The Seeds of CECA

(l-r) Ron Battle and William C. Sturgeon chat during the first CECA convention;

Association’s early roots took hold to grow into a major industry organization.

In the early 1970s, it was becoming apparent that independent elevator contractors in Canada needed to speak with a unified voice. Difficulties with labor and government regulation were sowing confusion, especially in Quebec and Ontario. The language barrier between the country’s two largest provinces compounded these difficulties, taking precious time and resources from the business of bidding jobs and keeping up with maintenance schedules.

“The main issue was [with] the IUEC (International Union of Elevator Constructors),” said Bill Rogan, a past president of the Canadian Elevator Contractors Association (CECA) who is District Portfolio manager for Skyline Elevator, Inc. in London, Ontario. “The companies were not in favor of having seniority for their field employees, and the [union] field employees wanted to have seniority as a means to protect themselves.”

They knew organizing themselves was a necessity, but launching their organization was proving to be difficult. Still, there were enough contractors interested in finding solutions that the seeds for what would become CECA were planted. With the help of some knowledgeable friends — notably, ELEVATOR WORLD founder William C. Sturgeon — this nascent, somewhat informal group grew into the thriving, important industry organization we know today.

“The organization started casually between several independent contractors,” Rogan said. “They felt that the power of an association would give them some leverage in their discussions on labor negotiations and also dealing with general elevator issues with the government.”

CECA was incorporated on May 29, 1972, and, under the guidance of founding fathers Bernie Kelly, Ron Battle, Roger Leclerc and Louis Brochu, the groundwork was laid, and the organization became active in Quebec. The first annual convention was held March 6-8, 1975, at the Prince Hotel in Toronto. The event was marked by business meetings during the day and socializing in the evenings.

That first event was a watershed moment for CECA, and its importance continues to be recognized. An item in an association newsletter years later noted:

“At the first convention board meeting, there was a lot to discuss. Fortunately, we were able to rely on the expertise of current honorary member Bill Sturgeon.  Sturgeon stated, ‘Canada is big and has a very big future. Now is the chance to form something to last for many years and, in all likelihood, to outlive us all.’”

Rogan echoed the sentiment about Sturgeon, noting, “Bill Sturgeon was one of the key drivers, because he was involved. . . in the NAEC (National Association of Elevator Contractors) down in the U.S., and he was one of the leaders in putting all of the policies and procedures together back in those mid-1970s years. He had experience with NAEC, and he knew how associations ran and should be set up.”

While most of the labor difficulties were concentrated in Quebec and Ontario, contractors in other provinces were quick to join CECA during the early years, Rogan said, noting that issues that arise in the larger provinces usually filter “across the rest of Canada.” So, even if contractors in the other provinces weren’t facing the same issues, “they saw the potential of them and that’s why they were so quick to join CECA back in those formative years.”

Sturgeon, recounting that first convention in a column in EW, noted:

“Canada is a huge country, and when the 45 representatives of 30 contracting firms met in Toronto’s Prince Hotel a few weeks ago, many were getting acquainted with their counterparts for the first time. The convention chairman was Ron Battle of Western levator, Ltd., who arranged the convention in six short weeks. He had assembled Constitution and By Law documents from NEII and NAEC along with recommendations made three years ago for the reorganization of the latter. His first order of business was to review a history of association development in the U.S. saying, “We have no wish to copy; only to learn by the accomplishments and mistakes of others.” He then drew out of the assemblage expressions concerning their problems and what they expected from an association in the way of response.

“Considerable discussion was held the first day as to whether nonunion companies would be eligible and on what basis. The feasibility of becoming involved in labor negotiations was thoroughly explored, as was the fact that problems were quite different within each province.”

