Ontario, Quebec look for progress on labour mobility

Ontario, Quebec look for progress on labour mobility

April Lindgren, CanWest News Service Published: Thursday, June 01, 2006 Article tools * Printer friendly * E-mail Font: * * * * * * * *

TORONTO – The premiers of Ontario and Quebec may meet as early as this Friday in Ottawa to sign an interprovincial co-operation agreement that includes some modest progress toward solving the simmering dispute between the two provinces over the free movement of construction workers.

« This has been a long-standing issue and Premier (Dalton) McGuinty has been looking for a fair deal for both sides and one that would include increased access to Quebec for Ontario workers, » an Ontario official said Wednesday. « What both sides are looking for is an agreement that shows Ontario and Quebec can work together and deliver positive results. « Discussions are ongoing but an announcement could come soon. » Ontario has complained for years that Quebec labour laws make it difficult for Ontario construction workers to cross from Ottawa to the Outaouais to work.

At the same time, local estimates suggest up to 6,000 Quebec construction workers are employed in the Ottawa area while thousands more are spread out in jobs across Ontario.

Jocelyn Dumais, president of the Ottawa-based Association for the Right to Work, cautioned against expecting too much from Friday’s announcement. « I don’t have great expectations of what they are going to be signing because as far as I know, it is similar to what was signed last month between Quebec and New Brunswick, » he said. « There will be a little bit more in it, but the issue is not going to be solved. »

Dumais said that Quebec needs to modify its labour law for the mobility issue to be settled. « The law says that anyone who wants to work in the construction industry must belong to one of the five unions. Anyone can join the unions, but there are quotas on the number of cards available. If unemployment, for instance, is more than four per cent in a region, they don’t issue cards for that area. « There’s nothing on the agenda of the national assembly in Quebec that gives a sign that this law will be changed. » McGuinty and Quebec’s Jean Charest were among the premiers meeting in Gimli, Man., Wednesday to discuss North American issues.

Last month, Charest was in Moncton, N.B., with Premier Bernard Lord to sign a wide- ranging co-operation agreement that touched on two dozen issues, including tourism and trade. Although New Brunswick has also complained that its construction workers are shut out of Quebec, the accord only briefly mentioned the issue of labour mobility, stating that the two sides will try to facilitate the freer movement of workers « to the fullest extent possible. » © CanWest News Service 2006

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