Area contractors build consensus
Thu, March 25, 2004
Area contractors build consensus By TOBI COHEN, Ottawa Sun
Finding a solution to the labour mobility crisis plaguing the local construction industry will be the task today when contractors hammer home their points with the province’s new negotiator. Recently appointed by Ontario Labour Minister Chris Bentley to negotiate a truce with Quebec, Christopher Bredt will gather recommendations from participants and eventually present them to Quebec negotiators.
« I want a level playing field, » said MPP Jean-Marc Lalonde, who helped organize today’s meeting.
He said stringent laws governing labour in Quebec have cost Ontario workers jobs and fines, while those who do find work across the river have faced harassment.
While Quebec contractors have managed to find ways to bypass Bill 17 — Ontario’s attempt at levelling the playing field by making it more difficult for Quebec labourers to work in Ontario — local workers, he said, are still suffering.
While he doesn’t support the introduction in Ontario of a competency card — the tough-to-acquire piece of identification that all labourers who work in Quebec must have — Lalonde suggested workers could be required to have some sort of certification in their trade.
Jocelyn Dumais, president of the Association for the Right to Work and owner of an Ottawa-based concrete company, said he’d like to see a « free zone » established on either side of the Quebec-Ontario border.
« I’d say 50 km on both sides of the river, where the labour laws of both provinces will kind of merge in and any friction that causes problems to labour mobility in one province would adjust to the lesser restrictions, » he suggested.
Dumais said he’d also like to see restraints on the residential sector in Quebec dropped.
Labour laws there, he said, are so stringent you can’t even get your friends to help you build your cottage, and those who rent out a room in their own home are classified as commercial workers and face fines if they so much as paint a wall.
While he’s confident the Quebec government is open to such solutions, Dumais thinks it will be tougher to convince the unions. Tonight’s meeting runs from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Orleans Client Service Centre, 225 Centrum Blvd.