I just returned from Quebec City- one of the earliest settlements in Canada. It’s where the Mayflower first landed, visited a couple of pubs, and then upon discovering their error realizing that the local people spoke with a French Canadian accent, turned around and went back out to the Atlantic Ocean, took a right turn and sailed down to Plymouth Rock in New England. That’s why the Canadian Thanksgiving is a full month before the American one- it took the Mayflower that long to get to their American port… or, at least that’s my story. And Quebec City is well known for its taxi drivers who seem to violate several laws of physics if you tell them that you are late for your flight- not to mention several laws of the Highway Traffic Act. I suspect that I suffered some relativistic effects as the car approached the speed of light, and may have arrived before I left.
I gave a series of talks to a Quebec group of audiologists, as well as to some attendees of a meeting of the association of Quebec music educators. One of the talks I gave was about how we in the province of Ontario (where Toronto is the capital and the home of the 1992 and 1993 World Series Champion Blue Jays) developed our Performing Arts Guidelines for the Live Music Industry. Quebec has similar aspirations even if it no longer has a baseball team. But on the other side of the coin, while we have the last place Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal (in Quebec) has the amazing Canadien hockey team.
The Ontario guidelines were the first in the world when they were published in 1993. These were “merely” guidelines, but they served as a stepping stone for the updating of the Ontario noise regulation (Reg. 185). The updated Ontario Regulation was published in July 2011. There had been a previous regulation in Ontario, and in general it was correct in terms of the action points and requirements for hearing protection and engineering controls. The newer regulations were slightly different and, in my view, were altered, at least in part, because of the existence of the 1993 Guidelines for the Live Music Industry. This is a case where a guideline served to alter the sensibilities of the law makers. In the case of Ontario, it took almost 20 years, but we are getting somewhere.
I am sure that if we had lobbyists and perhaps some paid staff, instead of depending entirely on a group of well-meaning volunteers, this process could have been more expeditious. Ontario, along with British Columbia (on the west coast for those lovers of geography), are currently the only two Canadian provinces whose worker’s compensation boards cover high school music teachers and treat them as “workers” under the terms of the Health and Safety Act.
Well, back to Quebec… The Quebec group of audiologists, along with musicians and music educators. want to start a similar process and they wanted my advice. My only real credential is that it took my province almost 20 years to notice us, so I doubt that I’m the best person to advise them. I am also not sure if my experience in Ontario will be of any great assistance in Quebec.
In Canada, health care, education, and labour issues are all delivered provincially. This is in contrast to our American neighbors to the south (or to the north if you live in Windsor, Ontario, which is due south of Detroit). Each province has its own set of priorities and way of doing things. What has worked in one province may not even get you out of the starting gate in another.
One issue (and this is where the United Kingdom is much better) is that in many jurisdictions the ministry or department that handles labour issues is separate from those that handle the environment and health issues. The effects are due to environmental factors on a group of people that work in a labour-regulated space, and the result is in the domain of the health ministry or department. One issue is spread over (at least) three separate ministries or departments, each with its own hierarchy, administrators, and policy makers. It’s a wonder that anything really gets done in government.
In Ontario the Performing Arts Guidelines for the Live Performance Industry are under the auspices of the Ontario Ministry of Labour (we use the ‘ou’ up here in our spelling- it makes us look exotic). There is no inherent reason for this (both for the ‘ou’ and for it being in the Ministry of Labour), but it is nice that the Ministry of Labour also houses the Health and Safety Act, of which the noise regulation is a part. In Quebec or any other jurisdiction, other ministries or other departments may be the home of such a series of guidelines or regulation.
In 1993, Ontario had just elected a new left-leaning (New Democratic Party) government, which is currently Canada’s official opposition at the federal level. Perhaps when a new government takes the reins of power this is a good time to instill a new philosophy or approach. Quebec has just elected a new government so perhaps the time is ripe in La Belle Province.