LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Tuesday 1 June 2021 Mardi 1er juin 2021
Report continued from volume A.
IN THE SKILLED TRADES ACT, 2021
LOI DE 2021 OUVRANT DES PERSPECTIVES
DANS LES MÉTIERS SPÉCIALISÉS
Continuation of debate on the motion for third reading of the following bill:
Bill 288, An Act to enact the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, 2021 / Projet de loi 288, Loi édictant la Loi de 2021 ouvrant des perspectives dans les métiers spécialisés.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): We have time for further debate. The member for Niagara Falls has the floor.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will address a couple of things before I get into my formal speech, because the minister raised the fact about workers. You had a chance this morning to take care of injured workers today. I asked you and I begged you, and I’ve begged you for how long about deeming? For months. Workers, including construction workers, including skilled trades workers, are being deemed and living in poverty, and what did the minister do? He said no. I asked him to bring in presumptive language, our bill, so health care workers could be taken care of, and what did they say? No. These are workers. It’s unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that the minister is leaving like he did the last time I did an hour—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Excuse me. The member for Niagara Falls, you know the rules of the House. You are not to say who’s here, who isn’t here, who’s coming, who’s going. Please, if you wish to continue your debate—I know you’re very passionate about it—you’ll get back to what you have to say without saying who is here and who isn’t here.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Mr. Speaker, you’re absolutely right. I knew exactly what I was doing. I’ll agree to that. I think it’s important that people hear: When you stand up and say you care about workers, you have an opportunity to care about workers.
I spent the whole day here yesterday—well, not the whole day. I was here for seven hours, I think, yesterday, discussing Bill 283. ONA, Unifor, CUPE, SEIU said, “This is not what we want for PSWs.” It didn’t matter. ONA had a rally through Zoom the other day, with thousands of people on it, asking to repeal Bill 124 because it’s not fair that inflation is 2.2% and they’re stuck at 1% in wage increases. They’re all workers, and you stand up here and try to say you care about workers. There’s one party that cares about workers in this place, and it’s the NDP, and we’ve cared about workers forever.
I worked in a plant for 40 years. I know what it’s like to go to work and punch a clock at 6:30 in the morning and work on an assembly line for eight hours. And I know what it’s like, when my machine breaks down, to call a skilled trades person, and I know how talented they are and how they’re getting dirty but they’re doing it safely. Do you know why they do it safely—before I get into my speech? Because in an auto plant—today, in an auto plant—they have an eight-to-one ratio so the apprentice isn’t getting hurt on the job.
And I will touch—and then I’ll get into my speech, because for whatever reason, that minister fires me up when he tries to make it look like we don’t care about workers. I’ve given my entire life to workers to make it better: fair wages, better benefits, sick pay, four-day weekends. And you stand up here and say you don’t—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member for Burlington, come to order, please. The member for Hamilton Mountain, come to order, please.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I should start with my speech, but I figured I’d address a couple of those issues, because I’m absolutely proud of the NDP and the record that we have with workers.
So Mr. Speaker, I’ll start.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Thank you.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I rise today to speak about this legislation, Bill 288, Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act. This will be my second round of speaking to this bill, and I’m happy that we have another opportunity to discuss the legislation while also highlighting the feedback we received from presenters at the finance committee: union, non-union, businesses.
I’ve got a paragraph done.
I’m going to jump off a little bit here. I found out we were going to do this bill today at 12 o’clock. I want people to know that. You took two years to put this in place, and you’re telling the official opposition that we’re going to discuss the bill at 12 o’clock today. Total disrespect, not only for us—and I don’t know if the Liberals are going to talk, and I don’t know if the other independents are going to talk—but it’s total disrespect to the skilled trades, every one of them, because they’re interested in what I have to say. They might not agree with me, and that’s fair. I don’t have a problem with that. Because I’ve realized after my question this morning that they don’t agree with me on workers’ compensation either, and deeming. I understand that.
But it isn’t fair to ask the opposition to stand up here in three hours and do an hour lead and touch on all the important issues, because in skilled trades and apprenticeships, our young people and women, those who are racialized, those with disabilities, are important. We’ve got to make sure we put it in this, we have that discussion and we have our 10 minutes of questions. But no, they decide—I get an email at 12 o’clock, “You’re up at 3 o’clock for your hour lead.” Total disrespect for skilled trades. I’m sorry; that’s how I feel. I said it the last time you guys did it and I’m saying it now.
We rushed this through two weeks. I think it’s a very important bill, by the way. I think we’ve got great opportunity to put young people to work. I’m not sure the 100,000 trades is accurate, but we can discuss that. Maybe it’s 80,000. Maybe it’s 120,000; I don’t think it’s that high, but it might be 80,000. It’s a lot of opportunity for young people who need jobs in the province of Ontario.
I’ve said this before regarding this legislation, but it’s really unfortunate how rushed the bill was. It took the government and the Skilled Trades Panel two years to ensure that they got this right, and now we only have a few short weeks to cover all the important steps in the legislative process. I wish we could have spent more time at committee. I truly found the feedback from the stakeholders interesting and insightful. So today I think it’s important we spend our time discussing some of these important points made by stakeholder presentations on how to make this bill better. I’m going to repeat that: Make it better. That’s what our amendments were about, and they came from the stakeholders.
Speaker, as we know, the government unfortunately voted down every amendment that was brought forward by the opposition, which were largely based on the feedback we received from those in the industry. So when you’re turning back our amendments, you’re turning your back on the stakeholders. As we know, they voted against our amendments, so I believe today it’s important we discuss the areas of the bill that we feel fall short and some areas that still give us concern about the bill after it eventually passes in this House, because we know they have a majority government and it’s going to get passed.
However, I think we need to address the big issue here. That’s how this government best addresses the entire skilled trades system and ultimately ensures its sustainability by removing the stigma of the trades and making it easier for people to enter into apprenticeships, which we agree with. Speaker, one thing we can all agree on is that trades in Ontario are not only an important industry but certainly a rewarding career, as my colleague on the other side talked about with her son, and I think my colleague on this side talked about with her son as well.
A career that can offer a stable income in the area of building and construction trades and the ability to quite literally build your community from the ground up: How exciting is that, as you watch your project improve the community? It’s a great job. When I speak to different members of the construction trades and we pass by an infrastructure project that they are a part of, they often note with pride their contribution to that particular project. Seeing your community develop and build up is extremely rewarding. I know that for many it’s a big bonus of that career. It’s almost like a doctor who has a patient, gets the patient better and they feel good. The trades are the same way; they’re building up their community.
Mr. Speaker, we have definitely learned something important from this debate. If you want the trades to be sustainable going into the future, you have to look at ensuring young people wanting to pursue an apprenticeship have a straightforward process for getting into an apprenticeship. I’m happy about some aspects of this bill—maybe not as excited as the member from Sudbury—and the directive of the new organization, Skilled Trades Ontario, will be tasked with trying to address this problem. I know that several stakeholders noted the importance of it.
The Ontario Council for Technology Education provided the committee studying this bill some great insight in encouraging youth to get involved in skilled trades. This is what they said—not me. I didn’t say this; they did: “The key to encouraging more youth to enter the skilled trades is early exposure to technological education and skilled trades and technology through an education system that emphasizes the importance of the trades to students, parents, and the community.”
I believe that what the Ontario council of tech education has noted is important. Not only does Ontario’s skilled trades system need to be operating in the year 2021, but the exposure and hands-on training of young apprentices needs to be in 2021.
The Ontario council of tech highlighted some ways the province can work to increase access to tech for those looking to get into the trades, and I’d like to share a few of those with you today. And again, I want to make sure—this isn’t coming from me. This is coming from their organization:
“1. Be vocal about the need for quality technological education programming in our schools, more skilled trades-qualified teachers, more up-to-date tech and facilities, revised Ontario curriculum that places emphasis on skilled trades and technological education, a technological education compulsory credit in high schools and increased funding going directly to secondary school technological education facilities, tools and equipment.
“2. Leverage provincial, national and global employers, unions and associations to educate our education system and the community about the skills needed and the opportunity in skilled trades and apprenticeships for students.
“3. Advocate for the government of Ontario to make substantial investment in high school technological education programs, including the tools, equipment, facilities and programming.”
I’ll tell this story. I’ve told it before, but I’ll tell it again, seeing as the other party did as well. I believe that we have to start very early with our young people. When I was going to school, in grades 7 and 8, I did shop, including home ec. My wife is surprised at that, because I’m not a great cook, but I did take home ec. I took woodworking. I took welding in grades 7 and 8. And then when I took a look at my marks to go into high school, they might not have been in the high 90s. They weren’t in the 40s, but they were somewhere in between. And I thought, do you know what? I really enjoy the tech courses. So I decided to take a four-year tech course at St. Catharines Collegiate. The school is still there. I did horticulture there. I was driving a tractor around in high school, planting flowers and stuff. I did welding. I did woodworking. I did autobody. I could tell a great story about autobody, with my teacher. I still remember him: Mr. Herman, one of the nicest men I ever met. He taught me autobody. That’s what we have to do to get our young people: Get it back into our schools, starting very early, and—I agree with them—talk to the parents. Let them know.
Some of the things that I’m going to talk about here—I have some concerns. I’m making sure that the jobs are safe. I’ll explain that, but I think that’s what we should be doing. And quite frankly, instead of selling our schools that closed because of not enough students in them—we shut them down and what do we do? We sell them to a developer and they build houses. Now, we need housing, we need affordable housing, but we also need tradespeople, so why wouldn’t we take those schools—and a lot of them still already have machines in them. They already had those courses in those schools. Why don’t we open those schools as tech schools so kids can go there? I think that’s something that we should be doing.
I think that once Skilled Trades Ontario is created, it would be beneficial to examine how we as a province can be proactive partners in the enhancement of tech training and opportunities. I know that many of our brothers and sisters in the unionized skilled trades have been working hard at this and providing some of the best training in the province. A lot of the unions have training facilities. Obviously, they needed funding, but they have some of the best training facilities. Any assistance that they can receive on this issue will only benefit the quality of skilled trades in the province.
Beyond the important goal of increasing the number of young people who want to participate in the trades and start an apprenticeship, we need to also ensure that we have a viable infrastructure plan going forward. For those in construction trades, we know that infrastructure projects are important, and we must ensure we are using local workers to get these jobs done.
I say it a lot in this House, and I’m going to say it again: It’s not enough to just get people into the trades; we need to look at getting them to work. One of the best ways we can do this is hiring local workers for local projects. I’ve been saying this for almost a decade, because it makes sense and it works.
Speaker, just think about it: If you have a local project going up, whether it be a school or a hospital, and people are being shipped in from elsewhere, they’re not spending money locally. They’re getting in a van and heading somewhere else at the end of their shift. They’re not supporting local businesses. If a local community is playing a part in building a piece of local infrastructure, shouldn’t they also get the economic benefits of it?
Local taxpayers—with our new hospital, I think it’s $41 million they’re expecting the municipalities to put out to support it.
There is no better example than our local Niagara Falls hospital that we need built so desperately—and I talked about that yesterday—a project we need to get off the ground, to actually start building on, not only to get that health care to the residents, but also to start providing good-paying local jobs.
This is something that’s interesting, and I’d like my colleagues on the other side to listen to this, because all we’ve heard for two weeks is how there’s a shortage of skilled trades. How many have heard it said in this debate? Put your hands up. Has anybody heard that? I guess nobody on the other side heard it. I’m going to help you out, then. We have 70 IBEW electricians out of work today in Niagara. That’s 70 trades workers with 70 families who depend on them. They live all over Niagara. If you give them the work, they’re going to take that money and they’re going to spend it in our local restaurants, in our local stores.
