Canadian Contractor

Just… wow. Check out this incredibly misleading video from the Ontario College of Trades

Steve Payne   

Videos Permits & Legal

The Ontario College of Trades' (OCOT) latest video makes some extremely dubious claims about how this new bureaucracy is helping to "protect" the public from tradespeople without OCOT credentials. Maybe someone should call in famed consumer advocate Peter Silverman to investigate. Oh, wait a minute, he's already on the case... for the College.

I’m not sure what to say about this, except… WOW.

In this video, produced by the Ontario College of Trades and linked into their latest newsletter, well-known consumer advocate Peter Silverman, among other interviewees, warns the public about unscrupulous tradespeople and how important it is to check any trades person’s credentials before you hire them. And the best way to do that, the video implies, is to go online if see if any particular trades person is a member of the College.

How does the Ontario College of Trades get the cojones to make such claims? If a private sector organization made such plainly false statements about what their products can actually do, without any evidence to back up their claims, they might find themselves in some serious trouble. But the Ontario College of Trades will probably face NO repercussions for this highly misleading video. It’s above all that.

It would take me a while to list all of the misleading statements about the Ontario College of Trades and what it really does in this video. But let’s just start with the headline to this video: “Are You Protected?”

You have got to be kidding me.

What kind of “Protection” (though I’m really tempted to add the word “Racket” to that phrase) is the OCOT really offering to the public? Virtually no protection whatsoever, because the College cannot guarantee, indeed has no mandate or mechanisms, to ensure that a trades person is competent. The OCOT is not in the business of inspecting a contractor’s work. The OCOT teaches no courses and conducts no examinations.

What the College excels at, however, is asking you to pay them: $130 annually for trades already-licensed-by-other-bodies, half for apprentices.If it gets these surcharges to what you already paid another organization, OCOT will put your name on their “Public Register” (sounds so legitimate, doesn’t it?). And they will put “Active” or “Expired” next to your name, depending on (1) Whether you’ve paid and (2) Whether you owe them the current year’s payment. And they will put various other ominous comments next to your name if they have decided to discipline you for some reason. This is a paper thin, almost non-existent guarantee of “Protection” for the public as far as the likely quality of your work. But this video will lead you, and the public to believe otherwise. Watch it and see. It’s a disgrace.

That’s bad enough. But the most disturbing aspect of this video is the cheap and nasty way the OCOT tries to cover its butt at the end of the video, by quickly scrolling, down the screen, a listing of the 22 “Compulsory Trades” that are required to join OCOT. Talk about an afterthought. In my opinion, a very calculated afterthought.

Because the fact is, the majority of tradespeople and contractors in the home renovation and homebuilding industry are not required, by law, to join the Ontario College of Trades. But that’s OK for the OCOT because (how wonderful for their revenues) you can always join as a Voluntary member. And if you decline to do so, you can expect to be maligned by further fear-mongering efforts like this. Until you pay up and get your name added to their holy list. Or off the virtual blacklist that your absence implies, in other words.

And so, this video will undoubtedly cost some contractor the next job they try to pitch to a homeowner. Not because they are an illegal operator, but simply because they may not have registered with the Ontario College off Trades because they are not required to do so. Where is a clear and unambiguous disclaimer to that fact, in this video? That little scroll of the Compulsory Trades? That’s utterly unacceptable. Very few members of the public are going to closely examine that list. Not when they’ve already had the fear of God put into them by the two minutes of paranoia-inducing hysteria beforehand.

And even when it comes to the 22 Compulsory Trades, the video is equally outrageous. In the video, the OCOT’s compliance boss, Bob Onyschuk, tells a story about something like water being substituted for brake fluid by some shady mechanics. Are we really to believe that only the founding of the OCOT, three years ago, has finally stopped unlicensed mechanics across the province from using water in place of brake fluid? Seriously?

Again, this is just offensive.

This video doesn’t just insult tradespeople, it outright lies to the people of Ontario about the degree of “protection” it offers consumers (which is effectively zero) and it carelessly (and I would say knowingly) defames tens of thousands of honest, professional tradespeople.

I wonder when someone is going to report this false advertising by the Ontario College of Trades to one of the other regulatory bodies in Ontario and Canada that really DO protect the consumer? Or how about the Advertising Standards Council?

OCOT: Shame on you.