June 5, 2006
Groups critical of Ontario-Quebec pact
PETER KENTER correspondent
Stakeholders aren’t thrilled about a labour pact which was to be announced by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Quebec Premier Jean Charest in Ottawa June 3.
It’s difficult for Ontario construction workers to be employed in Quebec because that province’s government has imposed barriers to keep them out.
Ontario workers can meet union membership requirements to work in Quebec, but quotas limit the number of cards available to authorize out-of-province workers to commence work.
It’s estimated that about 6,000 Quebec construction workers are employed in the Ottawa area, with thousands more employed elsewhere in Ontario.
Jocelyn Dumais, president of the Association for the Right to Work in Ottawa, says he isn’t holding his breath to see improvements for Ontario workers.
“This announcement is not going to solve the issue. Quebec labour laws must be modified first, and unless they announce that, the barriers to Ontario workers will still be up.”
Dumais expects an agreement “slightly better” than one between New Brunswick and Quebec, in which N.B.’s construction workers are shut out of Quebec.
« We would dearly have loved to have been able to comment.”
Clive Thurston – OGCA
“The premiers will both be singing a song and hope that people will pay attention, but they have nothing serious to say,” Dumais told Daily Commercial News last Thursday. “I’m already looking for a violin to accompany their song — and I don’t play well. This issue will only be resolved when Quebec changes its labour laws.”
Organized labour groups are also expected to be disappointed.
“I had an opportunity to view the agreement six months ago and I can say that the overall sentiment of the Ontario Building Trades is that it needs a lot of improvement and there are no real gains in it for us,” says James Barry, financial secretary and business manager with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 586, Ottawa. “I would say this is going to make Quebec extremely happy and ultimately do nothing to help Ontarians.”
Barry says the IBEW gives McGuinty’s government credit for making positive efforts to enforce the Ontario Trades Qualification and Apprenticeship Act.
“But Quebec workers will be exempt from registration when they work in Ontario, though an Ontario worker will still have to register to work in Quebec,” he says. “We have nothing against Quebec workers coming here, but we don’t support making them exempt from provincial license requirements.
“This is just one of about 45 interprovincial agreements they’ll be announcing and it looks like something they just threw in there without listening to the stakeholders.”
Among the groups not consulted: the Council of Ontario Construction Associations and the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA).
“We would dearly have loved to have been able to comment on this agreement,” says Clive Thurston, president of the OGCA.
“This issue is very, very important to many of our members, particularly in the Ottawa area, but we weren’t consulted.”