Canadian Contractor

Alec Caldwell on today’s Ontario election: Contractors need to vote!

"The Ontario College of Trades deserves to be called what it is: A union-controlled mob"

June 10, 2014
By Alec Caldwell
Alec Caldwell

Editor’s Note:  Alec Caldwell’s advice for renovators across Canada – on everything from safety rules and regulations, to taxes, insurance and staying out of trouble in general – has generated more comment on this site than any other contributor we have featured. He is the president and founder of the Canadian Association of Renovators and Home Services (CARAHS). Here, he gives his opinion on the Ontario election. Let Alec know what you think of his column.

If you’re an Ontario contractor, you might be asking yourself who you are going to vote for in today’s Ontario provincial election. PCs under Hudak? Liberals under Wynne? NDP under Horwath? Someone else?

Who cares, some may say. “They (politicians) always over-promise and under-deliver, so why bother to exercise our right to vote? Will our vote make any difference?”

Who can fault this thought process? Previous governments have come and gone in Ontario and left us with a huge provincial debt. Some of these governments have dismantled social safety nets for the most vulnerable. Corporate greed has played a role.

Well, not so fast, I say. If you know your history, you know there was a day when only men with money and property could vote and no women, regardless of their wealth, could vote at all.

In my native land, the UK, workers started to organize themselves at a workplace level in the early part of the last century. The workers, who played such a vital part in the once indomitable industrial strength of the land,  had no political rights. So they formed trade unions to get a voice and some basic rights.

Tomorrow, Ontario needs your voice. So vote! Other people fought for your right to vote, many decades ago.

It’s clear to me that voting for Wynne will bring disaster to the construction industry, especially in the home renovation market, as everyone doing carpentry or drywall will require to hold Certificates of Qualification in these fields, to qualify to join the Ontario College of Trades, if the OCOT’s plans to certify these trades comes into effect.

In my opinion, the Ontario College of Trades, with moves like this, deserves to be called what it is: a union-controlled mob.

Self-employed home renovators who learned their trades over years of self-practice, like Mike Holmes, who holds no C of Q, will suddenly become outsiders in the industry – basically forced into the underground. Everyone working without the necessary qualifications will become an illegal worker. Who came up with this insane policy? The bureaucrats at the Ontario College of Trades, urged on by the unions, given legal powers (The Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeships Act) by the Dalton McGuinty Liberals, way back in 2008.

Now, the Ontario College of Trades enforcement officers, as we have reported, seem to believe that hanging out at Tim Hortons, asking to see credentials, is appropriate behaviour.

If you need a reason to vote, maybe this is the reason. Especially if you or a family member presently works in construction in Ontario and they depend on their job to feed their family. If this is this not good enough reason to vote, what is?

CARAHS was founded as a non profit association to advocate and mentor independent self employed renovators and home services (Canadian Association of Renovators and Home Services)  

Toll free 1 866 366 2930 

CARAHS has over 130 online Health & Safety e-courses



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11 Comments » for Alec Caldwell on today’s Ontario election: Contractors need to vote!
  1. Joe says:

