Merit Foundation takes aim at Ontario College of Trades

The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) is the first target on the newly formed Merit Foundation radar.

The foundation was formed to help raise funds for lobbying and coordination efforts issues important to Merit Ontario.

“The creation of the Ontario College of Trades in its initial mindset appeared to be something which was fair and represent these people, but in reality we have come to recognize that it’s not as fair as it should be,” said Bernie Melloul, founder of Merit Ontario and chair of the Merit Foundation.

The foundation will be formally constituted on May 2 at Merit Ontario’s annual general meeting in Oakville, Ontario. The plan is to have a significant financial fund for lobbying efforts and they got off to a good start at the recent Merit Ontario reception where they announced the foundation.

Melloul said the foundation’s goal is to educate Ontario about OCOT and he already feels “quite positive” that they will get the money they need and people will listen to the message.

“For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction and we clearly need to be that opposite reaction so that people can truly understand what’s happening in Ontario.”

OCOT is a self-regulated body that was legislated in 2009 and was formed as a response to one of the recommendations suggested in the 2008 Compulsory Certification Project Review by Tim Armstrong. Its mandate includes building the professional profile of the skilled trades and promoting the trades to young people.

Merit Ontario is part of a coalition of construction employers that called for the complete overhaul or the abolishment of OCOT last fall, citing issues over the governance structure, transparency and its perceived union bias.

Merit Foundation’s greatest win would be for OCOT to disappear and for the existing apprenticeship centres to be used. Melloul said his company, Melloul-Blamey Construction Inc., uses many of the apprentices from the Conestoga College program.

“Why are we trying to reinvent something that’s really not broken? Maybe fine tune it here or there, possibly, once you get into the real bowel of how the apprenticeship programs work, maybe you can find some things to repair along the way,” said Melloul.

“But to completely abandon that system and reinvent it from zero, to me doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.”

Along the way Melloul said they would like to work hard on journeyman to apprentice ratios.

“We really want to make it easier for workers in Ontario to get a trade, regardless of the profession that they want to embark in. Clearly right now as it stands, the movement is preventing us from doing that — the movement being the government and all the lobbyists that manipulate the government on a day to day basis.”