On Oct. 23, 2018, the Ontario Government introduced its Making Ontario Open for Business Act – Bill 47. This series of regulatory and legislative changes would repeal significant amendments to the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act – Bill 148, which was passed by the previous Liberal government under former Premier Kathleen Wynne.
If passed, Bill 47 aims to address the backlog in Ontario’s skilled trades by replacing the province’s previous model with a one-to-one journeyperson-to-apprentice ratio for every trade where ratios apply. The Ontario government says that currently, the province’s ratios are among the highest in the country, limiting the number of apprentices an employer can train, relative to the number of journeypersons they employ.
This move is supported by the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA), which has recommended lowering apprenticeship ratios for about a decade. “This means our industry will finally have a system in place to close the trades skills gap across Ontario. This means employers can finally bring apprentices into their small businesses and train the next generation of skilled trades workers. This opens thousands of new opportunities for youth, and people looking for new employment opportunities,” said Rick Martins, OHBA president, in a press release. “The one-to-one ratio will enable thousands of home builders and renovators to hire and train new apprentices. Our members are ready and excited to hire and train the next generation of skilled tradespeople.”
The legislation also plans to modernize the apprenticeship system by winding down the Ontario College of Trades, which the province says remains a source of unnecessary and burdensome complexity for skilled trades employment in the province. The Ontario government believes apprenticeship must be modernized and transformed to better meet the needs of apprentices, employers and industry.
If passed, the government intends to support an orderly transition and ensure services continue to be provided to employers, workers and apprentices. The Minister would be given special powers in legislation, including the authority to take control over the College’s Board of Governors and to appoint an administrator to act on her behalf. The province plans to develop a replacement model for the regulation of skilled trades and apprenticeships in Ontario by early 2019.
However, the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario (PBCTCO), is concerned by the decision to wind down the Ontario College of Trades. For one, said the Council in a statement, the Ontario College of Trades was originally intended to professionalize the trades while removing government involvement in the regulation and administration of the trades. The College’s ratio decisions are based on a variety of evidence-based factors that affect each trade, meaning the resulting apprenticeship ratio is specific to each trade, the Council noted.
“Ontario has the most advanced training system in the country, if not the continent. The ratios dramatically impact the industry’s ability to attract and retain apprentices, resulting in the most productive and safest workforce across all jurisdictions,” said Jim Hogarth, PBCTCO president, in a statement. “The proposed changes to apprenticeship ratios should be concerning to all Ontarians. Apprenticeships touch on worker and consumer safety and are a cornerstone to quality construction in this province. Each trade is unique and having the appropriate apprenticeship ratio ensures that apprentices get the right training to qualify as journeypersons.”
The province also wants to implement a moratorium on trade classifications and reclassifications, which it says are burdensome and can affect the decision to hire new staff, as well as companies’ ability to compete in the global marketplace. The moratorium would mitigate the risks of climbing regulatory burden and costs for businesses.
“There are many tremendous and vibrant opportunities available in the skilled trades in Ontario. In fact, one in five new jobs in the next five years will be trades-related. But in Ontario today, employers can’t find apprentices and apprentices can’t find jobs,” said Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, in a press release.
Bill 47 is expected to come into effect by Jan. 1, 2019.