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LYALL’S FILES: Tony Dean and the quest for reforming OCOT
March 31st, 2015 2:58 pm     A+ | a-
Richard Lyall / RESCON

The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) is under the microscope.

This spring, the province’s former top civil servant Tony Dean will travel across Ontario to get input about the College’s role, how it is performing on issues related to the practice of the trades and whether it should be reformed.

That’s why we felt strongly about launching the Dawson Report this week, which highlights the need for a modernized skilled trades and apprenticeship system.

Let’s give you some context: OCOT was established to help update the skilled trades system, giving the trades a voice and control over their own industries. However, with unwieldy apprenticeship ratios and new pressures to certify all other trades, it has created a stumbling block for the construction industry.

Last fall, the Ontario government appointed Dean – the former head of Ontario’s public service – to review OCOT on issues related to the scope of practice of trades, and the process and criteria for review panels discussing the classification or reclassification of trades as compulsory or voluntary.



Speaking from the perspective of the builders, we were thrilled to see Dean, a man of integrity who commands respect in our industry, chosen to review OCOT. He made a huge impact on residential construction in 2010 when he led an expert panel review of Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act in response to a construction site tragedy. From 2002 to 2008, he was Secretary of the Cabinet and a very successful head of the Ontario Public Service.

Back to OCOT. Reformation of the College is a key issue for RESCON, the voice of the GTA’s builders, because it involves our front line: the trades. Recently I wrote about OCOT in RESCON’s debut Toronto Sun column and in our February newsletter.

Among the points we continue to make, Ontario is currently facing apprenticeship ratio barriers preventing our youth from entering the trades while simultaneously experiencing a worker shortage. A surplus of eager young workers (many of whom are faced to head west to find work) and a deficit of workers on the job – it seems like there must be a way to deal with both issues by changing the ratios.



We’re involved in the OCOT review on three formal fronts.

Firstly, the Dawson Report. We were one of six construction and builder associations that launched it this week to address the OCOT review. Its proper title is “Modernizing Ontario’s Skilled Trades Apprenticeship and Training System: Building New Opportunities Through Governance and Regulatory Reform.”

We believe that Ontario’s construction industry is at a crossroads. A growing trend of regulation is threatening the industry’s ability to create safe and affordable homes, institutional, commercial and industrial buildings, and infrastructure. OCOT could hinder the functionality of the industry if it succeeds in its quest to certify or add new additional oversight of all of the trades for the good of “public interest.” Our report explains how regulation is not synonymous with public interest.

The future of OCOT is an important issue for the construction industry and our members. Good decisions come from good data – that’s why RESCON supported the Dawson report, which drills down into available information and provides economic analysis that OCOT has been lacking sorely. It examines apprenticeship ratios and the potential impacts of making voluntary trades compulsory.

As for our other two reports, on March 13, we submitted one in partnership with the Ontario Skilled Trade Alliance, an organization that represents 8,000 employers with 130,000 tradespeople, and one on our own.

In all, Dean and his staff received 107 submissions from college trade boards, individuals, single-trade and trade sector employers and unions, training providers and independent businesses.

And we remain committed to supporting his work as the process continues in hope of correcting past errors and unlocking the benefits that OCOT can bring to the industry. OCOT is too important to the skilled trades to get it wrong: it needs to be a body that promotes training and getting young people into trades, which faces an aging demographic and skilled trades shortage.


There’s still time to change the system. Dean’s review began in October and will last for up to a year. Dean will be hitting the road for public consultations around the province on April 9 – including Kingston, Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Sarnia, Thunder Bay, Sudbury and the GTA – and we’re expecting to hear some kind of outcome by early fall.

If you want a hard copy of the Dawson Report or the report that RESCON submitted separately to Dean, please contact RESCON’s vice-president, Andrew Pariser, at

Thanks for reading our blog. Please also follow our conversations on Twitter at @_RESCON, @RESCONprez, @RESCON_VP and @RESCONtech.

Feel free to email me at


Richard Lyall has represented the residential building industry in Ontario since 1991 in his capacity as the President of RESCON, the President of the Metropolitan Toronto Apartment Builders Association and as the Executive Director of the Toronto Residential Construction Labour Bureau. Lyall is also a frequent speaker and writer on issues related to the construction industry. 

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