    Alec, with all due respect…….but come on now……..”disaster in the home construction industry” & “union controlled mob”, all a result of OCOT.
    I have been following your comments for while & can’t shake the impression that you just don’t get it. I am in the HVAC/R trade (ICI sector, no homes) & have been a contractor (employer) for 30 years. 25 of these years as non-union, the last 5 as a union contractor (UA Local 787). My employees did not take my company into the union, I did it. Do you know why…. .because there is a shortage of qualified & effective journeyman available in the non-union sector. Do you know why…….because although we are a certified & compulsory trade, due to a lack of enforcement, things have been allowed to go sideways. Why serve a 5 year apprenticeship when anyone can go to a variety of “teach the answers to exam” schools & for a substantial fee & some doctored paperwork, you are done in a few weeks. Alternatively, just get a G2 license & no one will ask for your C of Q. This is rampant in our industry & we are all hoping OCOT can improve the present situation. The government boogieman has little to do with the direction trades take. There is a long standing reasonably democratic process utilizing a PAC (Provincial Advisory Committee) composed of experienced industry stakeholders.
    Among many things, they address changing needs in apprenticeship curriculum to meet changes in technology. Members can add items to the agenda as required.
    There is a process to determine if a trade needs to be compulsory.
    If someone wants to be on a PAC, just ask, it is not an old boys club.
    As you noted, carpentry is not compulsory, but OCOT is (was) considering a change.
    I for one would not mind knowing that the guy who framed my house had passed an exam demonstrating that he had the skills to do it.
    Or is it better to leave that to the property development corporation that contracted him or in the case of my trade, the manufacturer that built the product.
    I would think their agendas are different than ours or our client’s.
    If you do not have a license, then who determines you are qualified, the other people that do not have a license?
    If the only tool in your tool box is a hammer, then everything pretty much looks like a nail. There is more to know than what is directly in front of your face, that is the difference between task specific training & being a journeyman.
    Task specific training can have a short shelf life, being a journeyman, is being adaptable to the changing needs of the trade.
    I get the point you are trying to make, but can’t agree with most of it.
    I think you need to sit & observe a functioning PAC & you may be surprised to find that big brother is not in attendance.
    For now, perhaps the best route is to participate with OCOT & use the existing systems to make the desired changes, with the assumption that they are working for us. Should this prove to not be the case, then I am with you, dump them, except I am still not voting for Hudak 🙂
    By the way, I have not heard a peep from Local 787 regarding OCOT.
    Your comment about the OCOT sponsored union mob, that’s not going to happen.
    The unions are more attractive when there is a disparity in wages & skills are weak in the non-union sector.

    • Steve Payne says:

      Joe, thanks for the thoughtful post. Much appreciated!

      This isn’t the first time that an HVAC/R contractor has come on here and steadfastly supported the Ontario College of Trades. Your own profession is understandably disinterested in having unregulated, unlicensed clowns messing around with HVAC/R systems – a homeowner recharging their own AC unit can have disastrous consequences… I get it, our readers get it.

      But, with all due respect, do YOU get it when you think about the insanity of Renovation Contractors being unable, legally, to do carpentry or drywall work on typical home renos, because of a bunch of bureaucrats down on Bay Street who have not a clue about the realities of the residential construction business? The difference between the HVAC/R case for “certification” and the Renovation Contractor case is miles apart. And this is the entire problem with the College of Trades. They have one solution for ALL trades. How could your argument possibly hold water for the tens of thousands of HAIR STYLISTS they are trying to tax, over and above the fees already paid by hairstylists. I’ve had some bad haircuts in my time – have one right now as a matter of fact – but I don’t need bureaucrats down on Bay Street to “protect” me from that. Nor do you.

      You didn’t address the issue which Alec talked about: Either taking away the livelihood, or denigrating the professionalism of – professional renovation contractors who have been doing their trade legally and with great quality for years (if the carpentry and drywall thing goes through, which rest assured IT WILL if Wynne’s cronies who foisted the OCOT on everyone in the first place, get re-elected). This thing spirals down the rabbithole into a Wonderland of government red tape that has no bearing on anything actually going on, on site, to build better, provide higher quality contracting, teach anyone anything, train anyone in anything, or anything else a “College” is supposed to do.

      Now, how open is the College of Trades to participation? You claim it is very open. “Just ask. It is not an Old Boys Club.” Well the Review Panels of which you speak, are, if you look at the regulations, APPOINTED. These are not democratically open positions. And the BOARD was not elected by ANYONE. The Teachers College has elections. The College of Physicians and Surgeons, ditto. Pretty well every professional college in Canada is at least partially elected as far as its Board goes. Not so with OCOT. It is the very definition of everything that turns ordinary citizens against governments: It’s bureaucratic, there is no democracy, and they have not given us any answers about their enforcement policies, when we have expressly asked them to explain them to us.

      I really appreciate your post, Joe, and thanks for reading CANADIAN CONTRACTOR.

