September 15, 2012
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

As a Landscape Ontario member, you are part of a community of like-minded individuals across Canada who care. You assume a leadership role in advancing the landscape/horticultural sector.  

Many members don’t realize that provincial membership automatically makes them part of the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA).  It’s a two-for-one deal! In the true spirit of teamwork, we leverage the collective energy of all the provinces in a grand effort to grow a prosperous, professional, ethical, valued and recognized green industry.    

I want to tell you a little about CNLA activities and how they relate to you. Ontario is very well represented on the CNLA board. The president is Bill Stensson, and first vice president is Rene Thiebaud. The human resources chair is Harold Deenen CLP and Ontario’s representative is Gerald Boot CLP. All four of these gentlemen sit on numerous committees and make enormous contributions of time and resources. They are tireless promoters of the industry.  
Here are some of the issues we are working on nationally:  

EI reform

The federal government is changing the rules with respect to EI. Please see
Many members are worried the proposed changes will discourage employees from working in the industry. We need to ensure the government realizes how valuable a contribution our sector makes to the Ontario economy.  

We are not opposed to EI reform. We are opposed to actions that will discourage employees from choosing our sector.  We are developing strategies for tackling this issue. These include:
  • Government advocacy and awareness in regards to the positive economic contribution seasonal workers make.    
  • Promotion of careers, Red Seal apprenticeship and certification, thereby raising the image of our sector.   
  • Encouraging members to “bank” hours. The truth is that many employees work 2,000 hours a year in an eight-month period.  This is full-time work
  • Develop strategies to deal with the core issue of seasonality.   For example, many members are involved in snow operations to ensure employees are paid year-round.  
  • Investigate models used by other seasonal sectors such as teachers and construction trades. Often these sectors use the off-season for on-going professional development.
  • Commission a study to understand the industry’s payment and use of EI.   
  • Assist members to improve recruitment and retention practices.

Pre-qualification/company accreditation

The idea is to develop a process to which members may aspire. The process will form the basis of pre-qualification, and thereby generate public and client trust in the professionalism and competency of the pre-qualified/accredited member.  

Tim Kearney put together a task force to examine this issue. It is now also a CNLA issue and we can share resources to develop an appropriate pre-qualification process.   

On the Job Training program (OJT)

Of the 70,000 employees in our sector, only a few hundred graduate out of horticulture schools. The majority are trained by employers on the job.

Imagine if all members used the universal, tried and tested OJT process (borrowed from the military) to improve skill, safety and professionalism of employees. We could accelerate the development of the industry, elevate our stature in the public eye and stimulate pride of performance.  

A side benefit would be an increase in profitability. For more information, see the article in the June issue of Landscape Trades. I believe it will be one of the most significant programs introduced to our sector.   

Investigate self-insurance model

The idea here is to pool the insurance premiums of the membership. Funds from this pool will be used to pay out claims and to purchase re-insurance in the case of a catastrophic event. At the end of the year, whatever is left in the pool becomes the property of the participants.  

Increase membership benefits

Currently there are many endorsed supplier programs. Participation in the benefit programs would easily pay for membership dues. In some cases such as vehicle purchases, savings are equal to many years of dues.

Programs added this year include a collection agency, pre-loaded cash cards, discounts at the CAT rental store and hotel lodging. If you can think of a product or service that would greatly increase the value of membership, please let me know.   

Time and space does not permit me to summarize the over 150 pages of information discussed at the CNLA meetings. Suffice it to say that the CNLA family of provincial associations and national staff shine in their commitment to advance the sector.  
Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at