By Simon Blake
The Canadian Oil Heat Association has scaled back its national organization and transferred the responsibility for day-to-day operations to its provincial chapters.
“The past several years have brought significant changes to the Canadian oil heat industry. At the same time, experience has shown that COHA members have different needs depending on the region of Canada in which they do business,” said national board chair Dave Brown (Western Petroleum, Cornerbrook, Nfld.) in a letter to members.
On Jan. 13 the COHA National Board voted to re-organize COHA along the following lines:
Provincial chapters will take on primary responsibility for collecting dues, administering and servicing their members, as well as leading training and other initiatives.
Current national COHA members – including manufacturers, distributors and oil companies –will be approached by provincial chapters for membership in the provinces where they are based.
Provincial chapters will be represented on the COHA National Board (typically by the provincial chair).
The National Board will administer COHA as an umbrella organization in order to provide leadership and direction on issues of national significance and to provide provincial chapters with a coordinated national voice.
The administrative cost of maintaining a national office will be greatly reduced.
Executive director Stephen Koch resigned in January. A national conference planned for June in London, Ont. has been cancelled. COHA national staff member Michelle Romanuk is now manager of the Ontario Chapter, based in Lindsay, Ont.
Boost for chapters
Ontario chapter chair Jim Wood (McKeown and Wood Fuels, Napanee, Ont.) expects the changes will reduce upward pressure on membership dues, free up more funds for provincial initiatives, offer more control over member recruitment and allow the chapter to provide training better suited to member needs. “I see a bit of a shift to encompass more than just what the oil burner technician does,” he added.
Members are urged to contact their provincial representatives with any questions. Currently, there are chapters in Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland.
“It’s not where we want it to be,” remarked Wood, adding that the changes had to be made due to the shrinking fuel oil market. “You’ve always got to try to grow the membership in whatever way you can. If you are sitting just on oil heat, I think the writing’s on the wall.”
The situation is not quite the same in the Atlantic provinces where oil heat is widely used. In much of the North too, beyond the natural gas distribution networks, buildings are typically either on oil or propane.
There are many details that still have to be worked out. “We’re committed to sharing information better between the chapters,” he added, something the national office took care of in the past.
There are a number of manufacturers and oil companies, particularly in Quebec, where there is no provincial chapter. The organization also has members in the West, many of them in B.C. and the Yukon. It’s not clear how these members will be accommodated. Wood noted that the provincial chapters must make a special effort to keep in touch with these people, who have been very supportive of COHA over the years.
Wood expects the national conference will be replaced by provincial conferences and training days. He added that it’s critical that the organization continues to provide networking opportunities for its members. “Those people that support us, like the manufacturers, are looking for that opportunity.”
He expects Ontario chapter events will increase attendance because a number of members are unwilling to travel out-of-province for events. “I think we’re all feeling a little disjointed (from the changes). I think once we get our team together in the province and start making some headway, it will come together. I think it will be better for the chapter and the people that support oil heat in Ontario.”