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Tide has turned for OCOT, says departing chair

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by Lindsey Cole

Throughout his three years as chair of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) Ron Johnson says he’s seen the College take shape, win political battles and gain momentum after a rocky start.
Ron Johnson
Ron Johnson

"We had some people spreading a lot of misinformation out there so we were constantly combating misinformation. Certain stakeholders had their own self-interests at heart and they were doing whatever they could to inhibit the development of the College. That was obviously a challenge. I think we came out on top," he says.

"Launching an organization with this sort of mandate...is never easy. It takes a lot of work. You have to get all the right pieces in place."

As of Feb. 24 Johnson says his time as chair will come to a close, with interim chair Pat Blackwood filling his shoes until January 2016. An election for the next chair will follow after that.

"Ultimately, there's always a time when you need fresh leadership and change and I think quite frankly the time has come for that," Johnson says.

"It's been a bit of a whirlwind, and it's been a lot of fun and I've really enjoyed it."

Johnson says he became chair because he's always had a vested interest in the trades. He is also deputy director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario and the Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre.

"My full-time job is sort of managing skilled trades and training, so from that perspective I've always had a huge interest in the management of trades," he explains.

"I've always had a strong belief that tradespeople should be managing their own affairs and that's really what OCOT's all about."

Johnson is also a former MPP and was involved with the College from its inception as a stakeholder initially, but then in a more substantive role.

"When I started getting involved in OCOT...I probably wasn't completely aware of the amount of work that it would take," he states, adding he wanted to advocate on behalf of those who truly understand the trades.

"Government and politicians from Queen's Park and bureaucrats do not have the same skill sets that tradespeople have when it comes to managing their own affairs."

He says while there were some challenges, there have been many highlights, including when OCOT opened its doors nearly two years ago, and when enforcement officers began their duties.

"The graduation of our first team and class of enforcement and compliance officers was sort of I think an important moment for tradespeople in Ontario," he says.

"You would always have people out there working illegally in the compulsory trades and yet there was never any enforcement or compliance issues with that — nobody around the check. Now we have boots on the ground."

However, getting over the politics, Johnson's says, is one of the bigger triumphs.

"Winning the political battle was a big one. I think the message has really gotten out there that OCOT is really about protecting the public interest and ensuring the integrity of certification standards," he states.

"I think the tide has turned."

The Tony Dean review reiterates that, he states. Dean is currently conducting a review of specific issues related to the College's scopes of practice and the process for determining whether certification should be compulsory or voluntary, which Johnson says shows OCOT's commitment to improvement.

"It brings somebody to the table with a wealth of knowledge and experience. This is an organization unlike any other in the world quite frankly and it's going to take some time to get it right and we recognize that," he explains. "You can't build the largest regulatory College in North America overnight."

Johnson will stay on the OCOT board and the executive committee and says he is optimistic about the future.

"Most tradespeople believe in self-management and self-regulation now and that was a message that's taken quite some time to get through to people. We're still going to have our detractors there's no question about that," he adds. "If you look at the foundations we've put in place in terms of governance and in terms of staffing, I think we're poised to mature as an organization."

5 comments

  • # 1

    Derek Smith

    I think a lot of the industry still wants to know, if the college is self regulating, like that of lawyers, doctors and architects and engineers, how is indemnity insurance handled for these thousands of tradespeople, and if there is an error and omission, on their part, are they held liable and disciplined by the college? It is a fair question, that still has not been answered.
  • # 2

    Dean Kadikoff

    "I've always had a strong belief that tradespeople should be managing their own affairs"

    "Government and politicians from Queen's Park and bureaucrats do not have the same skill sets that tradespeople have when it comes to managing their own affairs."

    "Most tradespeople believe in self-management and self-regulation"

    The spin the college spews out seems to always dodge the obvious mistruth. Pertaining to the above quotes, the college always misleads by stating that the tradespeople are in control. They mislead with statements of consulting with the "stakeholders", but never mention that the tradesperson is not within the colleges definition of stakeholder. The stakeholders are actually the industries, being big business, corporations, unions, associations, educational institutions and of course the government of the day and the MTCU. We the actual tradespeople, who were forced to become “members” have never been involved in the development, creation, implementation nor the present operation of the college. We never had a vote, say, or control in anything the college does. We are not considered a “stakeholder”, and yet we are the ones mandated by legislation to fund this endeavour. The management of the college has been strictly by appointment, unlike the other colleges that the OCOT likes to compare itself to. Their membership get to vote in candidates for upper echelon positions, and get a say in the decisions their colleges make.
  • # 3

    Mike Miller

    "Most tradespeople believe in self-management and self-regulation..." Too bad we get neither from the College Against Trades.
    As a Journeyman "member" of this College I have no say or input of any kind on who makes decisions that affect me.
    As a Journeyman since 1994 I have no say on whether I want to "join" this College. Either I pay their extortion fee or I'm declared "illegal" to work in the trade I've been in for over 30 years.
    Any time I've asked a question of this College I get either a canned answer or none at all... IF I can actually get someone to respond.
    This College has very little concern with protecting the public, though they like to repeat that claim as often as they can. No, this College is more about ensuring their survival and growth, catering as they do to union and big business interests. There is no concerted effort put forth by the College to go after "the hook and ladder" crowd (as Ron Johnson has been quoted as saying repeatedly), the un-licensed, under-the-table workers and contractors of the province. The College can't find those guys...
    The College instead concentrates on the easy-to-find established businesses, the brick-and-mortar businesses where they know they have a captive target. "Do as we say or we'll fine you" is their motis operandi. Check out the visit stats by the enforcement officers on the College website for some proof of this, don't just take my word on it.
  • # 4

    Mike Miller

    No one I've spoken to has been in favour of this College, but yet it's been rammed down our throats, and as a forced "member" I'm lucky enough to be one of the affected trades people paying for the privilege of working in Ontario.
  • # 5

    Andy Ryckman

    What an absolute scam, targeting the hardworking trades people of Ontario.

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