Ontario rules threaten peace: activist – Quebec files complaint over ‘fair access’ law
The Ottawa Citizen- March 13 2002 – By Dave Rogers
Jocelyn Dumais says Quebec construction workers have been ‘taken hostage’ and stopped from working by the impasse between Quebec and Ontario.
Tough new restrictions on Quebec construction workers employed in Ontario could lead to violence unless provincial politicians end their clash of egos, a Quebec right-to-work activist warned yesterday.
Jocelyn Dumais, president of the Association for the Right to Work, said 4,000 Quebec construction workers have been « taken hostage » and prevented from working by the impasse between Ontario and Quebec.
Since Saturday, the Ontario government has implemented regulations — including the mandatory registration of all Quebec workers — to turn the tables on Quebec, which Labour Minister Chris Stockwell says doesn’t allow Ontario companies and workers fair access to its market.
Yesterday Quebec, which has argued that Ontario’s restrictions on Quebec construction workers are unreasonable, filed an unfair trade complaint with the Internal Trade Secretariat, an intergovernmental tribunal that hears inter-provincial commercial disputes. No date has been set for the hearing.
Mr. Rochon has accused Ontario of trying to impose « illegal » regulations and laws against Quebec by bringing back barriers authorized under Ontario legislation, known as Bill 17, which was enacted in 1999. The regulations require all Quebec workers to have certification or competency cards and that they register with the Ontario Job Protection Office.
Quebec companies must post bonds to work in Ontario. The law prohibits Quebec companies from bidding on schools, hospitals and other provincially-funded or Crown corporation jobs.
In a letter to David Tsubouchi, Ontario Management Board chairman, Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Joseph Facal said Ontario’s action against Quebec contractors and construction workers violates a trade liberalization agreement between the two provinces.
Mr. Stockwell has declared he is confident Ontario can defend its position before the Internal Trade Secretariat.
Under the new rules, Quebec workers must prove their competency and register with the Ontario Jobs Protection Office before they will be allowed to work. Quebec companies must also register and post a bond as proof of financial stability.
Mr. Dumais blamed the inter-provincial disagreement on Quebec construction unions, « selfish Quebec construction entrepreneurs » and Mr. Stockwell’s ambition to succeed Ontario Premier Mike Davis.
« I am afraid that some people will get mad — you have to expect violence, » Mr. Dumais said. « People are in the dark and don’t know what is going on.
« All you need is for someone to blow up and that is it. We organized demonstrations to diffuse the situation in 1999, but no one is doing that this time so there could be violence. »
The tense situation won’t improve until someone stands up and speaks out for the region, Mr. Dumais said. He said it is unfair that politicians in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City are making decisions about where people can work on both sides of the Ottawa River.
Mr. Dumais said Quebec construction workers should « peacefully obey » Ontario government officials and comply with the requests of Ontario employers to leave job sites when necessary to avoid violence.
« We should all be able to live together without having to fight, » Mr. Dumais said. « Why should we be forced to move to another province?