  2. Questo says:

    Thanks Steve, to clarifying the insane issues about the OCOT toward trades.
    if the Fibreals get re-elected either minority or majority, we all Ontarians, will be in for the worse chaotic situation ever in this province.

    The miss informed tactics the Fiberals are pray on this electoral campaign can only be compared with psychopaths.

    Also a lot of Fiberals voters should consider consulting their psychiatrists.

    Tim Hudack , he is right about a lot of issues in this Province, I only hope he gets elected with majority and start the clean up.

    If I was him, I will get rid all public sector unions, all lazy personal in the public sector too. Anybody calls into government and majority of public offices, only gets phone answer machines, where are these people?

    To much waste of public tax dollars, a lot of people in the public sector apparently are only there to collect their pay check and doing nothing.

    Unions make no sense in todays age, They apparently are unable to fight for theirs collective agreements, every time they try in a legal strike, the Fiberals and the courts forced their members back to work. Why are the unions there in first place?

    What kind of democracy are they try to represent? When democracy became a elusion right at the government institutions, giving a example to the private sector how to deal with the unions in a heart bit.

    • Andreas says:

      Hi Questo & Steve, I believe Joe’s explanation is just the perfect key for many guys to make up now their minds to be sure blue is the right direction. What’s an union for? In my opinion it’s only for the unqualified lazy workers they rant themselves “certified & compulsory trade”! A union has only power and can play the big boy when the economy is booming, in times of crises they are hiding like groundhogs in the winter time.

      How many companies boast themselves that they meet the Canadian standard (only)? Wouldn’t it be the proudness of every “real” tradesman to be way above this and show solutions and innovativeness, und perhaps stand in the shadow of passive house standards (just as an example)? Those companies do not need to join communism organizations (unions), they also never will have shortage of work.

      On the other hand I have to say, the election system is actually just a joke.
      If your regional representative from your favorite party does not stand up for the citizens, you still have no choice to make the x for him/her to get your party in forefront. Why can’t we have the ability to make two x, one for the local politician and one for the party who should be in power?

      One thing I would like to let you know Joe, I choose contractors by looking on their work/workplace, how their vehicles are organized and if the are using a broom before leaving. Beside this critics I like to know how their waste is recycled. Believe me Joe, this is the best business card and the most trusted advertising. In my 35 successful years as a builder, I never cared about union, college of trade and scrap like that.

  3. questo says:

    Andreas, Thanks to have a brought view what needs to be done in this Province of Ontario.

    With the super or tetra computer coming out soon in the market, will make an enormous difference in the economic system.

    For example: in the education system, it can eliminate school buildings, school buses and their drivers also, together with teachers. A big bonus for the environment, less pollution, less traffic, and make children more safe guarded. In teachers career, a lot of them will lose their jobs, unable to up great their skills.

    The system can be reduced for a control interactive, repair maintenance, and reduced teachers to a interactive learning centers. Some teachers may well be using their homes to teach, not schools grounds.

    No need for unions in the schools systems, whatsoever.

    This alone will create an enormous savings if done right in schooling at home, interactive system all year, day and night, for all ages. Parents can be beside their children in the learning process, and take more responsibility for their kids.
    I believe this can be full implemented in a short amount of time.
    Apparently the technology is here, so we can make good use of it.

    We have to many parasitic systems in this Province.

    Regarding to the election system, in this Province, does make one wonder, the politicians preach themselves no bulling, for kids of course, isn’t nice, and wrong, but they do it all the time, and in election campaign is worst.

    This interactive learning system also can be used for the trades, or career up grating too. Our world is about to changed for something never seen before, in technological advancements.

    Unions and cash grabs agencies will be things of the pass.

    What we all need in Governments is: intelligent people, to move the Country or Provinces in prosperity forms, not self service and cronies service insane deals, on the tax payers cost.

    I am all for technology if is used for the benefit of us all, not for wars, and destructive matters.

