By Adam Brazeau
SOUTH GLENGARRY – Local MPPs demanded action on cross-province work regulations or Quebec trucking companies and trades-workers could face a closed border when attempting to work in the region.
At the border marker of South Glengarry on Highway 2, local contractors and Greater Ottawa Truckers’ Association members joined S,D&G MPP Jim McDonell and Carleton-Mississippi Mills MPP Jack MacLaren to discuss Bill 80, Fairness is a Two-Way Street Act.
MacLaren’s proposed bill calls to restrict Quebec-based contractors and workers from bidding on and signing private and public contracts for work unless they are registered with the Director of Jobs Protection Office. Quebec workers would have to provide financial statements, pay set fees and security bonds; charges and paperwork they currently go unburdened by.
“This is not about closing the border, it’s about opening the border both ways,” said McDonell. “We have people looking for jobs in Ontario and we’re being flooded by people out of Quebec that don’t have the same regulations and costs– people are getting fed up.”
McDonell said many Ontario contractors are unable to work in Quebec.
“There’s a very distinct border, but it’s a one-way border,” said South Glengarry Mayor Ian McLeod, who rallied with the MPPs. “It should be open so our workers can go both ways and at the same level of expectations.”
MacLaren said Ontario construction companies face mountains of red tape, permits, fees and harassment from enforcers that effectively make it impossible for them to work in the neighbouring province.
“We do not have free movement of labour and construction companies across the border to Quebec and back into Ontario,” MacLaren. “That’s not fair and we’re going to stop that.”
MacLaren’s bill is scheduled for a second hearing at Queen’s Park on Sept. 12. The Carleton-Mississippi Mills MPP is confident it will pass. He coined the Fairness is a Two-Way Street Act as “a big stick to tap Quebec on the shoulder.”
The Greater Ottawa Truckers’ Association (GOTA) general manager Ron Barr joined the demonstration to speak up for truckers and trades workers. He recognized that many of the GOTA members, including Cornwall and Glengarry workers, know they’re not welcome just inches beyond the point they demonstrated at.
“Many of our members have stopped trying to penetrate the Quebec market,” said Barr. “We’re getting a tremendous amount of influx from Quebec workers being able to compete on an unleveled playing field.”
Barr sent a message to Ontario politicians. He warned if they don’t vote to support Bill 80, he has 1,600 GOTA transport trucks that will be used as billboards to expose their lack of support for local workers to their constituency.
“We go over there. We’re compliant. We get stopped. They go over here, they’re not even checked,” said Barr.
Cruickshank Construction operations manager, out of Green Valley, Ontario JP Charbonneau, 43, said it’s not fair. He stood with other GOTA members and local contractors who were fed up with the hypocrisy they face in Quebec.
“We should be able to work across the border,” said Charbonneau. “It’s not about stopping a Quebec firm from working here, it’s about opening the border.”