Ode to the Ontario College of Trades

Ode to the Ontario College of Trades
Defining a service technician’s role is becoming increasingly difficult. (Photo: Huw Evans)

Life was simpler before the bureaucrats got involved.

When I started my radio show, Dave’s Corner Garage, the concept was that we would become a voice for our industry, and a place where the automotive industry could tell its story, talk about issues and, of course, advise the public. Included in that plan was the hope that we could soften the image of a repair industry that was given a black eye by the rise of consumerism.

Roughly around the same time the government, in its wisdom, started to think about stepping in to clean up the trades, the Ontario College of Trades (OTC) was born in 2009. Quite frankly, I believe the College was set up more as a retirement venue for old politicians rather than for servicing the trades.

It’s really a shame, as there was so much potential with this organization. Why do I feel ripped off? More to the point, I received a note the other day from Rick over at Rickey’s Rachets. Rick runs this shop in the London, Ontario area and he asked about current legislation and the issues with the kinds of repairs a licensed tech can perform.

Mechanic vs. bodyman

As an example, Rick asked about a vehicle undergoing a safety inspection. When does a mechanic stop being a mechanic and start being a bodyman? What are the limits imposed by an “S” certificate? Is it legal for a tech to weld in a new floor, or should that job be sent down the street?

The reality is, I never thought about it. Throughout my career we did everything. Cars were simpler, and when you think about it, so was life. The tech did it all.

Unfortunately, that’s no longer acceptable. Cars are more complicated. Specialized repair techniques are needed. Aluminum and carbon fibre components, hidden components, electronics, you name it, the vehicle has it. Being a bodyman is now a highly specialized field.

Job definition

According to the Ontario College of Trades, “an Automotive Service Technician performs preventative maintenance, diagnoses problems and repairs vehicle systems in cars and light trucks. Specifically, an Automotive Service Technician diagnoses and repairs: engines, transmissions, clutches, rear ends, differentials, brakes, drive shafts, axles and other assemblies,” amongst other things.

On the other hand, “an Auto Body and Collision Damage Repairer repairs and/or replaces frame and structural components, mechanical components, interior, electrical components, plastic and composite panels and sheet metal panels. Specifically, an Auto Body and Collision Damage Repairer: repairs, reshapes, and refits body panels; welds breaks in body panels; removes or replaces electrical, electronic components; repairs, removes or replaces wiring harnesses, air conditioning systems and mechanical components; straightens and aligns frames and unibody assemblies; removes, replaces, or adjusts steering and suspension components; aligns wheels.”

Liability

We need clarification. Why? Liability! Part of the new act is “protecting the public interest through investigation and discipline mechanisms.” So when the you-know-what hits the fan, the government may not be your best friend.

When things were simple, the liability question was never a major concern. However, in today’s environment of social media, liability is a real issue.

The rumour is, shops are now dealing with insurance companies that are not willing to write garage policies, considering that shops should be carrying four to five million dollars of coverage.

On November 21, 2018, the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 47, “Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018.” And in June 2019, it was announced the OTC would be wound down and replaced by a new Ministry led delivery model. Maybe with the new wind blowing through Queens Park, there might be some answers and some help!

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