Tony Dean has been appointed to review certain aspects of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), a task he says must be open, transparent and inclusive to all stakeholders who want their voices heard.
"There's a great emphasis on my independence," he says of the review, which will examine specific issues related to the College's scopes of practice, type of work performed in a trade, and the process for determining whether certification should be compulsory or voluntary.
"I can say this, that everybody who wants to contribute on the issues identified in the terms of reference will have an opportunity to do that. Stakeholders will be front and centre."
Dean is a former secretary of cabinet and head of the Ontario Public Service and is well known for leading an expert panel review of Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2010. Appointed by the Ministry of Labour, Dean's review came after a deadly incident on Christmas Eve in December 2009 where four construction workers fell 13 storeys to their deaths after a swing-stage broke apart at a high-rise in Toronto. A fifth worker survived but was seriously injured. One of the key recommendations to come from that review was the creation of a provincial chief prevention office.
Dean is also known for completing a governance review of OMERS, one of Canada's largest pension plans and currently teaches at the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto.
He says during this review he wants to make sure he has done his homework with regards to OCOT.
"First of all I want to learn more about the College and the issues we're examining," Dean explains. "I have some knowledge; I need to immerse myself in the issues. Nobody will be excluded. That's a principle. There's an important opportunity for voice here and I am interested in listening."
Premier Kathleen Wynne promised a review of OCOT during her successful June election campaign, after then Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said he would abolish the College altogether if elected.
OCOT, which oversees and regulates 156 skilled trades in the province, began accepting membership on April 8, 2013. It has reviewed the ratios of 32 compulsory trades, with 14 ratios reduced and one increased ratio. Currently, there are 22 compulsory trades and 134 voluntary trades. The trade classification review process will be paused during Dean's work, OCOT states, but the rest of the College's mandate including enforcement will carry on.
Since its inception, the College has been met with skepticism from some construction industry stakeholders, with some stating the regulatory body is bogged down in bureaucracy. Dean says he is aware of industry concerns.
"I'm certainly aware that there are strongly held views out there, not all of which naturally come into alignment. There are some opposing views and it's important to hear them. I'll be inviting the key players in this area to give us their very best advice, not just on the problems, not just on the issues, but on some of the solutions," he states.
"Step one will be designing a process for engaging College stakeholders. We'll probably develop a short, plain language consultation paper."
Dean also says a website will be set up as a "portal in to our review team for stakeholders. I'd like this to be a process that is iterative, that is transparent and will see regular status reports so that people aren't worrying about what we're doing. We shouldn't be looking to surprise anybody here on any side of this. Status reports on working process are important."
The review is slated to take about a year to complete and Dean says he intends to take everything he hears and work with a review team to come up with recommendations.
"That will probably lead to the early development of some draft sections of the report in the middle part of 2015, to position us to deliver on time," he says.
"It can be done in a year."
When it comes to those on his review team, Dean makes it clear that the process must not be bias.
"I'll be asking the people who work with me and support me to check their regular day jobs at the door. It's an independent review. I take that very, very seriously," he adds.
"I will insist in independence throughout the process."
He also intends to use his experience in dealing with governance, policy making and problem solving during this process.
"I don't have any illusions," he explains.
"I've been in rooms with 17 or 18 construction trades and industrial trades and large employers with differences among the people in both rooms and we've managed to move forward. It's a time to roll up our sleeves and start listening to those views and to take them seriously...to do the best we can to make the College of trades the best that is can be."