The leader of a Quebec construction association slammed the Quebec government yesterday and warned of possible retribution from angry construction workers turned away at the border.
« What I’m afraid of is some people are going to get mad, there may be violence, » said Jocelyn Dumais, president of the Right to Work Association, who begged workers to be patient. « It may not be in Ontario but may be in Quebec. »
Dumais’ comments come after two days of provincial government blockades stopping dozens of construction workers and truckers trying to cross the border. To date, about 30 vehicles have been charged or had their plates removed by the Ministry of Transportation. Several also face charges from the Ministry of Finance or investigation by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
Although the crackdown was instigated by Ontario officials under Bill 17, also known as the Fairness is a Two-Way Street Act, Dumais held a press conference yesterday criticizing the Quebec government and unions for unfair restrictions on construction workers. « It’s the Quebec government that has maintained the restrictions and the province of Ontario is simply reacting, » he said.
Quebec requires construction competency cards before workers are legally allowed to work on job sites. Critics say the card is next to impossible to obtain for those trained in Ontario or those who have been working without the card for years.
Ontario’s new regulations mean approximately 5,000 Quebec workers need the card to register in the province. Unregistered workers can be fined up to $2,000 a day. Quebec Labour Minister Jean Rochon said yesterday Ontario violated two interprovincial trade agreements with Bill 17. « We will counter their illegal actions with legal ones, » said Rochon, who argues that the law breaks an Ontario-Quebec pact on open trade. He said two complaints were filed yesterday with the secretariat.
While the Quebec government has set up a liaison office to help workers get the competency card, Dumais said veteran construction workers approved by the office are still being denied cards by the Construction Commission of Quebec.
« We don’t know what it takes to prove we are competent, » he said. Dumais also criticized Ontario leadership candidate Chris Stockwell for implementing the Act during a candidacy race and called for intervention from the federal government. Criticism will not halt the crackdown, which will continue this week, said Jobs Protection Office director Bob Onyschuk. « We could do anything, we could continue these blitzes, but I can’t say, » he said.
The office is currently looking at 85 workers who might not have the proper papers.