Members from OPSEU Local 379 picketed outside the LCBO on Highland Street Wednesday to protest the treatment of casual workers and lack of full time work. The union and LCBO are currently negotiating a new contract. /ROBERT MACKENZIE Staff

Laurie Scott speaks to home builders

By Sue Tiffin

Published March 19 2019

Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP and Ontario Labour Minister Laurie Scott was introduced as being a “champion” of the Haliburton County Home Builders Association on March 14 prior to her addressing the 64-member companies group at a dinner meeting held at the Bonnie View Inn.

Scott was invited to the dinner to discuss industry issues at the local level and told the crowd she was “always happy” to be in Haliburton where she said she had good conversations on the streets and at local dinner parties. Scott is serving her fifth term in office and was named Ontario Labour Minister in Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet.

“It’s a bit different being minister” she said. “I have to tell you I was a little surprised when I got the call after the election and they said ‘hey want to be Minister of Labour?’ I’m like ‘Labour did you get the right phone number?’ But it’s so fascinating and fun because it affects so many people obviously workers employers and there’s so much you can do.”

Scott said she had been exceptionally busy as Minister of Labour in the almost nine months she has been in office that there was a big learning curve but she is still excited about the role.

“I’ll tell you a little bit tonight about being Minister of Labour and some of the things we’ve done” she said. “But also about the things that we want to do as we move forward. We want to make this province as prosperous as we can and we need everybody in this room to be part of it.”

A mention of last September’s announcement of an elimination of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s insurance fund’s unfunded liability which Scott said enables premium rate cuts for employers received a round of applause from Haliburton County Home Builders Association members in attendance.

“Just in the WSIB premiums alone it was $1.45 billion injections into the economy” she said. “It is huge.”

Scott spoke to the changes to apprenticeship ratios made through the Making Ontario Open for Business Act changing to a one-to-one journeyperson to apprentice ratio. She said the challenge surrounding high apprentice ratios had been on her radar for years.

“It has been a very long time in bringing that to fruition” she said noting the importance of addressing apprentice ratios for “experienced” people in Haliburton County who are looking to train young recruits.

She said if she “came back again” she would pursue skilled trades and said she tells young people working in trades is lucrative and in high demand.

“You have [64]-member companies just up here 700 people so well-done” she said. You’re huge economic drivers in Haliburton County so thank you for employing for training to want to take on more.”

The Ford government announced last October it would abolish the Ontario College of Trades. “I can’t say enough … the College of Trades does not have any power anymore we’re getting rid of that” said Scott to more applause.

“I heard that a lot in Haliburton” she said. “I come to Haliburton for a reality check. People give it to you straight up. But [the College is] frustration unneeded I swear two or three elections we fought that honest to heavens it seems like a long time. And it was just a bureaucratic barrier cost fees it wasn’t just a college that you got further education it was more just red tape and regulation.”

Scott said the provincial government was going to “modernize” health and safety training by replacing the five-day in-class training with online training.

“People actually had to come in to the city” she said. “You can still come in if you want but it gives that flexibility and actually gets more employees engaged. Has anybody tested those virtual learning yet for even heights training? Like it’s pretty real. You couldn’t get that engagement in a classroom. Virtual learning is incredible. You’re going to see more IT access to training programs. Health and safety is number one we’re not compromising that but we’re modernizing a lot of the Ministry of Labour.”

She acknowledged the repeal of Bill 148 discussion around Bill 66 passing back-to-work legislation ending last year’s York University strike and preventing a Power Workers’ Union strike.

“All told labour reforms will have saved governments and businesses more than $4 billion annually and I say just so far because I hope they let me do a lot more” she said. “I’ve got a lot more that we want to do.”

Scott said the government had been working to make changes they “feel are reasonable.”

“Ontario is changing its dynamic it’s getting competitive with other provinces it’s a place we’d like to do business so we’re going to stay and expand our business and hire more people because we’re going in the right direction” she said. “We want businesses to succeed because when businesses succeed your communities succeed your young people have employment you have better employment so that’s what we want to see. It’s going to take a bit of time. I have a long list. We’re still going. It’s been a lot in a short period of time and I love it all. We need to do more. But we’re seeing the success on the ground. We’re seeing that businesses say hey Ontario really is open for business. You’re going to hear that from me. We’re open for business.”

Scott said nowhere in the riding did you hear more about the affordability factor of fee increases she said were imposed by the previous government than up here.

“It’s just tougher right” she said. “Everything went up so much in price. It’s tougher just to live let alone do business. You’ll see that affordability. We came in right away and got rid of the carbon tax. We knew that was going to impact people. Put some decreased gas prices out there for people so they could drive. We have to drive up here. We all have to drive. These are rural ridings. We have needs. Rural Ontario was not listened to for the past 15 years.”

Speaking despite a hoarse voice she said: “I didn’t just lose my voice yelling about it as you know I’ve been yelling about it for a long time.”

Before taking questions from the audience Scott also mentioned the PC government’s leader.

“Premier Ford wants to come to Haliburton so we’ll get him up to Haliburton” she said. “But he really heard from the people and he still he gives his phone number out at every event I don’t know how that man keeps up. He still wants to hear what’s going on the ground and how we can make things better and we strive for that.”

Concerns from audience members included a question about what the enforcement for trades would be now that the College of Trades has been eliminated and how to ensure students were being made aware of the trades as a potential future career. Some HHSS students were in attendance and one said she didn’t think much emphasis was put on the trades in school but rather in pursuing university education. Members of the Haliburton County Home Builders Association will attend an upcoming career fair at the high school and encouraged participating students to bring resumes.

Canadian Home Builders’ incoming president Stefanie Coleman and Ontario Home Builders’ director of policy Mike Collins-Williams also spoke at the meeting.