Yukon fails to track qualified oil furnace mechanics

The furor over the unregulated state of the territory’s oil-burner furnace industry raises one obvious question: just how many of the Yukon’s mechanics are nationally-certified?

The furor over the unregulated state of the territory’s oil-burner furnace industry raises one obvious question: just how many of the Yukon’s mechanics are nationally-certified to service oil-burning furnaces?

No government agency seems to know.

The Yukon Housing Corporation doesn’t track those numbers. Neither does Yukon College. Nor the Department of Education. Nor the Department of Community Services.

That means it’s hard to assess whether the territory’s efforts to boost the number of qualified oil-burner mechanics has made any headway.

In 2009 and 2010, the college offered a pilot program, which aimed to produce oil-burner technicians. The program produced 10 graduates.

Of those, six went on to complete apprenticeships and pass their nationally-recognized exam to become journeyman mechanics.

Over the past five years, the Yukon’s Department of Education issued 10 such red-seal certificates for oil-burner mechanics. But that doesn’t capture the whole picture, because, like in any trade, workers come and go from the territory.

In 2008, fewer than five per cent of the Yukon’s oil-burner mechanics were estimated to be certified, according to a report commissioned by the Yukon Housing Corporation. The same report found most oil-burning furnaces were installed incorrectly.

Following the deaths of five Porter Creek residents in late January, from what’s believed to be carbon monoxide poisoning, the NDP opposition is calling on the government to create minimum standards for oil-burner mechanics.

That’s the same conclusion Rod Corea, of NRG Resources, came to in three reports he produced for the territory between 2007 and 2010 about the state of the territory’s residential oil furnaces.

“Some, if not all” provinces regulate the oil-burner mechanic trade, said Martin Luymes, vice president of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada.

“And if they don’t, it’s probably an oversight,” he said.

“My understanding was that it was mandatory everywhere. To me, it’s astonishing they wouldn’t.”

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com