I happen to know many of those Niagara-area IBEW workers. They’re some of the most talented workers I’ve ever met. They’re dedicated. They’re good community members. They’re coaching our kids, whether it be for lacrosse or baseball. They do a job and they do it right, because they were trained properly in these training facilities.
Take a look at the St. Catharines arena that was built by IBEW workers. Once the arena went up, the entire downtown exploded and people went down there. They built the arena. You might have heard of the Niagara IceDogs. I know some people follow Junior A hockey. Our IceDogs play out of the arena. On the nights that they play, the whole downtown area and the restaurants and shops are booming; the River Lions, when they’re playing; and we’ve had curling championships in the arena—all done by good IBEW workers. No problem, because it’s done properly by local tradespeople, the same tradespeople, and I mentioned this, who take their kids and watch the IceDogs play—not the Sudbury Wolves, or the Spitfires, Speaker.
When you hire local, you’re hiring people who give to the community and who care about your community.
Take it one step further. Where you can and when you can, you should be buying resources and supplies from local suppliers. Some of these suppliers have staffs of 10, 20 employees.
You can see now that we could use these projects to generate economic growth all over Niagara, and it all begins with a simple statement: Hire local, build local, buy local. Why would anyone be opposed to that?
One of the biggest spenders on public infrastructure in this country is—do you know who it is, Mr. Speaker? I guess you can’t talk, right? You’ve got a mask on. It’s the Ontario government. Think about that. They could put people back to work using our tax dollars. It makes sense to me. Why bring companies in from Germany?
I may be wrong on this, but I’m going to say it anyway, and if I’m wrong, I’ll retract it at some point in time: I believe that the new Hamilton football stadium—the company came in from Spain, and we had all kinds of problems around that. Then we had some problems where they weren’t paying the workers. If you would have taken that and hired a local company, it would have put local people to work.
They have the power to employ and hire so many people with large public builds. That includes all kinds of tradespeople, all kinds of apprentices. And they should be public. We’ve seen this in Ontario.
There was a 2019 study in Nova Scotia which said the same thing here. The title of that study, from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, is Report Finds P3 Highways Have Higher Costs, Less Accountability. It doesn’t have to be a highway. Sometimes my colleague from Peterborough is here when I tell this story, because it’s certainly accurate. We saw it in hospitals in Peterborough and St. Catharines with the P3s, which are just private contracts to the lowest bidder and then the province ends up picking up the tab when everything falls apart or is behind schedule.
I want to give you an example of this. I don’t know if the new colleagues have heard this story, but they might have. The Peterborough hospital was a publicly built hospital. It’s about the same size as the new St. Catharines hospital that was built about 10 years ago when Mr. Bradley was the Liberal MPP. The hospital in Peterborough cost $363 million. The hospital—same size—in St. Catharines, does anybody know what it was? It was $1 billion. Actually, it was just over $1 billion. Imagine what we could have done with that extra $600,000, putting it into buying MRI machines and funding MRIs that I’ve been talking about here for the last few days. But that’s what happened and it happens time and time again.
You know when that doesn’t happen? It’s when the power of the government is used to create public builds with local workers, who care more about the community than doing it for the cheapest possible price.
With the purchasing power of the Ontario government, they should use this responsibly. There should be a law stating that a minimum percentage of local trades get used for all government infrastructure projects. I should have brought that up in amendments, by the way. I apologize; it’s probably my fault. I think I thought of this after. Now, wouldn’t it make sense, if we’re going to spend tax dollars, rather than bring companies in from Spain and Germany, that we say that a percentage of the workers there have to be from Ontario and they have to have a percentage of the apprenticeships be from Ontario? That, to me, would get people to work. If that law existed, we could get less costly builds and create more local jobs in communities right across the province of Ontario.
How can any government be opposed to that? It makes financial sense. And for the workers like the 70 IBEW skilled trades workers who need work, it’s a game-changer. It lets them do what they do best. They want to work. This government has the power to put them to work, and it’s simple: You use local tradespeople and get our hospital built.
Speaker, as we move through this legislation, I want to go back to my first comments today—well, not really, but my first ones when I started my speech, because I had a few other comments before then—from stakeholders that will be profoundly affected by this legislation. When they talk over there that this is what Unifor wanted or this is what the other unions wanted, I can tell you, we talked to all of them. Unions, employer groups, associations, training and education providers, employment service groups and others came before committee to provide thoughtful feedback. And they did a great job because it’s always good to get that feedback; although it was rushed. This whole bill was rushed over the course of a couple of weeks. I can say that myself and my colleagues all enjoyed their presentations, and that’s why it was so disappointing when the government chose to ignore the recommendations during the clause-by-clause portion of the committee. As a matter of fact, we saw today they were cutting up our amendments even though they came from the stakeholders: the building trades, Unifor and IBEW.
At the end of the day, the best way for us to pass legislation, even in a majority situation, is to work together and collaborate, and find the areas of the bill that need fixing and fix them, and that’s what our amendments were about. I want to be clear, because the minister was very clear that he didn’t like our amendments. Well, they came from the building trades; they came from Unifor; they came from IBEW—the same unions that they have been quoting. Honestly, I’m not sure why this government refused to participate in that process last week.
I’m going to get off just a little bit on the auto sector, because the minister likes to throw in the auto sector all the time. It’s almost like the president, Jerry, is his best friend. But we know that when Oshawa was going to close that facility, the Premier was very clear. He said, “That ship has sailed. Those 3,000 jobs are gone.”
Do you know who said they weren’t gone? The NDP. We stood shoulder to shoulder with Unifor. I can remember going—I’m not good at remembering who—the guy that came and talked on behalf, to Unifor, to a full arena. Jerry Dias spent money to say, “I’m going to fight. This isn’t done. I’m going to save those jobs in Oshawa.” It wasn’t the government that did it; it was the union that did it. It was their membership. And they were scared. I’ve gone through that as a president, where we lost membership. But their union said, “No, we’re going to fight. We’re going to fight to keep the auto sector in Canada.”
And you know what? They went to the bargaining table with an agenda, and their agenda was to bring work to Chrysler. Were they successful? Yes, they were. It’s going to come there very shortly. Were they successful in getting work in Ford? Yes, they were. And the biggest success I think they had, and one that very few people gave Jerry Dias, the president of Unifor, and that bargaining committee—they would get Oshawa back in the game, and I want to congratulate that union. But let’s be clear, the Oshawa situation had nothing to do with this government. It was Jerry Dias and the leadership there that said, “We’re not going to let that plant close”—and the membership, because the leadership is only as good as the membership, and I congratulate every one of those workers and their families and the community and even the mayor. We said, “General Motors, change your mind,” and to General Motors’s credit—I give them credit when they do the right thing—they did the right thing.
Do you know why they did the right thing? Do you know why Ford did the right thing? Do you know why Chrysler did the right thing? I’m not sure of their name now; they change every three weeks. But do you know why? Because we have the highest skilled trades workers in the country working in those plants. We have the most dedicated workers working in those plants, who go to work every day and put out the best products in the world. They’ve won more awards in Canada than anywhere else. If you want to build cars, do you know where you build it? You build it in Canada, because we have the best autoworkers in the country.
I just wanted to address that. It’s a little bit off the bill, but not really, because I did mention skilled trades. There’s a lot of skilled trades in those plants, by the way, and they believe in an 8-to-1 ratio because they don’t want to see their apprentices get hurt.
This government was very eager to come out and use several endorsements from the trade unions when they announced this legislation, but for some reason they didn’t want to hear any of the concerns that those groups had with this bill. I used those examples, Unifor, building trades, IBEW, and I want to thank them all. I want to thank all those unions that talked—not only to myself, by the way. I don’t think we give enough credit to our staff. My staff, Josh and Ryan, who worked with me on this, talked to a lot of these organizations. We get to stand up and maybe our face is on the whatever channel this is, 15 or 112, whatever it is on your TV, but behind all of us we have some of the best staff in the province of Ontario, and I just want to say thanks to my staff for everything they did.
Speaker, one of the major areas that needed amendment is the very loose language around designating voluntary trades and their scope of practice and work. This concern was brought forward by multiple stakeholders, the same stakeholders that in the minister’s comments he ran down, and I hope to expand on the reason later in my speech if I get to it.
The concern with this language actually grew during the presentations with stakeholders. When we discussed the language in the legislation surrounding determining compulsory trades and scope of practice, it seemed like some employer-based presenters felt that there would be room for negotiation around the scope for compulsory trades. We know that there will be another round of consultation after this bill is passed, and I surely hope our concerns are not realized.
One of the main purposes of this legislation was moving away from a skill set approach. This legislation was to ensure the integrity of compulsory trades. The feedback from some presenters definitely gave the impression that they felt that the minister look at opportunities to re-examine the compulsory trades once the bill is passed. We hope that’s not the case.
I think it’s important that we now move on to discuss the area of concern in more detail and examine the amendments or the problem areas that should have been addressed at committee last week. In my opinion, that’s the whole point of committee. We listen to those who are directly impacted and we make the necessary adjustments. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Speaker, I’d like to address our concerns with subsections 6(c) and 7(c) of the bill. This section of the bill states as follows:
“6. No individual shall engage in the practice of a compulsory trade unless”—the key word here—
“(a) the individual is an apprentice in that trade and is working pursuant to a registered training agreement that is not suspended;
“(b) the individual holds a certification of qualification or a provisional certification of qualification in that trade that is not suspended; or
“(c) a regulation exempts the individual from the prohibition.”
That’s why we want that out of the bill, and section 7 states the same thing: “No person shall employ or otherwise engage an individual to perform work or to engage in the practice of a compulsory trade unless”—and the same three regulations are there.
We’ve asked and the stakeholders have asked to take the language out. The government voted against it. For us and several stakeholders, the language in both subsection 6(c) and subsection 7(c) was unnecessarily broad and gives us real concern on how voluntary trades and their scope could be determined by the government. It’s very, very concerning to the trades that we talked to and the organizations we talked to.
I understand the minister can make a promise that compulsory trades would not be altered or eroded after the legislation is passed, but it only goes so far. Why not include it directly in the legislation? If you made a commitment and a promise, why isn’t it in the bill? And that was our amendment voted down by those in the Conservative government who were there the day that we brought our amendments forward.
Again, the minister tried to take some shots at us about our amendments, but they came from the stakeholders. I want to be clear on that. They didn’t come from me; they came from our stakeholders. This is what they said they needed in the bill.
Six organizations noted in their presentations that subsection 6(c) would severely weaken compulsory trade licensing in the province. This was something we’ve heard repeatedly in both written submissions and oral presentations to the committee. It most definitely is a theme of concern. The fact that this was rejected by the government is very, very disappointing—not surprising, but disappointing.
I think it was clear that the groups that took the time to come out and make their presentations were doing so in good will and genuinely want to make this the best legislation possible, to truly work together, and we want the same thing.
This is what the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council noted in their submission—and this is what they said, not me, again: “It is the view of our council that by incorporating the above-noted amendments to the Building Opportunity and Skilled Trades Act, 2021, the government could grasp a rare opportunity to better define the policy orientation of the newly envisioned Skilled Trades Ontario ... agency with a view to further strengthening the construction industry trades, training and apprenticeship system.”
That’s the building trades, Mr. Speaker; not me, the building trades. They see exactly what subsections 6(c) and 7(c) do.