A bit of back-and-forth continued that day, but, as Sturgeon observed, things worked out:

“Out of the next day’s deliberations came a decision worthy of Solomon. The group elected a 13-man board that was to be ‘provisional’ for one year and had the task of ‘making CECA operational with all speed.’ Using the Letter of Patent of the latent Quebec Chapter, the board adopted a number of resolutions pertaining to a code of ethics, membership requirements and committee structure with the understanding that much of this would also be provisional pending the findings of a Study Committee that would spend the year determining what the final nature of the association should be. During this period, the executive committee would meet with the elevator manufacturers’ group to determine their problems and possible contributions to CECA: to determine if a total industry structure was feasible in the long term. As Battle put it, ‘Our immediate objective is to crystalize an organization of both union and nonunion elevator contractors that will enhance their interaction and educate their management and field men to the end that productivity and skill will be maximized and better service rendered to specifiers and buyers of elevator equipment, as well as to the general public. Our secondary aim is to investigate the possibilities of broadening the associations’ base through discussions with elevator manufacturers, suppliers, enforcing authorities and consultants in North America.’”

In words that would prove to be prophetic, Battle commented, “Canada is a big country with a big future; we must think in big terms as concerns the ultimate nature of our national elevator association. We are moving fast in limited areas but thoughtfully in our overall, long-term objectives.”

Those objectives, it would be decided, included:

  • Establish a code of ethical practices
  • Serve as a medium of communication with employees and the union
  • Be a source of education
  • Explore new areas to increase trade skill
  • Provide joint representation to the federal and provincial governments
  • Provide joint representation to inspecting and enforcing authorities
  • Police the industry
  • Promote safety standards
  • Represent the industry to the public
  • Represent to code authorities Today, Rogan said,

CECA isn’t so much directly involved in union negotiations. Labor contracts come up every three years, and the IUEC usually negotiates with the “big four” OEMs. Those negotiations set the union contracts for all the companies.
CECA does, however, continue to be a voice for companies as they deal with government regulations — at the provincial, as well as the national level. A prime example, of course, is Ontario’s Reliable Elevators Act of 2017, a recently enacted law that, among other things, makes elevator maintenance contracts subject to the Consumer Protection Act of 2002. It also mandates that an elevator that breaks down must be repaired within 14 days — seven days for long-term care homes and retirement homes. Recent elections in Ontario could affect the new law, Rogan said, so what it will mean for the industry is yet to be seen. “We are not sure if this will eventually have a positive or negative impact on our industry,” he said. Rogan concluded:

“The best thing about CECA — Canada is a pretty large country, obviously, and our population is only one-tenth of the U.S., so what CECA does is bring elevator industrial expertise to the table where smaller companies that are spread across Canada can really learn and enhance their business, whether it’s dealing with government regulations [or] even technical problems. All kinds of elevator-industry issues can be helped by being a member of CECA, and it’s more for the advancement of companies — especially independent companies that obviously don’t have the resources of the major four companies. Some companies only have several members in them, and they can use all of the help and guidance they can get as they develop their businesses. So, I think that’s the primary thing that CECA brings forward.”

CECA Presidents Through the Years

♦ Bernie Kelly (1972-1975)
♦ Ron Battle (1975-1977)
♦ Dermott Camack (1978-1979)
♦ Roger Leclerc (1980-81)
♦ Bill Pace (1982-1983)
♦ Henry Render (1984-1985)
♦ Jim Nairn (1986-1987)
♦ Gerry Brown (1988-1989)
♦ André Bélanger (1990-1991)
♦ Ernie Plimley (1992-1993)
♦ Bill Rogan (1994-1997)
♦ Kenneth Andersen
♦ Walter Guderian (1999-2001)
♦ Vlad Zachata (2001-2003)
♦ Luc Marion (2003-2005)
♦ Jim Piquet (2005-2007)
♦ Allan Hopkirk (2007-2009)
♦ Joe Kerr (2009-2011)
♦ Ryan Wilson (2011-2013)
♦ Barry Piquet (2013-2015)
♦ Brian Elliot (2015-2017)
♦ Pedro Oughourlian
Special thanks to CECA Executive Director Catharine Bothwell for her assistance with this article.
Related Tags

Elevator World Associate Editor

Elevator World | August 2018 Cover



Elevator World | August 2018 Cover