Summer 2018 – Article – Stakeholder Profile: Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario

Photo Credit: Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario


The electrical construction trade in Ontario represents a significant share of the province’s construction industry.  Of all the electrical contractors/owners in the province, an estimated 500 in the industrial, commercial and institutional construction sector have a contractual relationship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).  These contractors/owners belong to the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO), whose aim is to represent their needs and interests within the electrical contracting industry.

The ECAO was formed in 1948.  Today, it includes a total of 11 Electrical Contractor Associations [ECA’s] throughout the province, which are made up of the approximately 500 contractor/owners. Collectively, these members employ more than 17,000 electricians – from pre-apprentices to veteran journeymen.

With such a large unionized sector, it is important to keep members up to date with industry news and trends, as well as be able to advocate on their behalf.  The ECAO supports its members by engaging in industry, government and labour relations, as well as public relations.  This includes membership in numerous organizations including the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA), the Provincial Advisory Committee for Construction and Maintenance Electricians and the Electrical Contractor Registration Agency (ECRA).  A prime example of government relations is a lobbying initiative undertaken by the ECAO in partnership with other influential industry organizations including Prompt Payment Ontario, which led to the provincial (and federal government) introducing and enacting prompt payment legislation earlier this year.

The legislation introduces not only a prompt payment system, it modernizes construction lien and holdback rules and creates a new process to speed up dispute resolution – issues that have plagued the electrical contracting industry and construction in general.

In an effort to stay current with industry guidelines and best practices, ECAO is a member in organizations such as the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association (CECA), the Ontario Joint Standards Practices Committee and the Construction Bid Depositor of Ontario.

However when it comes to labour relations, all matters are the responsibility of the Electrical Trade Bargaining Agency (ETBA) – the designated employer representative for labour negotiations with the IBEW.  The ETBA includes representation from the ECAO Line Contractors Committee, the Communications Committee and representatives from each of the province’s 11 area ECAs.

Six months ago, Graeme Aitken took over the helm of the ECAO as its new Executive Director. Previously, Aitken worked at EPTCN Limited – a high voltage electrical contractor in Cambridge, Ontario where he was responsible for labour relations, contracts and indigenous affairs.  In addition, Graeme has served in numerous roles including as a member on the Board of Directors and as President of the Electrical Contractors Association of Central Ontario (ECACO), served on several committees with the Electrical Power Systems Construction Association (EPSCA) and an alternate to the Electrical Trade Bargaining Agency (ETBA).  He is currently the Chair of the Canadian Spinal Research Organization.

Since being hired, Aitken has busied himself growing and enhancing the organization’s profile which he describes as a “building a community”.  However his previous experience will help as the ECAO addresses an industry-wide challenge – that of a retiring workforce.  BuildForce says an estimated 87,300 workers in the construction trades in Ontario will retire over the coming decade – nearly 20 percent of the overall construction workforce*.

One of the ways the ECAO introduces more young people to the electrical trade is through its Scholarship Award Program.  Established in 2004, the Program recognizes the importance of education and the need to have post-secondary graduates enter the construction industry.  Each year, the Program provides financial support to a number of deserving children or wards of salaried personnel of ECAO members so that they may attend a recognized post-secondary institution and achieve a high level of academic achievement.

As Aitken continues to grow into his new role, he is excited about what he describes as the commitment, wisdom and professionalism of the ECAO members, affiliate partners and industry associates.  In the Q2 edition of The Ontario Electrical Contractor magazine, Aitken writes there is without a doubt, a shared desire for and willingness to work to realize a more prominent place for ECAO and its members within the construction industry.

* BuildForce Canada – Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward (Ontario) 2018-2027 Report





Fred Lehmann
Communications Coordinator,

Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS)
180 Attwell Drive, Suite 360, Toronto, ON M9W 6A9
P 416.620.5210 ext. 222
F 416.620.5310