That type of language sounds like an organization that wants to work together to best service all those working and operating in the trades in Ontario. So with that, I think it’s clear that we’re very disappointed that this government is still going ahead with subsections 6(c) and 7(c), even with the concerns highlighted. We cannot afford to see our compulsory trades chipped away at or devalued. The high quality and professional work they provide is second to none, and a robust system protecting those trades is needed going forward. Why wouldn’t you agree to that?
Speaker, another issue that I believe is important we discuss today is the lack of a process for voluntary trades to move to compulsory. With all of the faults that we can find with the Ontario College of Trades system, it did provide a very clear and formal process for voluntary trades to apply to become compulsory status. It’s an important step in trades. Previous to the college, there was no formal process, and it was up to the minister to make changes.
Under the college system, the sprinkler fitters were able to successfully make the switch and become compulsory. I’m very proud to say that my son-in-law Trevor is a sprinkler fitter, and he understands how complex it was. Also, the process allowed a case to be made not just by sprinkler fitters, but also organizations that also believed in ensuring sprinkler installation was completed by trained and certified professionals. Even the Ontario fire chiefs’ association made a proposal noting the importance of having sprinkler systems properly installed and functioning properly.
Speaker, the operating engineers’ Local 793 said this regarding the need for a process to move voluntary trades to compulsory:
“The term compulsory is incredibly meaningful to our organization.
“It represents a commitment to workers’ safety and the delivery of the highest training standards possible for dangerous crane, concrete pump, and heavy equipment operation.
“When a trade is deemed compulsory, a worker is required to be registered as an apprentice or to hold the status of a certified journeyperson in order to work within that trade.
“Local 793 has been proactive in applying for compulsory status within our trades. While our OETIO training facilities provide training for three primary trades, hoisting engineer—mobile and tower crane, heavy equipment, and concrete pump. Only mobile and tower cranes have achieved compulsory status and heavy equipment and concrete pump remain as voluntary trades.” That probably should be looked at.
“Since the introduction of the hoisting engineer apprenticeships and compulsory certification under the Trades Qualification and Apprenticeship Act (TQAA) in 1979, the crane industry has seen an incredible reduction in the number of workplace accidents and fatalities as well as an overall improvement in the skill of workers on the job site.” That should be important to all of us.
“In the years preceding compulsory certification, there were many crane-related accidents. Between 1969 and 1978, crane and rigging fatalities accounted for 19.8% of all construction fatalities in Ontario.” That’s a pretty high number. I think you’re probably surprised at that yourself, Mr. Speaker. “During that period, there were no training requirements for crane operators in the province. Since compulsory status was achieved, the rate of injury and fatality associated with crane and rigging has significantly decreased.
“The statistics compiled by the Construction Safety Association of Ontario (CSAO) highlight that between 1979 and 2004, crane and rigging fatalities accounted for 8.8% of all construction deaths, which represents a 55.5% improvement from the years prior.
“It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that compulsory certification has been a matter of life and death for our members”—and the lives they’ve saved.
“Section 2 of Bill 288 empowers the minister to determine whether a prescribed trade should be compulsory or voluntary. However, Bill 288 does not include any criteria that the minister will take into account when determining whether a prescribed trade should be compulsory or not, and does not describe or provide any process for initiating a review of whether a prescribed trade should be compulsory.
“Regulation 315/18 under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act sets out the criteria that guided a duly appointed and impartial review panel in deciding whether a trade should be compulsory or voluntary. Bill 288 eliminates this impartial review process and eliminates the criteria.
“Given the importance of compulsory certification to the health and safety of trade members, construction workers, and the general public, Bill 288 should be amended to include criteria for classifying a trade as compulsory or voluntary, and also set out the process that will be used to apply for compulsory status or review the status of a prescribed trade.”
I think this is an important part of any system that regulates trades in this province, and I am hopeful that the ministry or Skilled Trades Ontario can look at a process to examine trades that are currently voluntary that may benefit from a compulsory designation.
Speaker, another area of the bill and, quite frankly, a long-time position of this government is the commitment to across-the-board 1-to-1 ratios for apprentices and journeymen. We know that when this government decided to overhaul the skilled trades system in 2019, they put forward 1 to 1.
And this is interesting to understand: The unionized sectors of the trades are largely unaffected by ratios set out by the province. I don’t know if anybody knows why it’s like that: It’s because they have a collective agreement. Most trades in Ontario that are unionized are at least 3 to 1. I use the example of the auto industry: It’s 8 to 1. The non-union ones are the ones that probably have more 1 to 1. For non-unionized workers, it’s very much a concern.
When discussing this issue, we heard directly from an experienced ironworker journeyperson that 1-to-1 ratios should not be used across all trades. It is not one size fits all. She was very, very—I don’t know if I’m saying this right. She was a woman, but I forget her name. She was very, very well-informed on the trades. She was excellent, and she described this.
Ultimately, the ratio is concerning for two primary reasons: One, we feel there is evidence that the 1-to-1 ratios have the ability to reduce health and safety protections on the job site. Presenters said that as well. Union, non-union, they said it. She definitely said it, and said it well. Second, we believe that for some trades, a 1-to-1 ratio would not result in quality learning and education for apprentices. We need to attract more people to get into the apprenticeships, and having poor training and a bad health and safety record will not help that goal.
One of the selling features, I believe, to get more people into the trades is you’ve got to talk to their parents. Parents want to know it can be safe for their son or daughter who is going to get into the trades.
We need more women. I haven’t heard a lot about that, talking here. We need more women in the trades. The ironworker was an incredible worker, and she was a woman. First Nations, racialized, those with disabilities: All of those have to be part of this.
Our concern was echoed by stakeholders that provided both written and oral presentations to the finance committee. The Durham Community Legal Clinic and Access to Justice Hub had this to say about the current 1 to 1—and again, the minister can stand up and say, “The NDP said this, the NDP said that,” but the reality is, this is not coming from us; this is coming from the Durham Community Legal Clinic.
“This government previously proposed abolishing the Ontario College of Trades in 2018, as part of the omnibus Making Ontario Open for Business Act. While this was supported by many stakeholders such as organizations in the construction industry, it also generated some alarm, notably from organized labour who were concerned with the proposed changes to the ratios of apprentices and journeymen. Concerns were raised that the proposal to set the rate of journeymen to apprentices at 1:1 could lead”—again, not coming from me, Mr. Speaker; I think we have to be clear on this, because the minister says, “The NDP said this.” It didn’t come from us: “journeymen to apprentices at 1:1 could lead to more workplace accidents and injuries, and could create unsafe working environments. Bill 288 raises similar concerns, specifically in section 8, which sets the default apprenticeship to journeymen ratio at 1:1, unless otherwise prescribed.
“Many of the industries affected by these changes will still surpass the minimum ratios found in section 8, largely because they are exceeded in existing collective agreements.” That’s a big issue. I want them to understand that in collective agreements in unionized shops, it’s at least 3 to 1. Unifor is 8 to 1.
I said this, but I’m going to say it now because I think it should be on the record: If we would have stayed at skill sets, we would have lost the entire investment in the auto industry, because they wouldn’t have been allowed to work in our auto sector. That’s why I think they got off skill sets. I might be wrong—they haven’t admitted it—but I can put it out there, Mr. Speaker. I can’t get in trouble for just saying that’s what I think. It’s my opinion.
“Many of the industries affected by these changes will still surpass the minimum ratios found in section 8,” largely because of “collective agreements. However, for non-unionized workplaces, and especially smaller employers, the failure to properly regulate apprenticeship ratios could give rise to an increased risk of injury. The relative proportion of these workplaces may not be large enough to statistically identify and demonstrate that the ratios themselves are responsible for the injury, which is why prescribing higher ratios should be carefully contemplated once Bill 288 is enacted....
“A survey of 1,025 apprentice carpenters”—they came and did a presentation—“found that despite participation in a formal apprenticeship program, including school-based and on-the-job training, carpenter apprentices in residential construction with less than one year of work were at the greatest risk of falls, with those performing a wider variety of work tasks at greatest risk.”
The authors of this survey, noted by the Durham Community Legal Clinic and Access to Justice Hub, said the following: “For every 10% increase in the percentage of apprentices” at a workplace, “there was a 27% increase in ladder falls. Safer crew behaviours were protective, with a one-point improvement in crew behaviour resulting in a 10% decreased likelihood of all falls from heights and ladder falls.”
Again, I want to make sure, because I know he’s here—listen to this, because it’s not coming from the NDP: “Our research echoes findings from other industries that organizational factors and safety culture strongly influence worker behaviours. Previous work by our team and Lipscomb suggests that inexperienced carpenters do not receive the type and amount of mentorship they would like from journeymen on their work crews. Limiting the number of apprentices working at residential construction sites will increase the opportunities for mentorship; however many contractors have increased the number of apprentices on their residential crews in order to remain competitive in the current home building market. In addition, journeymen may underestimate their role in providing supervision and training to inexperienced workers.”
Furthermore, the Ontario Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers’ Conference had the following to say regarding the current 1-to-1 ratio. Again, I want to say it’s not the NDP saying this; it’s the Ontario sheet metal workers: “The purpose of apprenticeships is to provide training, not labour. One-to-one ratios are not supported by the evidence. The number of completions goes down dramatically when you do not set journeyperson-to-apprenticeship ratios at more than 1 to 1.” Again, that came from the Ontario sheet metal workers, not the NDP.
Another problematic section of the legislation that was brought to our attention was the extension of the provisional C of Qs beyond one year. This was highlighted by the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council, the same organization that they’ve been quoting, by the way, through this bill. They brought this forward, so this is from them. I’m not sure they’re listening, but they should; there’s 150,000 workers in the building trades and construction trades. There were some concerns that this may discourage apprentices from completing their C of Q and potentially devalue the Red Seal certification.
Unfortunately, once again, the government denied our amendments on this issue and ignored the concerns of the stakeholders from the skilled trades industry. Again, I want to be clear: This came from the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council as an amendment. And do you know what happened? They voted it down, like all the other amendments.
We know that right now the province has a backlog. Now, listen to this, because this just really takes your whole argument away about how we want to extend it for unusual circumstances. We know right now the province has a backlog of C of Q exams to be taken, a concerning issue for apprentices who have filled their hours and are hoping to make a leap to full journeyperson. We understand that the government has been offered assistance in clearing the backlog. They’ve been offered assistance. What have they done with the offer? Nothing. And again, this is coming from the tradespeople. They’re telling us, “Look, we can do this. We have the facilities to do it.” The government hasn’t done anything with it.
I hope that the government can work with all organizations and trades who want to assist in getting our apprentices through their C of Q and into a full journeyperson designation. I believe it’s important to ensure that our youth are not discouraged from entering the trades. We don’t want them thinking after all their hard work in their apprenticeship that they won’t be able to write the exam. Think about that.
As we continue to go through this legislation and the issues we identified through the committee process, we see the language in section 28 that outlines the role of the Ontario Labour Relations Board in hearings related to skilled trades regulation. Section 28 states the following:
“A person who receives a notice of contravention under section 27 may apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for a review of the notice of contravention in a form approved by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.”
Section 28 outlines the factors for conducting a review:
“In conducting a review, other than a review of a notice of contravention in respect of a failure to comply with a compliance order, the Ontario Labour Relations Board shall consider,
“(a)”—and this is important—“the scope of practice of every trade that may be relevant;
“(b) the compliance and enforcement framework referred to in section 24, if any; and
“(c) any other factors it considers relevant, having regard to the public interest.”
