The key to the Ontario College of Trades’ (OCOT) success will be involving both its supporters and its opposition, says the college’s new leader.
“What we need to do is to really reach out to not just the people who are behind us and supporting us, but people who may have some concerns,” said new OCOT registrar and chief executive officer David Tsubouchi.
“The more people we have understanding exactly what happens, the better off we all are in the industry and in the trades.”
He added that it’s important to clearly communicate all information about what the college is doing, which may help people understand what the college is all about.
Tsubouchi took over the role on Sept. 9 from Bob Guthrie, who will serve in an advisory role until the end of the year. OCOT began accepting members on April 8 and primarily targeted recruiting apprentices and workers in the compulsory trades, categories which require mandatory membership to the college. The next goal is to get workers in the voluntary trades on board.
Once fully operational, the college will represent 157 skilled trades in the construction, industrial, motive power and service sectors.
Vocal opposition has come mainly from some members of the province’s construction industry and the Progressive Conservatives who have said they would abolish the entity if they were elected.
When Tsubouchi, a former Tory cabinet minister, found out he got the job, he immediately had a meeting with the PC critic for skilled trades and apprenticeship reform Garfield Dunlop, who has been traveling around the province speaking out against the college.
“He had some good suggestions,” said Tsubouchi.
“It’s a new thing for everybody so we have to, as a college, reach out and try to get everyone to move forward cooperatively.”
Tsubouchi served as the PC MPP for Markham from 1995 to 2003 and held several cabinet posts, including the role of Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Under his leadership, self-managed organizations like the Real Estate Council of Ontario and the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council were created. In 2003, Tsubouchi returned to private legal practice as a partner in the law firm Fogler, Rubinoff LLP.
Some members of the trades community had expressed some little disappointment at Tsubouchi’s appointment since he does not have a trades background. He held several jobs when he was young, including driving a forklift, which he said gave him context. He said his background in government is very important since he understands how government works.
The college has been hiring enforcement officers and promoting them as one of the value adds of OCOT membership. Tsubouchi made the distinction that the college is going after workers in the underground economy.
“I think people fear that somehow the enforcement arm is going to be like Revenue Canada...our concern is the certification and making sure people have the right credentials,” he said.
“We have to support the tradesmen who are running legitimate real businesses and have been trained and certified properly and get rid of the guys who are the underground economy who are taking real money away from the real tradesmen.”
The college has also launched a public registry so consumers can see if a tradesperson is in good standing with the college.
Tsubouchi plans to meet with people around the province to learn about regional concerns.
“My experience with the north is the north always feels like they’re being ignored, so we’ve got to make a special effort to get out there, especially in the northwest, and sit down and talk to the people out there and make sure they are being heard,” he said.
Follow Kelly Lapointe on Twitter @DCNKelly.