Quebec lifts barriers to Ontario construction workers
Ottawa Citizen December 11, 1996 – By Bert Hill, Citizen business writer
Local opinion divided over deal producing peace between provinces
Quebec is promising that new construction-industry rules will break down barriers for Ontario workers and contractors in January.
But the local construction industry is divided on whether the formal deal will produce a lasting peace between the provinces. Some militants complained Tuesday that the deal is unfairmbecause Ontario workers and contractors must join Quebec unions and employer associations when they work in Quebec.
But moderates said the deal deserves a chance to work particularly because, unlike earlier unsuccessful deals, it is backed by a new joint monitoring body and dispute-resolution system. Under the formal deal signed this week, Quebec will recognize the qualifications, safety training and experience of Ontario construction workers and contractors within 24 hours of requests for registration.
On paper, it could mean repeated threats of a trade war over differing rules that allow 4,000 Quebec construction workers to work on Ontario sites daily but only 1,000 Ontario construction workers on Quebec sites. Quebec relented on most Ontario demands to protect access to Ontario jobs.
But it refused to bend on union membership, a rule that all Quebec construction workers face and which was the bottom line for Quebec unions.
Bernie Lamoureux, head of the militant Ontario Construction Workers Association, which has advocated shutting bridges to Quebec workers, said Ontario Labor Minister Elizabeth Witmer should resign because she agreed to the condition.
« This is a lousy deal for Ontario because the building-trade unions will be waiting to sign up our people when they come back across the bridge with their Quebec union cards, » said Witmer. »
Jocelyn Dumais, head of the older and more moderate Right to Work Association, will complain to the International Labor Organization that the union rule violates worker rights.But his most pressing fear is that powerful Quebec construction regulators will undermine the deal in their zeal to root out the rampant black market in the Quebec construction industry.
But Robert Sanscartier of the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders Association said a new joint monitoring committee and dispute-resolution system should ensure the deal is implemented. He said continued conflict between the provinces threatened the Outaouais workers who are vital to the local industry.
« We hope that Quebec will eventually deregulate the construction industry, but we don’t see any point in shooting for the moon, » said Sanscartier.