That is very interesting language, and it didn’t fool the people that we talked to on what that means.
Speaker, section (c) is of primary concern to us. Several groups—several groups from the committee—highlighted the problematic language outlined in that section, and if you read it and if you know anything about language, you know exactly what it is, and so does the minister. This section seems to give the Ontario Labour Relations Board a great deal of power to conduct reviews with “any other factors it considers relevant.”
The building trades, Unifor and IBEW are all saying that language is going to open it right up and going to cause all the problems. This should be concerning to all of us. I’m not sure any other tribunal in the province has such broad-reaching powers. I could be wrong; I’ve been wrong before, but it seems like a broad set of powers for the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
We understand the Ontario Labour Relations Board has previously had a role in trades relating to rulings and we know some of this carries over from the past, but the language in section 28(10)(c) is very concerning. However, once again our amendment was struck out and this section of the bill was not supported by the government, and the concerns of the stakeholders who I’ve already listed are once again ignored.
Anyone getting a theme here? All the amendments we brought forward—I have them in writing here—came from stakeholders and every one of the amendments—as a matter of fact, the minister attacked us on the amendments that were brought forward by the trades, which is kind of surprising, but he did.
Another major issue we found with the legislation was the lack of language that discussed the need to ensure that there was better diversity and inclusion in the trades, particularly for historically underrepresented groups. Both the opposition and independent members tabled amendments to see some language in the legislation that would outline the need to have increased representation from women, First Nations, Black and people of colour and equity-seeking groups in the trades. Unfortunately, these amendments were not fully supported by the government. It’s really disappointing to see once again the government not fully listening to what the stakeholders had been telling the committee for two days; again, stakeholders, not the NDP—stakeholders.
The government actually went out of their way to water down our amendment and strike out the language stating, “including better representation of women, First Nations and other racialized groups, and equity-seeking groups.” Once this was completed, the amendment only said, “To promote inclusivity and diversity in relation to trades and apprenticeships.” It’s very sad to see them directly take out any mention of the historically underrepresented groups from the amendment.
This is what a number of groups had to say regarding the issue of representation in the trades. LiUNA—you guys quote LiUNA all the time—said that we should “develop strategies for addressing stigmas about careers in construction. Reaching out to equity-seeking groups such as women” and First Nation “communities would be the most important recruitment effort we make.”
ABPA said we should “co-develop creative solutions with Indigenous groups to identify and remove barriers to the skilled trades. This includes addressing barriers to readiness for learning, access to housing, access to clean water, and other basic needs.”
The North Superior Workforce Planning Board said we should “ensure that traditionally underrepresented groups, including Indigenous people, women, and people of colour, have access to supports (funding, training, and other support) while pursuing a career in the skilled trades.”
Are you getting a theme here? This isn’t the NDP saying this. This is all the groups you’re saying, and you voted it all down.
The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association said, “Our members want to ensure that any future discussions include promoting the expansion of these offerings to all students, particularly to women, girls and marginalized youth.”
Finally, the Durham Community Legal Clinic provided this important section in their written submission regarding the barriers faced by equity-seeking groups in our community:
“A 2004 examination into barriers faced by new Canadians by Dr. John Samuel highlights these difficulties. Many highly qualified immigrants, approximately 90% of whom are visible minorities, struggle to find meaningful work when they come to Canada, and many have their impressive qualifications overlooked and underutilized.
“Dr. Samuel points out that these struggles are increased by the fact that interview boards and panels often lack racialized members, further putting these groups at a disadvantage.”
Again, I didn’t write this. It’s not the NDP that’s saying this. I want to be clear.
“These issues still persist, highlighted by the fact that while 40% of women make up the new trades panel, racialized persons, and especially newcomers, continue to be under-represented in discussions about the skilled trades in Ontario. These challenges in the skilled trades are also reflected in the broader workplace in Ontario ... recent surveys show that 96% of Black Canadians believe racism is an issue in the workplace, while 56% of white Canadians believe it is a small problem, or not a problem at all.
“These patterns of exclusion are replicated in the skilled trades in Ontario today, regardless of the presence of organized labour, and require governmental involvement to ensure the entirety of the potential workforce is properly engaged to provide new opportunities.
“Meaningful jobs change lives, and it is our hope that this bill will contribute to that change....
“Being unemployed can fuel low self-esteem, a lack of confidence, anxiety and stress—particularly for those who live paycheque to paycheque. For many youth, unemployment creates doubts about their future, and can lead to greater anti-social behaviour. Unemployment often creates confusion and uncertainty for newcomers.
“Although there are income supports available, accessing these supports deprives many people of hope that they will be employed. However, merely creating jobs will not be enough. We need to ensure the opportunities that are being created allow all members of society the chance to excel.”
I believe that these quotes from several stakeholders—I’ll read that again so the minister hears it. I believe that these quotes from several stakeholders who presented to committee show how important it is that we start to work on overcoming the barriers faced by under-represented communities in the trades. It’s disappointing to see the government ignore this issue and not support either amendment that was brought forward to the committee on behalf of our stakeholders.
One of the last issues I would like to discuss today is the makeup of the board and advisory committees at the new organization Skilled Trades Ontario. We know that a CEO and an 11-member board at Skilled Trades Ontario will have the ability to create advisory committees within the organization. However, we currently have concerns with the language used to grant the powers to create the advisory committees. Right now, the language says that the CEO “may” create these committees. We think the wording needs to be changed.
Hon. Monte McNaughton: “Shall.”
Mr. Wayne Gates: You changed that one?
Hon. Monte McNaughton: We did, to “shall.”
Mr. Wayne Gates: Congratulations. When you do something right, I’ll give you an applause. Good.
This is what happens when I find out at 12 o’clock that I have to do an hour lead, you know? I kind of make a little mistake, so—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Order, please.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I just want to respond to him.
It’s good that it’s “shall.” It helps me because I’ve got to get through these last few pages.
These advisory committees could act in a similar way to the trade boards outlined by the college. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 discussed this here and said this:
“The Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act provided for the establishment of trade boards. The trade boards were composed of an equal number of persons qualified in the particular trade in question and employers of persons in that trade. The trade boards had a mandate, which was set out in the statute, of providing advice and recommendations to the college with respect to the various issues touching on that trade.
“This was, in fact, a continuation of the role of the provincial advisory committees that had operated under prior legislation (Trades Qualification and Apprenticeship Act—sec. 3).”
I’m going to skip down. We also heard from the provincial building trades regarding the importance of these advisory committees and their structure, and they said this in their written submission:
“Making the establishment of construction industry advisory committees specific to each trade mandatory rather than optional would enhance the construction industry’s ability to exercise a degree of self-regulation based on each construction trade’s evolving needs. In keeping a read on the pulse of industry trends that are specific to each construction trade, advisory committees could help set the agenda for reviewing those developments and making recommendations to Skilled Trades Ontario on any given issue within their mandate. Therefore, relying on the trade-specific expertise of advisory committees convening on a regular basis would provide Skilled Trades Ontario with valuable insights into the needs of each construction trade so that regulation of the sector is commensurate with the pace of technological innovation as well as with the evolving needs of employers, workers, and consumers.”
Overall, I believe this gives a good outline of why the advisory committees would be integral to the success of Skilled Trades Ontario.
I’ve only got five seconds left. Thank you very much for listening for an hour.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): I thank the member from Niagara Falls for the past hour-long discussion. We now have time for questions and comments.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: In the member’s speech, he talked about the auto sector and the need for skilled trades. It was interesting to note the time periods he talked about, because in 2018, when they were first talking about Oshawa jobs, we had just got elected, so that decision had already been made by the previous government, that this party opposite had supported with the New Democrats. So he’s right: It had nothing to do with this government, because it was a decision made by the previous government.
What has to do with this government is the Oakville electric cars expansion, where $590-million investments are being done. That’s on top of the $10-million investment we had already made in manufacturing. So will the member support the fact that we’ve got this truck assembly that’s coming? We’re going to need skilled trades building these electric vehicles.
Investing in our mining sector: We’re actually mining the elements that will create the batteries for these vehicles and give those skilled trades workers a hand up with the reduction of red tape.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I certainly do appreciate the question, listening to you talk about the auto sector. I thought maybe you might have understood that I’ve been in the auto sector for 40 years. I certainly understand Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, and I’ve been to the bargaining table and bargained collective agreements with all three of them.
What I’ll tell you about the General Motors plant—and we can move on to Chrysler and we can move on to Ford, because when Chrysler lost their shift of 1,200 workers and the president of 444 begged the Premier to call him, and he didn’t call him, our colleagues, including the Speaker and the other two members from Windsor, had to go to the Premier and say, “Can you please call him? We’re losing a third shift.” That was at Chrysler.
Then you move to General Motors. You were in government, and I remember the day. I was shocked when he said, “The ship has sailed. Those 3,000 jobs are gone.” If it wasn’t for Jerry Dias and that membership and that bargaining committee—because I know how it works at bargaining. You set it up six months ahead of time—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Thank you. The next question.
Mr. Jamie West: The member for Niagara Falls talked about—well, he actually kind of laughed about the Conservatives talking about how much they care about workers. I’m reminded that Mike Harris voted out anti-scab legislation that we used to have in Ontario. The Liberals promised when they were elected that they’d get rid of it; for 15 years, they sat on their hands.
Time and time again, the NDP keeps tabling the bills. First was Peter Kormos, from Niagara Centre, and now the member from Nickel Belt has been tabling it. It hasn’t passed. The Liberals haven’t passed it. The Conservatives—don’t you think that if the Conservatives really cared about workers, they’d pass a bill like anti-scab?
Mr. Wayne Gates: I’d like to thank my good friend from Sudbury for that question, and I’m glad you brought up another good friend in Peter Kormos.
What I don’t understand about anti-scab, having bargained collective agreements, is that 98% of all collective agreements are done without a strike, so why do you need scabs in the province of Ontario? If we have that big of a success rate, what we should be doing—if we don’t have scabs in Ontario, that would probably go to 99.5% or 99.7%. When you use scabs—and you can’t blame the scab workers who are desperate for jobs, but there’s no need to have scabs in the province of Ontario. You go to the employer, and if they don’t have the scab outlet, they’ll come to the bargaining table. They won’t take a strike. So yes, every government should get rid of—should be anti-scab.
And I would thank my good friend. We should all remember Peter Kormos. He was one of the best who ever sat in this House.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member from Burlington has a question.
Ms. Jane McKenna: During committee last week, on more than one occasion, the member for Niagara Falls demonstrated his ability to tell a great story, but he seemed to forget that his job in this place is to stand up for all Ontarians, even those who don’t belong to a union.
When stakeholders spoke in support of various sections of this bill, the NDP simply ignored the feedback while claiming to speak for stakeholders. I quote: “It didn’t come from us.” He would regularly say the NDP claim that he wants to work together, yet at committee they failed to debate entire sections of this bill.
The NDP couldn’t even support the title of the bill, despite no stakeholder having any concerns about it. Why did you vote against the title of the bill?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Back to the member from Niagara Falls to respond.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member for Hamilton Mountain, come to order, please.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I don’t think we should go after a member on voting against the title of the bill, because I can tell you that you turned down every one of our amendments. Every one of our amendments came from stakeholders: the building trades, Unifor, LiUNA. They all came from stakeholders. So to be fair to the stakeholders, I wanted to not vote for it, so I could call all my stakeholders and say, “Do you care what the bill is called?” And they said, “No, we wanted those amendments in the bill.”
