 
  • Issuance of certificates and licenses 
  • Administration of hearings relating to registration, certification, and licensing decisions. 
  • Assessment of non-apprenticeship stream applicants (trade equivalency assessments) 
  • Maintain the Public Register 
  • Maintain the Digital Portal 

Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development  
  • Agency oversight.
  • Legislation and regulatory governance. 
  • Compliance and enforcement, including the ability to establish an advisory committee. 
  • Promotion and oversight for labour mobility for Canadian and international tradespeople.
  • Program design and administration of skilled trades and apprenticeship funding programs and supports. 
  • The Minister would continue to approve and fund in-class training providers.  Prescribe trades for the purposes of apprenticeship training.  Classify trades as compulsory (mandatory training and certification) and regulatory decisions like ratios and exemptions  
Shared Functions 
  • Research into skilled trades and apprenticeship, including new trade evaluation (agency-led)  
  • Promotion of skilled trades and apprenticeship (agency-led) 
  • Participation on the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship 

Other features of the proposed system include the following: 

  • During a transitionary period, while STO is being stood up, the Minister will hold many of the authorities of STO 
  • Full scopes of practice will be restored to maintain system stability, provide for increased interprovincial alignment, and labour mobility.  
  • Compliance and enforcement activities will be performed by MLTSD inspectors. 
  • The Minister will establish a new compliance and enforcement framework and may form a compliance and enforcement committee. 
  • Notices of contravention will be reviewed by the Ontario Labour Relations Board 
  • In considering NOCs, the OLRB will consider the scopes of practice that may be relevant, the compliance and enforcement framework and any other factors it considers relevant having regard to the public interest. 
  • STO can strike industry advisory committees to inform trade standards, curriculum, equivalency assessments, labour market trends, advancements in technology etc.  
The Second Reading debate on Bill 288 was held on Monday, May 10th on Tuesday, May 11th  and again on Wednesday, May 11th when it passed the second reading and was referred to the Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. The Committee is scheduled to convene virtual public hearings on Friday, May 21st and Tuesday, May 25th. This will be followed by a clause-by-clause review before advancing the Bill back to the Legislature for third reading and Royal Assent before the Legislature rises for its summer break on June 3rd.  

BOSTA seems to codify the current state of affairs in the system that has a reformed OCoT. The current state, that many have called “OCoT 2.0” includes a five-member, competency-based board of governors appointed by the Minister, lower fees and new compliance and enforcement policy.  While not particularly strategic, modern or forward-looking, the system proposed by BOSTA is one that has satisfied most stakeholders and lowered the temperature on the debate over the Ontario College of Trades.   
WSIB Small Business Study 
The WSIB is undertaking a three-year study to better understand the needs of small business as they relate to embracing health and safety. For the purposes of the study, the WSIB has identified a cohort of 8,000 employers, of which 2,416 are from construction, that have fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees and have higher than average claims. From this group, 500 employers, including 75 from construction, will be recruited to participate in the small business study.   
The WSIB hopes to be in a position to launch a campaign to recruit 500 employer participants over the summer of 2021.  Inducements and study supports offered to employers that participate in the study will include:

IHSA construction-specific resources (e.g. templates) and free/low-cost training to help small businesses effectively implement the following Health and Safety Excellence Program topics (minimum of  3): 
  • Recognition of hazard 
  • Control of hazard 
  • Risk assessment 
  • Injury, Illness and incident reporting 
  • Incident Investigation & Analysis 
MLTSD training supports: HSR training, Supervisor awareness, Violence and harassment, WHIMIS, Worker awareness  
Draft objectives that are in the process of being finalized include:  
  • To understand the most effective approaches to the delivery of OHS services to small businesses (language from OHS strategy) 
  • To understand the factors that motivate a small business owner/manager to enroll in HSEP 
  • To measure the participation of, and changes in OHS practices among, 500 small business firms in the Health and Safety Excellence Program over a 3 year period 
  • To estimate the reduction in work-related injury and illness over a three-year period among small business firms participating in HSEP in comparison to a matched cohort of small business firms that did not participate in HSEP.  

Time to Double-Down of Health and Safety 

While there have been a number of COVID-19 outbreaks reported on construction sites recently, our industry continues to perform quite well. Outbreaks on construction sites have tended to be smaller relative to those reported at food processing facilities, mail handling plants and large consumer goods warehouses and contacts more easily traced.  To this point, construction sites have not been a major vector of transmission.  Here’s the data:  

WSIB COVID-19 Claims from Construction Sub-Classes (Class G): 
  • Building construction (G1) - 26 claims 
  • Residential building construction (G1) – 34 claims 
  • Infrastructure construction (G2) – 63 claims 
  • Foundation, structure and building exterior construction (G3) – 59 claims 
  • Building Equipment construction (G4) – 123 claims 
  • Specialty trades construction (G5) – 41 claims 
  • Non-residential construction (G6) – 28 claims 
Total WSIB COVID-19 claims from all construction sub-classes: 374 
Total WSIB COVID-19 claims from all classes (all sectors): 22,587 
Total WSIB COVID-19 construction claims as a %age of total WSIB COVID-19 claims: 1.66% 
Total COVID-19 cases recorded in Ontario: 495,019 
Construction WSIB claims as a %age of total cases recorded in Ontario: 0.076% 
Despite this performance, now is not the time to rest on our laurels or let our guards down. In fact, if we want the current restrictions on the construction industry lifted anytime soon, now is the time to double down on the health and safety protocols to keep the virus from leaking into work sites. Here are a few tips: 
  • Make sure workers don’t congregate at smoke breaks and lunchtimes 
  • Limit capacity in lunchrooms and job site offices 
  • Make sure workers are wearing the prescribed eye protection as required 
  • Remind workers not to carpool and if they absolutely must, no more than two in a vehicle, windows down, wearing masks 
Construction workers’ non-compliance with health and safety guidelines both on and off job sites is being observed by the public and reported to MPPs. If this continues, it will undoubtedly result in further restrictions. Nobody will benefit from that, not the owner, not the contractor and not the worker.   
Construction Employers’ Long Term Injury Experience  

Here’s an interesting chart that I was able to access from the WSIB. It describes the long-term injury (LTI) rate across all Schedule 1 employers and in the various sub-classes of construction employers. In most subclasses of construction employers, the rate is lower than the Schedule 1 average rate but in sub-class G3 Foundation, Structure and Building Exterior Construction it is more than 50% higher than the average across all of Schedule 1.   

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COCA is the voice of our membership at Queen's Park.

We want to hear from you. All questions, ideas and comments are more than welcome.

Council of Ontario Construction Associations
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COCA Staff
Ian Cunningham x224
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Martin Benson x222
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