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The Arthur Meighen Institute for Public Affairs is an independent conservative think-tank dedicated to the advancement of freedom and prosperity at home and abroad through the development and promotion of good public policy.

Challenging the progressive orthodoxy

For too long, public policy discussion in Canada - at all levels of government - has been little more than a monologue; an argument over the details of a default progressive agenda rather than a debate over the merits of the agenda itself. This has led to a one-dimensional approach to policy-making where variations of the same ideas are applied to complex issues time after time with the same mediocre results.

We at the Meighen Institute believe that democracy is meaningless in the absence of competing ideas. Our goal is to challenge the progressive orthodoxy, replacing the monologue with dialogue and presenting Canadians and their leaders with sensible policy alternative.

What we do:

  • Advance the principles (see below) that form the foundation of a free, democratic and prosperous society.
  • Encourage sensible public laws, policies and practices in Canada that reflect and respect those principles.
  • Provide Canadians with the knowledge, skills and support necessary to effectively promote these goals.

Our guiding principles:

  • Limited, constitutional government.
  • Free markets, free enterprise, private property.
  • A justice system that holds everyone equally accountable, that punishes criminal offenders and that protects the law-abiding.
  • A foreign policy that advances and supports freedom and democracy around the world.
  • Responsible, fact-based stewardship of the environment.
  • Respect for the natural family as the essential building blocks of a free, prosperous and democratic society.
  • Respect for the intrinsic value of all human life, from conception to natural death.

How we do this:

  • Independent analysis of existing policy and legislation.
  • Development and promotion of policy alternatives and the ideas upon which these alternatives are based.
  • Education of policy-makers and the general public through publications, conferences, seminars and public lectures.

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Relevance of Apprenticeship Ratios in the Plumber Trade in Ontario

This paper by William R. Lorimer, Ph.D. discusses the impact of high journeyperson to apprentice  ratios on the plumbing industry in Ontario from both an economic and safety perspective.

Most jurisdictions in Canada and the United States have ratios determining how many journeypersons must be employed for every apprentice in certain trades. Prior to 2000, many of these jurisdictions had set these ratios at three journeypersons for every apprentice employed [4], with minor variations. Since 2000, however, there has been a relaxation of these ratios, especially in Canada where they have been reduced by provinces to 1:1 or even 1:2 (allowing 2 apprentices for every journeyperson) or even, in some cases, 1:3 (3 apprentices for every journeyperson, as long as one of the apprentices is in their final year). Ontario is the only province in Canada that still retains the 3:1 ratio for plumbers (National Occupational Classification (NOC) code 7251).

The rationale for maintaining this restrictive apprenticeship ratio is two-fold: First, it is contended that the higher ratio results in better workplace health and safety records; Second, it is contended that without a high mandated ratio, employers would prefer to hire apprentices rather than journeypersons due to the lower wages paid to apprentices resulting in reduced employment for journeypersons.

We examined available data and existing research to determine whether either or both of these claims can be substantiated. In neither case were we able to do so. We found no credible evidence in support of the claim that improved workplace health and safety records are positively correlated to higher ratios, nor were we able to uncover credible evidence that employment of journeypersons was negatively impacted by a reduction in mandated apprenticeship ratios. Furthermore, a survey of existing research indicates that higher, rigidly applied ratios discourage the hiring of apprentices, thereby contributing to a growing shortage in skilled tradespeople

If the objective of the is truly to promote safety in the workplace, they would be far better to insist on a 1:1 ratio with a single journeyperson being assigned to, and accountable for, each apprentice, rather than simply having several journeypersons on site, with no-one being held to account for the apprentice’s actions and safety.

The public policy implications of these findings are clear. There is no economic or safety based justification for retaining the current 3:1 journeyperson-apprentice ratio at a time when all other jurisdictions in Canada have abandoned or relaxed this ratio. As such, in the absence of other arguments that might be made, and that are outside the scope of this paper, we recommend that the practice of requiring a 3:1 ratio of journeyperson to apprentices be amended; at minimum, the ratio should be amended to allow a 1:1 ratio or lower across the board, if not abandoned entirely.


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