The title of the bill means nothing. You wouldn’t touch the amendments. You guys have been rambling off Unifor and LiUNA and the building trades and how they supported it, because you got off skill sets. But the most important thing to you guys—and you asked me the question at committee: Why don’t you support the title? I’m asking you, why wouldn’t you support the amendments?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member from London North Centre has a question.
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I would like to thank the member from Niagara Falls for his presentation. He’s mentioned that it was such a concern that at 12 o’clock, he found out today that this government released their plan to debate this legislation. It’s a concern when people aren’t up front and they make last-minute changes and announcements. It doesn’t engender trust.
Earlier, the minister refused to be up front and account for all the money that’s been taken from Ontario’s workers. It was revealed in the Ontario College of Trades annual report that $8 million has been contributed to this government from trade workers, money from their pockets. My question is, why is this government dodging this question, and shouldn’t the money that the government has collected go back to skilled trades workers?
Mr. Wayne Gates: I apologize, I’m not sure. Did you say $18 million?
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: Eight.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Eight? Well, it’s actually $19 million that was taken from skilled trades workers. We have asked the question on where it is, where it’s gone. They haven’t answered it. Maybe at some point in time, if the minister stands up, maybe he could explain where it went.
But to your question, workers contributed $19 million. That money should go back to workers in the skilled trades. It may go back in the form of training, but it should go back to support skilled trade workers and apprenticeships and maybe even our young people. Maybe try women, racialized, those with disabilities. But it’s $19 million I believe that the College of Trades had when it was dissolved. And the minister can answer that. I’m not sure if I’m right or wrong.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member for Barrie–Innisfil.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I started my last question with the sectors we’re going to need skilled trades workers in, and in other sectors, how to get clean oil to market using pipelines. A project that’s going to be needed in the future is Enbridge’s upgrade to make their pipeline even more environmentally friendly. I wanted to ask the member, if he cares about those skilled trades workers I’m sure are going to be needed for this project, why did he vote against the motion we had here on line 5?
Mr. Wayne Gates: I certainly don’t have to take any lessons—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Order, please.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Am I okay?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): You’re okay. It’s cross-border, cross-aisle chatter that’s interrupting your response.
Mr. Wayne Gates: They’re chewing up my time.
The reality is, I don’t think anybody in this place who has been here for these seven and a half years, including the minister, would ever question my commitment to workers, to tradespeople, to apprentices in the province of Ontario. I’ll say it again: My entire adult life has been trying to make life better for workers in the province of Ontario. That includes skilled trade workers. It includes apprentices. It includes the people who work in the tourist sector, where 40,000 have lost their jobs because of COVID-19.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member from St. Catharines for a quick question.
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Thank you. I’ll try to be very quick, Mr. Speaker. Thank you to my colleague from Niagara Falls, and I know how passionately he speaks. I know he listens to the working class. We have the voice for the working-class people here on this side of the House, and you’re very transparent about how you have worked—I’m not going to say all of your adult life; probably all of your life—for the working-class people in Niagara and for Ontario.
However, my question is—in Niagara region, we both have seen benefits from skilled trades workers: at Brock University; the Thorold tunnel; the IBEW has done an arena. You are a champion for the local hospital. Can you describe how important getting a local hospital built in Niagara and in our community would be for skilled trades workers in that region, to be able to build it and come forward and do it?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): She left you 15 seconds to respond.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Okay. Real quick: IBEW’s 75 skilled tradespeople who are on layoff currently would be back to work, and the last time we built the St. Catharines hospital, they hired 100 apprentices. So that’s how important infrastructure is, and that’s what we should be doing to put people back to work. One way to do it is to build a hospital.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Further debate?
Ms. Catherine Fife: It is, as always, a privilege to join a debate on behalf of the good people of the riding of Waterloo. I would like just to start off—I found the experience of working with the government on this particular piece of legislation to be very interesting, because all the right language was being used. There was cross-table consensus on how important the work that we were doing to try to make this bill a little stronger was, and I think that we genuinely felt that the amendments we put forward would be received positively by the government.
Not to be outdone by the good member from Burlington, I’m a proud mother of an electrical apprentice. My son, Aidan, is 22 years old, and not unlike her son’s journey to the apprenticeship pathway, he was very fortunate to have that last teacher in grade 12. He was a math teacher. He applied that experiential learning around mathematics, and that was sort of the hook, I think, that got Aidan involved and interested in the electrical pathway.
Like many students in the province of Ontario, he was actually contemplating going to Western University and taking a four-year honours degree in business, and then he was also researching how much energy and time it took to enter the skilled trades to be an electrical apprentice. When he learned that it was 9,000 hours to be an electrical apprentice, and then he evaluated those four years at Western, with probably $60,000 to $75,000 worth of debt, he opted, very wisely—with some encouragement from his mother and his father—to enter into the skilled trades.
We were very supportive of him. In fact, I accompanied him to Conestoga College, because he was researching the pre-apprenticeship program there, which is a two-year program at Conestoga. Conestoga is in Waterloo region, an excellent institution with very strong advocacy around the skilled trades and advanced manufacturing, and many successful graduates who have served the public in many ways.
In that orientation, though, it was really interesting to walk that path with other parents. Most were young men. Some were older folks who were looking for a second or third career. There were very few young women; there were two, probably, in a group of 30. Also, I would have to say it was a very Anglo-Saxon group that went through that pre-apprenticeship program.
The number-one question that the parents had during the orientation was, “At the end of this two-year program, how can we be assured that our son or our daughter would actually get an apprenticeship?” That was the major concern, because that is still one of the major barriers for young people to go down this pathway, because there is no guarantee that an employer is going to take on an apprentice.
Aidan completed his first year, loved the program, but actually was offered an apprenticeship after the first year and moved up north. He moved away from home at the age of 18, and he really gained some life experience in that.
So there was this genuine sense, I think, at the table that we have a shared goal here: to streamline that pathway into the apprenticeship program, to make it more inclusive. Both myself and the member from Burlington have the shared experience where we see our children finding their way and being happy on that path and reaching their potential.
Five years later, Aidan is now 400 hours shy of the electrical apprenticeship and being able to write his final exam. While we were doing the delegations and listening to various folks from the building trades, the construction trades, Aidan was doing his trade school, up in the attic, for this program. So it was a moment of fate, if you will, that we were actually debating the future of apprenticeships while my husband was teaching secondary school on the second floor, our kid was going to trade school on the third floor, and I was in the dining room trying to figure this place out. But that’s pandemic life, I guess.
The other, second concern—aside from being assured of an apprenticeship through the Conestoga program—was the safety concern. Safety was also a common theme that we heard from the delegations for the day and a half—myself and the member from Niagara Falls. So we did try to bring those amendments to the government when we were reviewing the whole legislation. I was surprised at one moment when the government thought that we would just go along with the show, go along with the ride, because there was this sense that anything better than the College of Trades would be an improvement. We on this side of the House want to make sure that every opportunity we get to strengthen the apprenticeship pathway, to ensure that those barriers that exist for a number of people still in the province of Ontario are reduced—and that safety is never compromised.
I carry with me a young man, Nick Lalonde, who died in my riding in 2013. I was recently reviewing the coroner’s report for Nick. He was apprenticing, I think, as a bricklayer. There was a miscommunication from the crane operator on a very large building. Because that training and that safety plan and the working-at-heights regulations were not being followed on that site, there was a miscommunication, and Nick was knocked off that building to his death. He was 23 years old. He was a young father. The coroner’s report found 11 recommendations following his death, including the apprenticeship training component. When you do take on an apprentice, you are literally taking on the learning journey, but safety should also be at the centre of that learning journey. I drive by that building every week in my riding. I think of Nick all the time. I centred that experience with this legislation. That is why we brought forward so many amendments to the legislation.
At one point, one of the members from the committee thought that we were cherry-picking our fight to ensure that the compulsory trades, or non-compulsory trades, which were not included in the construction trades—that member said that we were cherry-picking. Myself and the member from Niagara Falls pointed out, when you are speaking on the part of 150,000 skilled trades workers, you are not cherry-picking; you are speaking on behalf of workers in Ontario. That genuinely surprised me.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member for Kitchener–Conestoga, come to order, please.
Ms. Catherine Fife: So when we brought forward–-
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member for Kitchener–Conestoga, come to order, please.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member for Kitchener–Conestoga, you are warned.
Ms. Catherine Fife: Okay.
That’s a matter of Hansard, so I am clear in my communication on where we are with regard to bringing the voice of construction and building trades to this debate.
Our first amendment—we wanted to move that section 6 of the bill be amended by adding “or” at the end of clause (a) and by striking “or” at the end of clause (b). This would remove the discretion on the scope of the skill sets practised by compulsory trades. This was a direct ask by the Ontario construction and building trades council.
We moved that section 6 of the bill be amended by adding a subsection:
“(2) In this section, ‘engage in the practice of a compulsory trade’ includes the performance of any practice that is in the scope of practice of the compulsory trade.”
This, again, came from the construction trades.
We tried several times. Even when the government would not support the amendment, which was fairly rational at the time, we would try again. We built sort of a safety net to give the government a second chance, perhaps, to pay attention to our amendments.
That said, when we brought this issue to the floor of the Legislature, when the debate has been ongoing, we have consistently referenced the history of this particular party and the skilled trades, and it remains the truth that Bill 288 does not name the construction trades in the compulsory trades, or non-compulsory and voluntary trades. The business manager who sent us this says, “This is probably by design.” So if the government wants to gut the trades later and go back to skill sets, that door remains open.
Bill 288 still leaves the possibilities of future skill-setting, breaking up the trades into skill sets and not recognizing trade qualifications and the apprenticeship system. And we all know this now. We all should have a full understanding that the non-compulsory trades can overlap in compulsory trade work, so unlicensed trades can still do licensed trades work.
This is a component which addresses the risk of harm. So if you are crafting a piece of legislation and you truly believe that safety should be at the centre of that discussion, then why would you still leave this door open? The member from Niagara Falls talked about the young man who was apprenticing under someone who was not a licensed electrician, and they were working in a greenhouse. That young man went up a ladder in a greenhouse, having no supervision of a licensed trades journeyperson, and subsequently was electrocuted. So this point was made.
The crane operators brought their points to this debate as well, I would say, Mr. Speaker, and that resonated strongly with us, which is why we think that there needs to be a clear delineation between compulsory trades and non-compulsory trades on a go-forward basis.
The issue of the underground economy also came up. I want to thank Ian Cunningham for bringing this to the debate as well. The underground economy is so complex, but that door—and we know the risks that are associated with it. If the government is very clear that licensed trades can only do licensed trades work, then you are actually protecting the consumer; you are ensuring that safety is at the forefront. And I would argue that, especially if you had a retrofitting program where a consumer would access a tax credit, for instance, for employing a licensed trade worker, then you would actually mitigate the underground economy, the cash-under-the-table sort of situation, where consumer protection is also not addressed. So we were well intentioned in our amendments on a go-forward basis.
The amendments, I think, that really raised the most ire with us, though—we had listened intently to the minister and to the parliamentary assistant around ensuring that the skilled trades is an inclusive process, meaning that anyone who wants to enter the skilled trades, especially from under-represented groups, will have a clear pathway to that, and understanding the barriers that exist. So we actually introduced amendment number 6. We wanted to amend section 40 of Bill 288. This is how our amendment read—it was 8.1: “To promote inclusivity and diversity in relation to trades and apprenticeship, including better representation of women, Indigenous and other racialized groups, and equity-seeking groups.”
