October 15, 2009
By Kristen McIntyre CHT
Project and event coordinator

As an association, LO takes great pride in our members and the work that they do. I beam with pride whenever asked about our Awards of Excellence winners, such as when an anxious reporter calls to request a photograph or two for publication or broadcast.

We display examples of our members’ great work wherever possible, whether it is on a poster or marketing piece at a trade show, a larger-than-life image at a consumer festival like Canada Blooms, or the pages of this very magazine. To put it simply, our members are professionals who do excellent work, and set the standard for the rest of the industry.

Having said all of that, unfortunately we do receive complaints from consumers and the trade alike, which often takes the wind out of everyone’s sails.

As a trade association, Landscape Ontario’s function is to improve and advance the industry as a whole. We do not have formal authority to deal with consumer complaints. Complaint issues are very complex. Subjectivity, miscommunication, differing perspectives on quality of work, personality conflicts, no access to contract documents, lack of job-specific information, pending lawsuits between parties and potential legal exposure all make it very difficult for the association to become involved. In addition, we have no participation in the members’ day-to-day operations. Our only authority is the power to revoke membership.

Official complaint process

Landscape Ontario has an official complaint process. It is meant to be a catalyst to stimulate mutual understanding and benefit for all involved. Within the process, we hope to facilitate communication and encourage both parties to engage in a respectful dialogue that will lead to an amicable resolution.

Complaints are only accepted in writing. We then forward the correspondence to the member, while encouraging both parties to resolve the matter. All responses are shared with appropriate stakeholders, and if disputes cannot be resolved, all correspondence is kept on file. Three unresolved disputes in a year will trigger a membership review. We cannot become involved with pricing disputes, nor complaints that are already within the legal system. Our involvement is offered solely as a public courtesy.

Communication is both the usual cause of conflict and the prime tool for addressing and managing a dispute. Sometimes it’s not whether you win or lose an argument, but how you conduct yourself during the argument, that dictates the outcome. We encourage all of our members to keep the lines of communication open and make every effort to resolve issues with their customers, before they require our involvement.
All Landscape Ontario members are encouraged and expected to adhere to our Statement of Conduct, Principles and Ethics. The statement outlines the most important principles of ethical and professional conduct. For the entire Statement, go to

Please look for our upcoming annual winter seminar brochure that outlines educational opportunities related to better communication and conflict management.

Kristen McIntyre may be contacted at kristenm@landscapeontario.com.