The Temiscaming Speaker Wednesday, April 07, 2004
by Jennifer Galliott
NEW LISKEARD — An Ontario-Québec labour mobility meeting for the construction sector took place at Riverside Place on April 5.
The public forum was hosted by Jean-Marc Lalonde, MPP of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, and was focused on putting forth potential recommendations to destroy the interprovincial trade barriers that exist between the Province of Québec and the Province of Ontario. Approximately 40 people turned out. “The purpose of this meeting is to allow the people who are the closest to the issue, contractors and construction workers, to put forward recommendations to Ontario negotiator Christopher Bredt, before official negotiations get underway very shortly,” said MPP Lalonde. The controversy of equal labour opportunities for workers is plaguing the labourers of Ontario due to the restrictions on job opportunities in Quebec.
QUÉBEC V. ONTARIO
Presently, Québec contractors and construction workers are free to work in the Province of Ontario. As well, Québec companies are permitted to bring their employees and their machinery to Ontario for all projects.
However, Ontario contractors and workers are not allowed to practice in Quebec without a card, and if a card is granted, a contractor can only work underneath a Québec contractor as a worker and none of his employees are permitted to work with him. Also, a debate is being drawn because Quebec permits the Ontario contractor to bring his machinery, but not his employees and many of the people attending the meeting on April 5 believe this to be extremely unfair.
In Québec, the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ) is the main body governing construction activities throughout the province through a union-based program.
Additionally, logs are kept in the province to tally work experience and hours for accreditation.
On the other hand, in Ontario, the Trades Qualifications Act results in compulsory certified trades such as electrical and plumbing based professions. As well, the Red Seal in Ontario is a record of apprenticeship and experience for workers.
The dilemma is the two various forms of practice. The different standards has drawn a barrier between interprovincial construction and a divide between the workers of both provinces.
As a result, recommendations are being compiled to ease the trade barriers which affect the provinces.
The most conversed recommendation at the April 5 meeting was a potential buffer zone. The proposed zone would encompass both sides of the Ottawa River, from Valleyfield (Québec) to Kirkland Lake (Ontario). In this area, it is suggested that the zone would allow for complete work mobility for workers from both provinces.
The zone would be a total of 50 kilometres on both sides of the river. “The buffer zone would allow respect for all workers,” said Jocelyn Dumais , of the recommendation review committee. “Both provinces would have to let go of some to gain.”
This recommendation resulted in some disbelief of the potential benefits it may bring. “You can make all the recommendations you want,” said Glenn Boyd with the Ontario Pipe Trades Council . “How can you get Québec to follow them?” He continued stating his primary recommendation.
“I don’t see it as a two-way street between the provinces, so Ontario should remove or control the open door policy for Québec contractors until some labour mobility and equality is visible,” recommended Mr. Boyd.
Mr. Philippe Barette , Major of Témiscaming, Québec, voiced his opinion also. “We agree 100 per cent with your buffer zone,” he said. “I agree that Québec has been a protectionist to the extreme. Going with the recommendation would be a win-win situation for both provinces.”
On the other hand, Mr. Boyd completed disagreed with the proposed zone. “I don’t understand why they keep concentrating on this buffer zone,” stressed Mr. Boyd. “How will that help all Ontario contractors outside the zone?”
Other recommendations were also being revised, including a interprovincial health and safety certification and a complete recognition of experience and the number of hours of Ontario workers. Moreso, equal mobility for the workforce was suggested. In this scenario, Ontario contractors should be allowed to bring up to 50 per cent of their employees with them to work in Québec and vice versa. Additionally, the provincial Fair Wage and Hours Act was addressed by Mr. Boyd. He believed by initiating this act, “under-the-table” or cash jobs would be decreased and the job market would open-up for Ontario workers, instead of Quebec workers who are working illegally.
After the recommendations are reviewed by the committee, they will be submitted no longer than two weeks from now and a solution is hopeful, according to MPP Lalonde.
The final recommendations will be given to Christopher Bredt, who will represent Ontario in the labour mobility negotiations on behalf of Ontario Labour Minister Chris Bentley “My premier, Dalton McGuinty, says he is committed to coming up with a solution and an agreement to work as a country—for both Ontario and Québec,” added Mr. Lalonde. “After being here today, you can rest assured that you will see some progress,” he told the attendees of the meeting.