This was reflective of what we had learned from the Anishnawbe Business Professional Association, and I want to get their voice on the record. I think that all of us have had a very emotional weekend. Yesterday was incredibly emotional for our members MPP Mamakwa and MPP Morrison, and we all carry that weight and responsibility and should have a better understanding of how we can all be part of the solution around equitable opportunities for Indigenous communities.
This is what the Anishnawbe Business Professional Association said: “Opportunities for First Nations within remote and rural communities will not be equitable without special consideration of the unique barriers these communities face. Aside from major basic infrastructure gaps in housing, clean water, broadband and education that impact socio-economic outcomes, other specific barriers to opportunities in the trades include ... insufficient reading and math literacy programs ... lack of awareness about apprenticeship and career opportunities in the trades ... low numbers of Indigenous journeypersons in home communities to mentor youth and act as role models ... lack of access to shop classes or adequately equipped shop rooms ... lack of local education and training programs that result in students having to separate from their families and home communities to attend high school or apprenticeship programs in larger city centres.” And, finally, a “lack of public transportation” and “financial barriers.”
“To mitigate these barriers, ABPA advocates for the co-development of holistic, localized and creative approaches to engaging and training First Nations ... in developing careers in the trades.”
They quite rightly point out that the northern communities are desperate for those to work in infrastructure, particularly in the mining sector. So why not build this equity, why not put that equity lens right into the legislation? Why not do the right thing, right now, when you can?
They made several specific considerations: “establish, comply or explain quota system for new apprentices ... conduct research to understand current Indigenous involvement in the trades ... conduct research to understand on a more granular level, First Nation people’s awareness and interest in careers in the trades and gaps within the education ... form a committee to explore a mobile apprenticeship training model that uses community priority needs projects, e.g., housing, broadband, water infrastructure, as immersive apprenticeship training opportunities.”
God love them. The Anishnawbe Business Professional Association came to the table in good faith, looking for a partner with the provincial government as we were trying to amend this legislation. Their ideas are sound. Their ideas are true solutions to a gap in the apprenticeships in the north, in specific communities, which is why we put forward this amendment. We listened to that community. We want to partner with Indigenous communities from across the province. We want to enter into an honest, straightforward, upfront relationship with those communities, which is why we wanted to see the Indigenous communities reflected in this legislation.
So this was a particularly upsetting discussion and debate, because the government, I would say, tried to save face in this, in that they removed the specific representation component. I think we should have an honest discussion about the importance of language and why language matters. When you are crafting and designing a piece of legislation, it clearly should state what your goals are.
This piece of legislation also does not have a purpose clause, so leaving out a direction leaves that window open around the definition of compulsory trades, around the portability of skill sets. Certainly, by removing better representation by women, Indigenous and other racialized groups and equity-seeking groups, that does not instill confidence. We made the point to the government that we would want to see this language embedded in the legislation, in the absence of the legislation having a purpose clause. The government struck that out, and they kept, “To promote inclusivity and diversity in relation to trades and apprenticeship,” which is a watered-down, almost meaningless change, Mr. Speaker.
This is not a government that has a strong record on promoting inclusion anywhere, at any time, on any issue. In fact, one of the first things that this government did was remove and stop the Indigenous curriculum component in our education system. How are we ever going to change our practices without addressing the core issue of learning our own history so we don’t repeat it?
We truly came to the table in good faith. I was shocked that the government did not embrace the amendments that came from the sector. I think the sector was genuinely surprised, as well. I feel like the government has missed an opportunity to really set us on a very strong course with regard to apprenticeships in Ontario. I think of my son’s friends. Some of them do not have the same privilege that I have—I acknowledge my privilege in this place—and I want all of those young people to be successful. I want all of those women, those Indigenous community members, those racialized groups and those equity-seeking groups to find their potential in Ontario. In fact, we need them to find their potential in Ontario.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member to pose your first question is the member from Burlington.
Ms. Jane McKenna: One of the amendments the NDP put forward would have eliminated the 1-to-1 ratio that we’re putting forward and that major stakeholders like the Laborers’ International Union of North America supported. One of the NDP’s amendments would have eliminated the 1 to 1 ratio, but even worse, it would have eliminated all ratios, creating a Wild West for apprentices in Ontario. This is exactly the opposite of what the NDP claims to want. The NDP’s desire to oppose everything in this bill resulted in them putting forward an amendment that would do the exact opposite of what you say you want. So why did you do this?
Ms. Catherine Fife: I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to address that accusation. An amendment was sought by the building trades—
Ms. Jane McKenna: Question?
Ms. Catherine Fife: Okay. The bill’s section 8 relates to the ratios in the government’s chosen formula of limiting the ratio of apprentices to journeymen to 1 to 1. Various skilled trades and workplace safety experts have highlighted that this ratio can lead to apprentices doing work for which they are not fully trained yet. After this was introduced in BC, for instance, construction jobs became more dangerous. This was raised by the skilled trades. It was actually informed by the ironworker who said her work is so dangerous, it must be 1 to 1. Why would you not acknowledge that, and why would you not put safety first?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member from Scarborough Southwest has a question.
Ms. Doly Begum: I want to thank the member from Waterloo for her very well-researched speech. I listened very attentively, and I want to congratulate her son for the work that he does.
I know that a lot of the amendments—actually, I’m going to follow up on that—were recommendations made by workers, recommendations made by unions and labour leaders, who the government is using right now to highlight this bill, this legislation. So my question is, what are some of the things that you would have liked from this government? You talked about it quite a bit, so I would like you to highlight if there is something that you didn’t get the chance to respond to the member from Burlington.
Ms. Catherine Fife: Thank you very much. Yes, there was. We’ve heard from industry stakeholders around the importance of the trade boards. Trade boards need to be in the legislation with stronger language. This came from the building trades. The trade boards should be filled with qualified people who are familiar with industry, trade, training curriculum and training standards. We put this amendment in here because the criticism about the College of Trades is that you had people who knew nothing about the trade that they were overseeing, that they were giving advice to the government on. We wanted the government not to make the same mistake, Mr. Speaker, and so we put in a section to amend, 42.1, that the board should “establish a trade committee for each trade and the trade committees’ responsibilities shall be to review trade-specific curricula....” In fact, that’s also what the Anishnawbe business association said. Have informed voices inform the skilled trades. It isn’t rocket science, Mr. Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member for Eglinton–Lawrence has a question.
Mrs. Robin Martin: Thank you, Speaker. Imagine my delight to be sitting here and listening to my colleague the member from Waterloo, opposite, who said some things that just really thrilled me. She said language matters, and she actually said that we have to make sure that we don’t repeat history and so we need to pay attention to it. These are principles that I live by, so I’m so delighted to find that we agree on those things. I didn’t think the members opposite thought that way about history. So I’m delighted to know the member from Waterloo does.
Our business and labour partners like RESCON, home builders, LiUNA, building trades, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Trillium, automobile dealers and Unifor all support Bill 288. In fact, Unifor’s national president, Jerry Dias, says he looks forward to working with our government and continuing to work with our government. Unifor’s skilled trades director, John Breslin, said that the union supports the changes, including decisions. So why did the members opposite refuse to acknowledge the broad consensus that we have achieved on Bill 288? Do they not agree with stakeholders like Unifor?
Ms. Catherine Fife: It’s interesting because the member also doesn’t acknowledge that several amendments were brought in by those same stakeholders. So don’t let the facts get in the way of a good sound bite.
Also, history does matter. Mike Harris back in the 1990s said that the Trades Qualification and Apprenticeship Act—he actually moved the majority of the trades away from the TQAA to under the Apprenticeship and Certification Act, where they were fragmented into pieces or skill sets. That was what the PC government did when they last had the chance on skilled trades. So we are very mindful of history in this place, and that is what we were trying to prevent from happening: doing the same thing that Mike Harris did. Right now, this bill still leaves that door wide open to break down the trades into skill sets.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member from Sudbury would like to pose a question.
Mr. Jamie West: Thank you, Speaker, and thank you as well to the member from Waterloo. I appreciate her conversation about her son Aidan and talking about going to Conestoga College for the tour. It reminds me of the great colleges in Sudbury, Cambrian College and Collège Boréal.
What really struck me in her debate—and it was excellent, by the way—was that the Anishnawbe business association came forward, talked about the barriers to Indigenous northern communities to get into trades and how important infrastructure is to building the economy, especially in a crisis like the pandemic we’re in right now. With solid solutions, the government’s response was “promote inclusivity.” Why would they not take these solutions? You have people with lived experience bringing solutions. Why not take them instead of just giving this watered-down “promote inclusivity”?
Ms. Catherine Fife: I want to thank the member from Sudbury. He cares deeply about this issue. He comes from the skilled trades, he knows the difference that it can make in the life of an individual, and his question is a well-formed question, Mr. Speaker.
The Anishnawbe Business Professional Association asked the government to “form a committee to explore a mobile apprenticeship training model that uses community priority needs projects, e.g., housing, broadband, water infrastructure, as immersive apprenticeship training opportunities.” They ended their ask of the government by saying, “We are hopeful that the above will be considered to help ensure the intent of Bill 288 to streamline and make entry into the trades more accessible for all.” That should have been our shared goals as we designed and tried to change Bill 288. Why the government has not taken this into consideration, especially given this historical moment that we are all currently in, is beyond me, but it is definitely a missed opportunity.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The next question, the member from Barrie–Innisfil.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I couldn’t help but notice the member was talking about her being very mindful of history. On that note, I too am mindful of history. I wasn’t here when time after time, the Liberal government tried to fix OCOT, but they made amendments with stakeholders that didn’t go very far, and members of the New Democratic Party voted with the Liberals on those piecemeal changes.
Finally, you have measures that will change it once and for all, something stakeholders have been asking for for decades, which will really help the apprenticeship program and really reform OCOT, to the level that most people expect will help people of all sectors, not just in skilled trades. So why is the member delaying such success and such accomplishments?
Ms. Catherine Fife: Honestly, I mean, you have a majority government. There is no delay on this part. Nobody is buying what you are selling; I must tell you that.
But speaking of history, though, Mr. Speaker, when the PC government was last in power, they established the Apprenticeship and Certification Act, where they purposely and intentionally fragmented the skilled trades into pieces and skill sets. That’s why the Liberals then brought in OCOT. Now you have brought in a new agency. We cannot keep replicating history. We have to put safety and skilled trades at the centre of our economy, because when those young people reach their potential, we as a province will also reach our potential.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): We do have time for a quick question. The member for St. Catharines.
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Thank you to the member on our side, my colleague from Waterloo. I want to congratulate her son as well on everything he’s done in his life, from 18 years old to making a wonderful career for himself in the skilled trades. I know that she’s a very proud mother of her son and her daughter.
I am very proud of my daughter and how she has developed in the skilled trades. She actually trains skilled trade workers. She’s one of the top trainers for skilled trade workers.
But most of all, I want to ask you a question: You mentioned section 6. It’s on inclusivity, diversity, racialization and equitable opportunities. Equitable opportunities for women: I didn’t see very much in this piece of legislation. It doesn’t speak to women. Can you highlight how important it is to include women within skilled trades?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): You have 15 seconds to do so.
Ms. Catherine Fife: This all comes down to stigma and to getting the education system component correct. This is still a missing component of the bill. But we have a shared purpose: We need to address the stigma in skilled trades.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Further debate? Further debate? The member from Sudbury has risen.
