Registrar & CEO Update: The new Compliance and Enforcement Policy

Beginning in late 2016, Ontario College of Trades’ (College) staff and stakeholders hit the ground running following new government legislation, to develop a new compliance and enforcement policy. Within weeks, a Compliance and Enforcement Committee was formed and went to work consulting members and stakeholders on the best approach for the new policy. In the same spirit of collaboration and consultation, I’ll be providing updates on how we’re implementing the new policy, and I encourage all members and trade committees to continue sharing their ideas and input.

Maintaining our presence in the workplace
Even as the new policy was being developed, compliance and enforcement officers were in the field proactively visiting worksites and responding to complaints from the public. In 2017, a total of 11,370 inspections were conducted which resulted in the issuing of 238 provincial offenses charges, and 59 Notices of Contravention. Our compliance and enforcement officers and client services staff also helped numerous individuals come into compliance and meet registration requirements.

Preparing our people and organization and implementing the new compliance and enforcement policy
The College has been working on education and training on the new policy. In 2017, the College held a number of meetings and workshops with compliance and enforcement officers and other staff across the province. This training included the steps to take to ensure compliance and the elements to be considered when issuing a Notice of Contravention. The compliance and enforcement division will continue to reinforce training and provide supports and tools for our officers as implementation of the new policy continues.

Learning from other regulators
We are continuing to meet the challenge of implementation by reviewing best practices from other bodies and jurisdictions and how those practices might best help our members. This includes working with a variety of other Ontario regulators who conduct similar compliance work, and learning from other jurisdictions that use similar models of administrative penalties.

Focusing on risk of harm
When it comes to the College’s objectives, there is no higher priority than safety – safety for the consumer, the public and workers. When inspecting a worksite, identifying risk of harm is an important focus. In taking this risk-based approach, the College wants to be consistent wherever possible, and we are consulting with other regulatory bodies to learn how they define “risk of harm”. This includes provincial ministries of Labour, Government and Consumer Services, as well as regulators such as the Electrical Safety Authority and the Technical Standards and Safety Authority. These organizations have models in place for reasonably determining risk of harm along a defined scale and magnitude. This will take some time as there is much work to do, but developing such models for the skilled trades is imperative and we’re getting this work underway. We’re also providing various supports to help compliance and enforcement officers determine the level of risk associated with various tasks on jobsites. These supports include data, evidence and compliance practices from other regulators. This will help provide clarity to staff and to the public about what is expected when deciding what constitutes “risk of harm.”

Addressing the underground economy
The underground economy can put consumers and the public at risk and take work away from our members. We are meeting with industry and government partners to examine and understand the profile of businesses likely to be non-compliant. We’re now exploring information sharing agreements that would facilitate targeted enforcement in addressing the underground economy. Data and compliance history can help us direct enforcement activity to where it’s needed most.

Protecting the public interest through self-regulation
The College has taken great strides towards increasing consumer and public confidence when hiring trades professionals. We encourage anyone about to hire a tradesperson to search our online Public Register to verify their credentials by searching their name or College membership number. This will give consumers the confidence that the person they’re hiring has the proper certification to legally do the work in Ontario, and has been trained to do it safely. When a tradesperson shows their credentials, it represents training, education and experience that may have taken years to complete.

Effective compliance and enforcement helps build and maintain public trust and increases the value of College membership. We know the marketplace is constantly evolving and that’s why we will continue to monitor and evaluate our activities, and refine our policies and procedures as needed. The College is committed to meeting its responsibility to protect the public, and I am committed to keeping you up to date on our progress.