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Forty-year flashback: Ontario drainage contractors licenced


May 31, 2013
By administrator

May 31, 2013 – Drainage Contractor magazine is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2013, and to celebrate, we’re taking a look back at what made the headlines 40 years ago with Forty-year flashback, a series of articles from the magazine’s first few editions.

The first edition of Drainage Contractor magazine was published in Fall 1973 – a time when tile drainage was taking off, especially after licensing regulations came into place. The following article details the licencing process for Ontario drainage contractors. 


On April 2, 1973, tile drainage installation moved a big step closer to becoming a professional, highly regulated business.

The Agricultural Tile Drainage Installation Act, 1972, states that licences are required to install drainage work or operate a machine used in installation. The Act is administered by the Director of the Agricultural and Horticultural Societies Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Parliament Buildings, Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A9.

The legislation was developed on the initiative of the Ontario Farm Drainage Association; the association’s secretary, Bill Amos, says, “There were isolated instances of workmanship which was below par.

“Earlier, we found it was unsatisfactory for members to endeavour to enforce standards; we would become subject to law suits, without accomplishing our objectives.

“With the big increase in drainage work, there had been an influx of unqualified contractors. The Act provides protection for farmers and will benefit the entire industry.

While Ontario is the only province which requires contractor licensing, the Act does not break entirely new ground. In 1919 the Ontario Government announced a program of certifying operators of drainage equipment. Subsequently, some 30 certificates were issued before certification scheme lapsed in 1931.

The current legislation is sprinkled with words like “inspector,” “licencing,” “”review board,” “offense” and “summary conviction.” But for all that, it is not a restrictive piece of legislation.

Any contractor now in business is given an opportunity to complete a series of three licence applications. These are for a licence to install drainage works, licence for the machine or machines to used and a licence for each operator.

The licence fee for an operator is $5; contractors licences range from $35 for annual installations of not more than 300,000 feet and $50 for installations in excess of that amount. Most machine licences are $100. Fees of $5 are charged for operators’ examinations or for changes in licences or operators’ categories.

There are three categories for operators. Class A rating is for people with practical experience and appropriate education who exhibit competence. Class B operators have less rigorous qualifications, while the Class C operators are trainees.

Licences can be refused on several grounds, including lack of competence, the applicant’s record of performance or a lack of satisfactory equipment.

The director has sweeping powers to refuse renewal of licences or revoke existing licences. The Act gives the minister authority to appoint one or more inspectors; contravention of provisions of either the Act or the Regulations on the Act could lead to fines of $25 for first offences and up to $100 for subsequent offences.

So far, anyone who applied for a licence received one, one inspector has been appointed and no charges have been laid. This moderate approach appears to have been taken to give the industry an opportunity to police itself. However, the system of licencing and the incentive for operators to acquire an A or B licence, in preference to a C licence, should upgrade expertise.

If Ontario farmers suspect that they have received substandard drainage work, a mechanism now exists for object investigation by an independent third party, backed by the authority of the provincial government.


Curious about today’s licensing regulations in Ontario? Here‘s a current agricultural drainage licensing fact sheet.

This article was originally published in the Fall 1973 issue of Drainage Contractor magazine. Watch for more 40th anniversary celebrations in the coming weeks and months, on www.drainagecontractor.com, in our monthly e-newsletters and in the Fall 2013 issue. 

Do you have memories to contribute to Drainage Contractor in celebration of its 40th anniversary? E-mail scroley@annexweb.com 


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