Mr. Jamie West: Thank you, Speaker. I was giving an opportunity for the Conservatives to participate in the debate. They seem to have tapped out, but I don’t mind speaking to Bill 288. Basically, this bill is going to replace the old College of Trades with the new Skilled Trades Ontario.
Earlier today, the Minister of Labour complimented me and I appreciate that. He took it as an endorsement. What I said literally was, “I hope you get it right,” and I do. Every single bill—I don’t care what government is here and what level of government—I hope you get it right because the citizens of Ontario pay when you get it wrong. So, I’m always an optimist. We always try to be helpful and share information, Speaker. I want the government to be successful at this.
I worked in the trades. I represented tradespeople when I was an activist with the Steelworkers. My local, for example, is on strike right now. So, you have tradespeople out there; I know how important this is. I know how rewarding these careers are and how well paying they are; so does the government.
So 100%, I want you to get this right, but at the same time, and I said this last time, I am concerned because this government has a ready-fire-aim approach to things. It’s not ready, aim, fire. It’s not, as the old adage goes for the carpenters: measure twice, cut once. It’s ready, fire, aim—and you get things wrong when you do that. You get things wrong when you think that you know more than anybody else.
Sometimes when I’m speaking, I’m worried people will think I think I know more than other people. If I’ve learned anything, Speaker, in nearly 50 years on this planet, it’s to listen to people smarter than me, take their advice and bring it forward.
Earlier, my colleagues from Niagara Falls and Waterloo talked about amendments that were brought out by people who had decades of experience, bringing amendments forward for the government to move forward on that would get this bill right. From what I understand—I wasn’t in that committee, but I understand they voted them down.
The other thing about getting this right, Speaker, is that we’re in debate. There are people across this province who are counting on us to get this right. Do you know when we got to find out about when we’re tabling this? Lunchtime.
I was the co-chair of my health and safety committee. We dealt with some very dangerous situations. Unless it was critical, if one of my members tried to bring up something at a meeting last minute, and they didn’t notify the other half of the committee at least a week in advance, I wouldn’t allow it. I wouldn’t allow it because health and safety is important, and I want people to have an opportunity to have enough time to look into stuff and prepare.
Instead, what we get—and we’re good at our jobs; you can see how well we do in debate, because we can respond like that. But literally what you’re setting us up for, as Conservatives, is failure. You’re setting us up for the world’s dullest improv show. It’s wrong, and it’s a disservice to the people of Ontario.
You’ve got to understand this. You know this is going to go through. You have a majority. It’s not a secret. I know you’re going to say—in committee all the time, they’ll say, “We voted, and we all agreed.” It doesn’t matter how we voted; you guys will push it through anyway. But let’s start actually working together—not saying, “Work with us and come together,” but actually work together. It’s what the province expects.
Bill 288: Absolutely, I want you to get it right. I appreciate the compliment for supporting it. I think it’s wonderful. I hope it is successful; I really, really do. But, as the old saying goes, “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on your back.” Bill 288 is basically a framework. It’s not the finish line; it’s the plan for the plan.
Like I said earlier, this bill is going to go through. There’s a majority; you guys will push it through. Then the goal is to have Skilled Trades Ontario plans up and running by Christmas, so you get all the people in place in the right positions. Thinking about Christmas, hopefully we get it done on time—the pandemic might throw a curve and stuff; fair enough—but hopefully. And then everything else is going to roll out over the next three years. So the idea that tradespeople today are going to be celebrating—it’s probably three years to the finish line. People in construction understand that, because a project that’s taking multiple years—that happens a lot in construction, especially big projects. I’m not criticizing; I’m just saying that we’re not at the finish line yet. We’re at stage one. We’re at groundbreaking.
The problem is, and my concern is, that three years from now, you might not be government. There’s an election coming next year; a lot of people don’t want you to be government anymore, right? Let’s be honest: We’re kind of in that situation. Remember just before the last federal government, where none of us came here until almost November because you weren’t that popular? You’re kind of there again. So you might not be government three years from now.
And the history, from what I understand of this Legislature, when you want to talk about infrastructure—subways. My God, I would pray for a subway in Sudbury. We have decent public transit for northern Ontario, but I’ve got to tell you, I hear Liberals and I hear Conservatives talk about subways and the best subway plan in the world, and in my head, I picture some mom, like my mom, waiting for the bus to bring me to daycare so she can go to work. I picture some mom, for two decades, hearing again and again and again about this subway stop that’s going to show up, and how the Liberals start a plan and then the Conservatives ripped it in half, and then the Liberals ripped the Conservative plan in half, and then the Conservatives come back in power and rip the Liberal plan in half—and that mom is now standing there with a 20-year-old kid waiting for the same subway stop while they brag about how great this infrastructure project will be. It’s frustrating, and I am concerned that maybe this won’t move forward. So can we get it right? Like I said earlier, hopefully, yes, because a lot of people are counting on us.
We talked a long time ago—a long time ago; about two weeks ago we debated this, three weeks ago—about the shortage of tradespeople. If you didn’t know it before, it’s no secret that this has been going on for a long time. The trades have been waving their flags for a long time. You just go to a shutdown. There are a lot of people who can pull the pin anytime they want who are in trades. A lot of people who got into the trades too, they start when they’re young, Speaker, 18, 20 years old. You add 30 years, and you don’t even have to be that old to be able to retire. The minister talked about some of the great jobs and retirement benefits. Fishing sounds pretty good, especially in trades. It’s a tough job, right? A lot of labour-intensive work. You could be sore. Hitting the golf links every day sounds pretty good. And it’s not just that they retire, they retire with all the skill and ability to train new apprentices. So I’m concerned about that three years.
Yesterday I was reading in the paper—this might be even more urgent. The Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions is here, and I’m glad he’s here. I don’t want to put him on the spot, because he might not have read this article yet. Yesterday, the Ontario Construction Consortium launched a campaign called The Other Pandemic. It was about raising awareness about opiate drug overdoses. On May 19, the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario and Public Health Ontario let out a report that said that 2,500 Ontarians died of drug overdoses in 2020. The stats they had the year before, in 2019: 1,500 people. That means 60% more people in one year. Some 2,500 Ontarians died of drug overdoses last year, in 2020: 1,000 more than the year before. And in there, 30% of those people who died, those who were employed: construction workers.
The thing about opioids, if you don’t know this—a lot of this was opioid deaths—is that the better your job is, the better you are at being able to hide your addictions. A lot of us, when we think of addictions, we think of someone who is homeless, who has hit that bottom rung of the ladder. But the reality is there are a lot of people who are living with addictions who own cars and houses who can hide their addiction and you don’t see it. It’s not as prevalent.
The OCC says, “By a wide margin, the” construction “industry” is “most impacted.” They believe from the stats that 57 construction workers died of overdoses in Ontario last year. That’s 57 people who could be passing on their ability to apprentices. That’s 57 families being affected. The executive director said, “Construction workers are dying from drug overdoses, a crisis largely driven by the widespread street distribution of the highly addictive opioid fentanyl.”
They have a website. I’m going to share it: www.theotherpandemic.ca. They started a public information campaign.
I’m sharing this partly because I care about the trades and partly because we have an opioid crisis in Sudbury. We have an opioid crisis everywhere in Ontario, but I’m telling you, Sudbury is getting hit hard—harder than anywhere else. Last year, I tabled a private member’s motion to declare it an emergency, and the Conservatives voted it down. I have faith, because I’m an optimist, Speaker, that they’re going to do the right thing. I won’t hold my breath, but I have faith that they’re going to do the right thing, because we are killing people by sitting on our hands. If we’re not doing it for the right ethical reasons, we have to do it for the financial reasons, because we’re spending a fortune on treating the side effects of this.
So, the Ontario Construction Consortium launched theotherpandemic.ca. It’s been supported by the Interior Systems Contractors Association, the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. A couple of simple things: The first one—I’m going to go on to the rest of the bill in a minute, Speaker, but the first one is, “Do not use hard drugs alone.” Can you believe that’s our solution? Our solution, because of the lack of funding and effort put into addressing the opioid crisis, is: If you’re going to do them, don’t do them alone. It goes against the messaging of COVID-19, where you’re supposed to stay away from other people. The executive director explains, don’t go to “unrelated people,” but if there are people using in your bubble, stay in that bubble, because if you overdose, someone has to give you the naloxone. We have to save lives. They talk about training and they talk about seeking help, but the reality is, there’s no help to get for a lot of people.
I’ve talked about this in the past, Speaker. I, fortunately, never smoked. My grandmother died from lung cancer. My grandmother had two operations. At the end of the day, she had about a lung and a half left, and so I decided never to smoke. Part of that could be because my grandmother is Scottish. There’s a stigma about Scottish people being a little tight with their money, so I might have inherited that from her and not wanted to spend my money on cigarettes. But I watched my grandmother try to quit smoking. I watched my grandmother walking with an oxygen tank and carrying it to the balcony and taking off the oxygen tank to smoke, after her second operation to remove cancerous tumours. I know how difficult it is.
I have been told that opioid addiction is much more addictive, but you also have a stigma and no resources, and it’s illegal. So anyone who has ever tried to quit cold turkey smoking cigarettes, imagine there are no resources. It’s even more addicting, and it’s illegal. We need to do this.
The final point before I get to the bill that they called for is: “Governments need to increase addiction treatment and counselling services to meet this unprecedented challenge.” This is really urgent. I said earlier, Speaker, that one third of the workforce—potentially, it’s loose math—could walk out the door, decide they were going to hit the links and spend the rest of their life at camp. But it might be even more urgent with the opiate crisis. We might lose them even quicker, and we will fall behind.
When Alberta was booming with the oil sands in Alberta, we were losing tradesmen like crazy. If we lose our tradespeople, we are not going to recover from this pandemic, because we know that infrastructure is the way to stimulate the economy.
If we want to get people into the trades, and this has been talked about before, we’ve got to attract them to the trades. I said last time that it’s not that we have to teach people that trade work is fun and cool; we have to stop teaching them that it’s not. The little boy next door, he and his dad put together a swing set in their backyard. He loved watching and helping and putting this together. And I know that when my son was little, if we were going somewhere and there was a construction site on the way, we would have to stop and watch the construction site, and that continues. It continues when you’re four, eight, 10 or 15. Somewhere in the middle, it’s not that interesting anymore for some reason, and somewhere along the line we teach them that.
In my own case—I talked about this before—I wanted to take auto shop because I don’t know anything about cars. I know when it’s out of gas; I know when the tires are flat. I wanted to take auto shop. My guidance counsellor said, “You have good grades; why would you do that?” So I know nothing about cars.
Ironically, though, Speaker, when I finished college, when I finished university, I started an apprenticeship as an electrician. I got steered away. It was stigmatized. That was for dumb people. I’m not going to sugar-coat it: That’s what we tell people. We tell kids, “You know who goes into trades? Dumb people.” The reality is, you know who goes into trades? Rich people.
We talked earlier today about women in trades. My friend is a female electrician. She didn’t just buy a house, she bought a farm. That sounds like she passed away; I mean that she literally bought a farm, a huge farm. People in Toronto are saving up for a condo or a little house. She’s got a house. She’s got a shed. She’s got a farm. She’s got animals. It’s unbelievable.
Mr. Jamie West: Leave it to the farmer to heckle me.
I talked about the stigma and I talked about women. Think about the stigma for men and boys. Somewhere along, there’s a stigma. But there’s a stigma for women as well, where we definitely generally don’t steer women towards trades, and we’ve got to change that.
