Canadian Contractor

Steve Payne   

Reader's Post of the Week: "I am willing to give it [Ontario College of Trades] a chance"

Canadian Contractor Insurance Professional

"At $120 per year, if a person works 2,000 hours, that works out to 6 cents per hour. That can't be the reason for not getting the job."

Editor’s note: We’ve had hundreds of posts on here about how the Ontario College of Trades is a bad thing: introducing a costly bureaucracy into an already regulated industry (residential construction) and squeezing yet more money out of the pockets of legitimate contractors.

But here is another point of view from Wendon Wattam, who put a lot of work into this post that appeared on our site a few days ago. Whether you agree with Wendon or not, it’s a thoughtful contribution and we thought it should be republished for a wider audience.

I don’t know if the [Ontario College of Trades] is going to be a good thing or not but I see the possibility that it could be. I am willing to give it a chance and see if it can make a difference. I have heard a lot of negative comments but I can see some possible benefits. Maybe the fact that we as trades people are not willing to fund a unified voice is one of the reasons that we have an underground economy. If $120 per year makes the difference as to whether you get the job then maybe one needs to look in other directions for the problem. At $120 per year, if a person works (for argument’s sake) 2,000 hours per year, that works out to $0.06 per hour. I don’t think 6 cents per hour is the reason for not getting the job. I know that it is one more thing like insurance, WSIB, etc. that we do pay that make the legit contractors more expensive, but it is not the main reason. Although it does seem like the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

I have heard the fee branded as a tax; I choose to see it as a ‘professional fee.’ Other sectors such as lawyers, doctors, and nurses have had their own colleges for years. They are required to pay their professional fees to continue in their chosen profession. I cannot hire a lawyer or a doctor that does not belong to their respective colleges. There may be some that operate outside the legal frame work but they cannot command the same wage and there does not seem to be an underground economy to any extent in those professions. I am not saying that there are no quacks but for the most part when you hire a lawyer you know what you are getting as they are registered with the college. I know that our industry won’t change overnight but if we approach this as professionals and possibly give it a chance this could make a future impact on our trades. The last information that I have is that most professions that have colleges are making a lot more per hour than we are.

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Another aspect that I think may apply here is an experience I had in my former profession as a dairy farmer. The farm community was poorly heard by the government. When the farm community did not support their organizations with fees, they did not have the funds to properly present their needs and requirements to the government. Also, when the government is presented with multiple voices asking for different things they can do two things. One is nothing, as they will say the industry does not know what it wants and that is a good excuse to do nothing; or because there are so many different lobby groups they have the option of doing what they want. When an industry or profession can have their own organization present ideas with a unified voice and direction then governments take more notice and things are more likely to get done. A mandatory yearly fee to one of the three farm lobby groups was passed into legislation many years ago. There were provisions to have that refunded at that time, whether that is still in place I do not know, but you had to pay the fee to receive a farm registration number which entitled you to some tax breaks and programs.

Another experience that I had with the introduction of colleges was when my wife’s chosen profession of Medical Lab Technologist became their own college about 23 years ago. The fees also went up but as they were now self-governing they started requiring yearly and ongoing training. I would suggest that this might be a good thing for our trades professions and could raise the professionalism status of our professions in the eyes of the public. Maybe WHIMIS, fall protection and other courses would count in our training requirements – it would at least show that we take skills updating seriously. Also the free training given by companyies and suppliers might become more than just sales pitches as they would need to meet certain standards as set by the college to qualify as training. This may or may not happen but it is a possibility.

One example of a unified voice is in the area of apprenticeship ratios. Because different parts of the trades have been calling for different things, the government has been able to sidestep the issue for to long. If we in our respective trades can hammer out what we want and go to the government it is going to be a lot more difficult for them to let the status quo remain.

I know that these are just some comments but we cannot just write off what could become a positive and powerful tool for improving our professions and the monetary rewards associated with working in the trades.

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