Canadian Contractor

Steve Payne   

Ontario College of Trades compulsory trades fees announced: Opponents respond

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The Ontario Construction Employers Coalition, which is leading a grassroots campaign against the College, says the fledgling governing body is nothing but a way to "tax" the province's tradespeople.

The Ontario College of Trades – a new “regulatory body” for the province’s tradespeople that will teach no courses and train no workers – has announced the membership fees that it will begin collecting in April 2013. Apprentices will have to pay $60 to the College, journeypersons and employers, $120. These fees will be levied on top of any existing licensing or Certificate of Qualification fees that Ontario tradespeople already have to pay.

In the home improvement industry, four trades are “compulsory” (i.e., these trades “must” pay, with as yet unknown consequences if they don’t): electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers and air conditioning/refrigeration mechanics. Carpenters are not yet “compulsory.” Nor yet are any other homebuilding trades beyond the four mentioned. But opponents of the College are warning that, in the years ahead (or earlier) the College is almost certainly going to take over more and more trades of the 157 that it is monitoring, representing 500,000 Ontario workers. The vast majority of whom already pay licensing fees to other regulatory bodies that will continue to exist.

Most of the anti-College publicity so far has been driven by the Coalition of Ontario Construction Employers, which says it represents over 100,000 Ontario tradespeople and employers.  In a press release, it says new fees announced last week “by the McGuinty government’s newest bureaucracy amounts to a major tax hit on both tradespeople and consumers.” The Coalition says the fees will drive up a host of consumer service costs, from a hair cut to hiring a plumber, electrician and auto mechanic.

“There’s no question this new McGuinty government bureaucracy is as secretive, disorganized and undemocratic as ever,” said Sean Reid, Chair of the Coalition. “They’ve been stalling for months now on this multi-million dollar tax grab that slams tradespeople and consumers, and yet they still haven’t bothered to explain what tradespeople will get in return. That’s because there is no benefit. It is money for nothing.”

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“The reality is that it will cost tradespeople more to do their jobs, employers more to create jobs, and consumers more for a range of services. And the money is all going to support another layer of government bureaucracy that no one needs or wants,” he says.

The Ontario College of Trades, for its part, says that the fees it is levying are good value for the affected trades, since one of the College’s functions will be to provide a way for the public to know if a trade they have hired to work on their homes is “in good standing.”

In addition, the College has said that it will play a major role in attracting young people into the skilled trades at a time when so many skilled workers are retiring. But the College has not announced any details on how it will actually do this nor what that would cost.

The College has a head office on Bay Street in downtown Toronto. Currently about 60 workers are employed there. Bob Guthrie, the College’s registrar, has told Canadian Contractor that this number may triple as the college gets up to speed. The College’s budget is about $22-million for 2013, provincially funded. That burden will soon pass to the tradespeople of the province.

 

 

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