If we want women to be successful, one place we have to go, and it’s come up a couple of times today, is health and safety. We need to recognize that women have different bodies than we do. They’re a different size than we are. We have to provide proper PPE, coveralls and equipment that fit women properly. There are a lot of companies that, quite honestly, are doing really well because of this untapped market.
In Sudbury, we’re the home of Covergalls. Alicia Woods is the founder and the creator. An amazing woman—absolutely smart, brilliant ideas. You might have seen her on Dragons’ Den pitch the idea. I was on her PPE committee; Vale and the Steelworkers have a PPE committee. Alicia came to talk to us about different coveralls, boots, harnesses, all these things that, for years—and I live in a lens of a guy, right? I worked in the mining industry. There are a lot of men in mining, and I’m a guy, so I see everything as myself growing up. There are a lot of issues when it comes to PPE for women, and Alicia is doing an amazing job for Covergalls on this.
The reason that women were wearing men’s clothing in the past is like the old Model-T ads, Speaker, where you could get a Model T in any colour you wanted as long as it was black. Well, you can get coveralls in any style you want as long as it’s men’s. I worked with a lady who was stapling her coveralls because they were going to get caught in the equipment because she couldn’t get them in her size. These are things we have to address.
Twenty minutes goes quick.
The reality is, we have to attract people back to the trades. Now, the Conservatives are celebrating that this is the finish line. It’s not; it’s an opportunity. And I’m optimistic—I’m always optimistic—but all we’re really doing in this is building the framework. It’s like saying you have a brand new house and I bring you out and it’s the frame of the house. There are no doors or walls or roof or electrical equipment or plumbing. It’s just timbers. And I go, “Look at the house,” and I want you to high-five me. And then I say, “Well, by Christmas I’ll have a team together to finish it, and three years from now you’ll be able to move in.” You might be cautiously optimistic, but you might not want to high-five me.
I have about a minute left. I want to talk about safety. I could talk all day about this, literally all day. The member from Waterloo talked about a young man in her riding who had died in trades. We have to get safety right when it comes to trades. Stripping away safety: The reality is that trades work is dangerous work, and when things go bad, they go really bad. Paul Rochette was a millwright at Vale when I was a workers’ safety rep. Things went really, really bad for Paul and he was killed. Anytime I hear somebody say that safety isn’t important or suggests that we can whittle it away, Speaker, it’s an insult to me, it’s an insult to Paul Rochette’s family, it’s an insult to my community of Sudbury, who mourned together for an entire year when Paul died, including management and his co-workers.
I just want to close by saying how important health and safety is to getting this right. So, any time you move amendments that make it less safe, it becomes more dangerous for those workers.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): We have time for questions. We might squeeze one in before I have to interrupt. The member for Eglinton-Lawrence has the first one.
Mrs. Robin Martin: Prior to the government introducing a 1-to-1 ratio, Ontario had some of the highest ratios in Canada, and the ratio as it is now aligns us with our neighbours. It allows apprentices to learn on the job and be mentored on a 1-on-1 basis. So it’s really shocking that, after members of the opposition, including the member for Niagara Falls, who spoke earlier, have talked about their belief to have more restrictive ratios, they proposed a motion at our committee to cancel them altogether. One of their amendments was to eliminate the ratio requirement and have no legislated requirement to ensure any prescribed number of journeypersons in comparison to apprentices. Can the member please explain to us and to our stakeholders why they wanted to scrap all the ratios in the province? Because I really don’t understand that.
Mr. Jamie West: Thank you to the member from Eglinton–Lawrence for her question. I wasn’t in committee, so I don’t know specifically what she’s talking about, and if you hadn’t tabled it at the last minute today, I could have had time to look into what happened at committee to provide a more fulsome answer.
The reality is, though, I have known the member for Niagara Falls for a very long time, and he said several times during his debate that he has dedicated his entire life to workers. I’ve worked with him for the last three years very closely, and I know his commitment to health and safety for workers. He would not table anything—anything—at any time that would make a workplace more dangerous for a worker. When you work in an industrial work site and you live with fatalities, you live with critical injuries, you live with meeting families of workers who have died, you know you would never make a decision that would make workplaces less safe.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Looking at the clock, I don’t know if we want to start a question that we won’t be able to finish, or should we ask for one and a response? I’m looking at the table for direction. Fifteen seconds? So no, we won’t ask a question. I’d just say I apologize and we’ll continue, but as we know, the legislative agenda dictates to us that at 6 o’clock we turn to private members’ public business. I’m going to ask for orders of the day.
The Clerk-at-the-Table (Mr. Peter Sibenik): Ballot item number 92, Mr. Sabawy.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Ballot item number 92 not being moved, I ask again for orders of the day.
I recognize the minister of labour, skilled trades and something else.
Hon. Monte McNaughton: Close enough, Mr. Speaker. We’ll take it.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): When I interrupted earlier, we were doing questions and comments, and the first question went to this side, so now we have a question on this side. I turn to the member from London North Centre.
Mr. Terence Kernaghan: I’d like to thank the member from Sudbury for his very thoughtful comments. When we take a look at some of your comments earlier about how Liberals and Conservatives have been perpetuating this same sort of monolithic, unresponsive government culture, I think towards anti-scab legislation which was introduced by the NDP, pulled back by the Conservatives and never re-enacted by the Liberals. I also think about, in my riding right now, Reliance Home Comfort, a multi-billion-dollar HVAC company, which has currently locked out over 800 installers and service technicians. They worked all year long, throughout COVID, going into people’s homes despite the risks. This government says it stands on the side of workers, yet it refuses to introduce anti-scab legislation. Can you comment on why you think that is?
Mr. Jamie West: The reality, Speaker, is that the removal of anti-scab legislation was brought in by Conservatives through Mike Harris. The Liberal Party promised to bring it back and, well, they broke that promise. They had 15 years, they had a majority government during that time and they broke that promise, even though New Democrats like Peter Kormos and France Gélinas tabled that bill again and again.
I went through a strike that lasted a year, with scabs crossing the picket line. We never had scabs before. It destroys a community. Those workers crossing the picket line are desperate for work. They don’t want to be in that position, but they need to put food on their table. The government, by not passing anti-scab, allows this to continue to happen. They allow communities to be destroyed and the heartbreak to happen. If they cared about workers, if they cared about communities, they would pass anti-scab legislation today, just like that.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The next question.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: When we pass laws in this Legislature, we often think about today, but we think a lot about tomorrow and the young people who are going to be affected by legislation, and this one is a great example of how we’re building up our province for the next generation, whether it’s housing, access to broadband, GO train stations, more transit; and a lot of that is to simplify the OCOT system and to be out with the red tape and in with the one-stop shop. Will you support a one-stop shop that will actually not just help those of today but those of tomorrow?
Mr. Jamie West: I’ve said several times—and I got heckled a little bit by my party when the minister complimented me on saying I was hopeful. I’m hopeful they get this right. Why would I not? There’s not a single tradesperson in Ontario who doesn’t want the system to get better. It doesn’t matter if it was great before—which it wasn’t; the Liberals dropped the ball. But if it was great before, there’s not one person who wouldn’t say, “Why don’t we make this even better?” So would I support a better system? If you can make it better, for sure.
There are some flaws. We heard today in debate from the member from Niagara Falls and the member from Waterloo that there are some flaws, and amendments were brought by stakeholders who work in these fields. I don’t know why the Conservative Party thinks they know better than people who have careers in these fields. You need to listen to them, and not just the first time when you present the bill, but in committee when they bring amendments and say, “Here’s the part of this that has to be improved.”
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The next question.
Mrs. Jennifer (Jennie) Stevens: Thank you to my colleague from Sudbury. I’ll call him my wingman when we’re sitting together post-COVID, but I’ll call you my wingman today.
I have a question. I want to thank you for your great contribution to this debate. There is one major piece of this bill that is missing, in my opinion, that could be included. Frankly, I think it’s in order. If this government is going to be changing the regulations of workers, then you need to immediately look at what’s happening with PSWs within Ontario. Why is it so important that we regulate and properly invest in making PSWs’ pay increase to full time, and why should it be a priority right now?
Mr. Jamie West: Thank you to Maverick, my wingman from St. Catharines.
Speaker, the government, during debate, when they decided to participate in this debate, talked about how much they love workers: “Oh, we love them so much.” But the reality is—and PSWs are a perfect example. I tabled a bill to give fair wages to PSWs. They voted unanimously to turn it down. Yesterday, in debate, we were talking about PSWs, and the member from Nickel Belt, our health critic, talked about having PSWs on the board. They voted that down. We talked about PSW voices at the table. They voted it down.
What they love, Speaker, is workers without power, workers without a voice, workers who are precariously employed, workers they can walk on. That’s what they love.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The next question.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I couldn’t help—the member talked about voting. Let’s discuss voting. Members opposite voted against recruitment of more PSWs; against building a transportation system, which employs more skilled tradespeople; voted against broadband, which employs more skilled tradespeople; and voted against line 5, which employs more skilled tradespeople and makes our oil transportation more environmentally friendly.
So today, after decades of inaction on the skilled trades file—the Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance has been waiting for this for years. They have done report after report and study after study. We’ve done study after study. A committee has worked on this.
Will you finally support the skilled trades sector, and people like Unifor that support this bill too?
Mr. Jamie West: Thank you to the member from Barrie–Innisfil. I think it’s important to put some context to what they’re talking about. Did we vote against hiring extra PSWs? Put that in the context of the fact that there are many PSWs—skilled, qualified and loving this job—who had to exit because they can’t find good-paying jobs. You can’t just keep filling them up with people who are going to leave. Thirty per cent of PSWs don’t last their first year. I met with PSWs when I tabled my bill. They told me that new hires leave on the first day.
If you think you can have a terrible job and horrible working conditions, where people cannot do the work that is required of them because there is too much to do, and they make 15 bucks an hour, and that hiring more and more and more of them is the Conservative government hand in fist with the working person, they are out to lunch on this concept.
When we vote against stuff, it’s not the title of the bill; it’s the guts. The guts are a mess and they need to address it. They need to get it right.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): I don’t think have enough time for another question and an elaborate response. Therefore, I will ask for further debate. Further debate? Further debate?
Mr. McNaughton has moved third reading of Bill 288, An Act to enact the Building Opportunities in the Skilled Trades Act, 2021. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I did hear a no.
All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”
All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
A recorded vote being required, it will be deferred until the next instance of deferred votes.
Third reading vote deferred.
Lobbyists Registration Act review
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to move a motion without notice respecting the expedited passage of government notice of motion 112.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): The member is seeking unanimous consent. All those in favour? Agreed? We are agreed.
Are you going to move it, member for Barrie–Innisfil?
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I move that government notice of motion 112 shall immediately be called, and that the Speaker shall immediately put the question on the motion without debate or amendment.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Are we agreed? We are agreed. I have consent, and now what do I do? I recognize the member for Barrie–Innisfil to actually move the motion.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: I move that the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly be authorized to conduct a comprehensive review of the Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998, S.O. 1998, c. 27, sched., pursuant to section 18.1 of the act and to report its findings and recommendations to the House.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Ms. Khanjin has moved government notice of motion number 112, relating to the motion for a comprehensive review of the Lobbyists Registration Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried. The motion has been carried.
Motion agreed to.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): Orders of the day? I recognize the member for Barrie–Innisfil.
Ms. Andrea Khanjin: No further business.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Percy Hatfield): No further business? There being no further business, this House stands adjourned until 9 a.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 1811.