Canadian Contractor

Steve Payne   

"The Ontario College of Trades is a trojan horse": Doug Leitch, Ontario Contractor and Small Business Association

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OCOT is a destructive, government-imposed program that masquerades as a benign application, yet hides potentially dangerous predators, says Doug Leitch.

The following Letter to the Editor comes to us from Doug Leitch, who earlier this year established the Ontario Contractor and Small Business Association (OCSBA). Doug is based in Carleton Place, ON, and he’s an electrician by trade (Power Up Electrical).  As you can read here, Doug has done a lot of research into the structure, bylaws, appointments and general development of the newly-established Ontario College of Trades. He’s probably the only tradesperson in our industry who has delved this deeply into an organization that is mailing out $120 fees invoices to tens of thousands of tradespeople in the province, demanding they pay or say goodbye to the Certificate of Qualifications they already earned and paid for.

 

What is a Trojan Horse? A destructive program that masquerades as a benign application. The Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) is being masqueraded as the savior of our trades in Ontario, but beneath the well-spun anecdotes and marketing lies a destructive program that could do more harm than good.

[In passing the Ontario College of Trades Act that paved the way for this new organization], the Ontario Government propaganda has overtly tried to sell this as a new, modernized organization that will ensure “global competitiveness.” It is unclear, however, how additional layers of bureaucracy, interference and enforcement [in our industry] will ensure competitiveness.

The Ontario government is now in the business of establishing a membership organization.  The OCOT governing structure includes up to 98 appointed board members, enforcement officers, and a multitude of administrative staff. OCOT’s operating budget was not approved by the membership, its fees were not set by the membership, and not a single board member has been elected by the membership. It simply continues [the policy] of government appointments and skewed over-representation from special interest groups.

Once you penetrate the layers of governance at the OCOT, the persistent impression of union dominance is difficult to dismiss. All of the large Ontario unions are well represented in the OCOT governance structure and, viewing the list of for whom there is not mandatory membership, the web of union maneuvering appears to take shape. Goliath is being given a lot of influence against the small independent business. Though OCOT board representation is compensated by a nominal stipend and travel reimbursement, it appears Union members receive financial compensation above and beyond this, ensuring it is financially beneficial to be a representative. Compensation for non-union independent members would potentially not cover lost earnings, thus ensuring underrepresentation.

Unions are willing to pay to guarantee they retain the balance of power and control, masquerading as a fully representative governance structure with the advancement of policies favoring special interest groups. The OCOT puts forth comparisons to the College of Nurses and the College of Teachers, both organizations dominated by strong unions and comprised of members of a specific profession, another union connection by means of comparison. Lumping all tradespersons in one basket and saying we can successfully manage your best interests is narrow minded and ludicrous. Given the nature of their relationship, there are fundamental differences between the Union interests and the interests of non-union and Independent tradespersons, let alone amongst vastly different trades.

Though unions have provided influence in beneficial social programs in Canada one would be amiss to claim that unionization will ensure global competitiveness. Eastern Ontario tradespersons face stiff competition from Quebec tradespersons, who are exempt from OCOT membership or enforcement as well as other bureaucratic burdens and fees. Imposing another layer of fees and red tape will only serve to escalate their business costs and make them even less competitive. Imposing further regulation and fees will not make the Ontario economy more competitive, unnecessary bureaucratic burdens hurt the economy, increasing costs for taxpayers, customers and businesses. When businesses, big and small, are allowed to thrive naturally, the economy strengthens and we all benefit. Government interference rarely provides sustainable results and does more harm than good in relation to provincial or global competitiveness.

The OCOT claims a mandate to protect Ontario consumers.But the track record of government interference and scandals shows that this is rarely the end result. Are government officials tradespersons who have taken the time to fully understand the complexities of operating a business in rural and urban areas of the province? This “Big Brother” attitude is destructive to independent businesses and to the large entrepreneurial segment. Now “Big Brother” will have a detailed list of all mandatory tradespersons in the province, ensuring they are registered, licensed, paying their WSIB premiums and any future fees they want to impose at their discretion. Is the OCOT simply masquerading their true mandate with a claim that they are “protecting consumers,” or is it an issue of control under the pretext of public safety?

Stringent safety standards have been continuously implemented in Ontario for decades. Electrical tradespersons are governed by the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) which is much more adept and efficient at enforcing the intricate Electrical Code and permit inspections; they are experts in their trade evaluating experts in their trade. Building codes have been updated regularly to ensure high standards of safety and enforcement. Again, experts evaluating experts. Ministry of Labour officers regularly visit worksites to inspect certificate of qualifications and safe working conditions. Is public safety really the issue or a revenue generating cash cow strengthening the union power? I leave that question with you.

So do we have a Trojan horse? A destructive, government imposed program that masquerades as a benign application, yet hides potentially dangerous predators? The OCOT claims to protect the Ontario consumer, yet doesn’t directly claim to represent the best interest of all members. Below the surface, the OCOT lacks transparency and appears to be dominated by big union interests. Members have been given no power to elect their representative nor included in the establishment of fees or budgets. Mandatory membership excludes large unionized sectors of tradespersons such as all industrial certifications and concentrates on sectors with high concentrations of independent tradespersons. Voluntary tradespersons may be voluntary now but for how long? All tradespersons should be wary of the OCOT and who is actually driving the boat. A Trojan Horse has already been welcomed to our shores.

 

Doug Leitch

Ontario Contractor and Small Business Association (OCSBA)

Email: power_up@hotmail.ca

 

 

 

 

 

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