You Bet Your Glass: Moribund Canadian Glass Association
Moribund Canadian Glass Association
By Monica Dick
The glass and contract glazing industry in Canada is a sizeable entity employing thousands and one would expect it to have a voice that represents our collective interests on a national basis. In the United States, the National Glass Association recently merged with the Glass Association of North America to create a formidable national presence. I hate to tell you that Canada’s national voice is today on life support.
The Canadian Glass Association is a wonderful concept. Founded by David Husson over 10 years ago, its purpose was to “represent and support the interests of the glass and related industries at the national level in matters of building codes, standards, legislation, and other industry related matters,” as well as to develop and promote glazing specifications and apprenticeship and other educational programs. The CGA is essentially an umbrella association made up of regional associations from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces. The provincial associations would continue to look after their local interests as usual and hold regular meetings together to address matters of national interest. Funding for the association was provided by a levy applied to the dues collected by the provincial associations and from putting on the Glass Connections seminars across the country.
The beginnings of the CGA were encouraging. In 2009, the Glazing Systems Specifications Manual for Ontario was completed and distributed widely by the OGMA and AGMCA in Ontario. A few years later a national version was produced, then squabbles about the ownership of the manuals arose and what began as a cooperative effort between the provincial associations devolved into a situation of mistrust.
Jim Brady with Cal-Tech Glass Services in Calgary served as president of the CGA from 2013 until earlier last year. He dedicated a mountain of time and energy into trying to keep the association channeling in the right direction but found the challenges to be a continuous uphill battle. “The intentions of the association are good and justifiable but getting the regions working together is often ‘tasking,’” he reports. The biggest problems we face are a lack of funding and people willing to volunteer their time to do the work and tackle the issues.”
In recent years, it has been a challenge just raising enough money to cover basic administrative costs. Creating and updating technical manuals, drafting and negotiating changes to codes, lobbying legislatures and developing training programs takes a lot of money.
Angelo Cairo, OGMA president and CGA treasurer, states, “The CGA is basically stepping back for the coming year to re-focus on a national approach and develop a viable mandate. Over the years we lost our direction and offered services that overlapped with the provincial associations, mostly due to having to raise funds to survive. On the other hand, some of those services are definitely needed in regions where there is not a strong local representation.”
If the CGA is to survive, Brady sees the need of hiring an administrative manager capable of tackling the association’s fundraising needs, doing the work and the organizing and freeing up the directors to focus on setting the direction towards code advocacy and education. He would still like to see the Glass Connections format continue as a networking forum.
Cairo thinks CGA’s focus should shift to apprenticeship training and perhaps getting glazing listed as a national compulsory certified program. However, Brady points out that this would be a daunting task given that the apprenticeship programs are run by the provinces and the hurdles in achieving compulsory certification are formidable and differ from province to province.
Notes Brady, “How does it make sense that a hair stylist must be certified but there is nothing stopping some fly-by-night operator from sending a guy up to the 30th floor of a building on a swing stage to cut out a four-sided structurally glazed unit with a new lite and a tube of Mono.” Without a viable association representing our interests, pushing for changes that make sense, our industry will be much worse off. I hope the CGA will be able to regroup. •