  4. Terry says:

    I cant for the life of me figure out how anyone could think that the OCOT is a good thing! Who are the people that work there and what are their qualifications when it comes to the trades. I in the past have hired licensed carpenters who were absolutely terrible at the work they were licensed for, and they had college degrees in their field, and im sure that is no different in any field including the HVAC industry. Only difference ? They have a union to protect them ! Maybe the construction industry does need reform , but how can a bunch of hi paid unqualified government ( contractor ) paid people can make a difference. How can stopping trades people in Tim Hortons parking lot make a difference? That is gestapo like tactics!

  5. Edward says:

    Well, looks like a liberal Majority… OCOT here to stay.

  6. questo says:

    Edward, this Province will enter the worst economic times ever, I believe this majority will have a short leave. with 11 billions on the hole, when the banks start to ask for it, then the reality will kick in. The Liberals will have no change then start cutting programs and all their creations agencies. It will be interesting if they will start going back to 2008.

    What I can’t believe is: with all this pass scandals, they win majority.
    Some unions this morning were calling none union members to go vote, you know the rest. Trades people either have to revolt to get rid of all the agencies up on their necks.or by some lube.

    • Edward says:

      Questo, 28% of of working Ontarians are unionized… Leaves 72% like me and you…. It is pretty easy to answer why they got a majority. #1- how do you create 1 million jobs, yet brag you are gonna cut 100k. Doesnt matter how you word it, it did not go well with voters. #2-yes liberals scandle, but the general public perception of politicians is same…they all crooks. It is not a matter of unions winning, its a matter of Ontarians are fed up with promises that are never met, and hudak made promises unrealistic and depressing at same time. I myself voted for no one, as the ballot contained no one I liked. As I understand many did same as I did.

      It is sad Ontarians looked at the scandle with a blind eye….. But as one old gentlemen who was at the polls commented when I was walking in…. ” if the gas plant was going in your backyard, cutting the price on your investment in half…. This scandle means nothing”. Im afraid to say, that is the mentality of many

  7. Questo says:

    So you and a lot more are belong to the 63% turn out, the question is: who will represent those at the QP? Its said, and I agree with you about hudak, his talk in jobs creation should be in other musical notes, he played to high notes out of the lines. Andrea make a waste of 90 million for lose the balance of power.

    Now we the trades people maybe f,,,,, or make a Province wide strike and ask this majority government out of the minority population to fix their mistakes, and get rid all red tape creations.

    If they start the second round of corruption like the first one the last 11 years, more people will leave to west, also a lot more business will close and move away.

    I thought the provincial debt, it was 11 billion on the hole but is a lot more is about 12.5 billion, now for sure tax increase and programs cuts will be on the way, and those voted for it will be the first ones cry out loud, will be interesting what is coming at us all, economic demolition.

    I am thinking is selling everything move either west or south, maybe brazil.
    I believe this Province will turn in real hellish place.

  8. Finally – Some good news: The OCOT carpentry issue is beginning to boil over!

    Toronto Sun Tuesday November 11, 2014

    Changes may be needed at the Ontario College of Trades, Premier Kathleen

    Wynne says: “We need to make sure that the college does what it was set up to do” ” And so that’s why we’re doing a review of the college.”

    The Toronto Sun says: “The Ontario College of Trades is being asked to designate carpentry as a compulsory trade — a controversial move that critics argue would devastate the province’s construction industry”

    “Critics argued it drives up costs for employers, particularly in construction, and bans people from working in certain trades even after decades of on-the-job experience’

    Progressive Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop said “tens of thousands of Ontario construction employees would have to obtain certification to continue working legally in Ontario if their trade were to be listed as compulsory by the college”

    “This is so absolutely insane,” Dunlop said Thursday. “I don’t know how any government could possibly allow this to happen. Compulsory certification of the carpentry industry will cripple the construction industry in Ontario.”

    “Up to 90% of construction in Ontario is done by people who don’t hold a certificate of qualification in carpentry, something that will be compulsive if the College of Trades follows through with the plan” he said.

    “All these guys you see out there framing houses and building kitchen cabinets, doing work on footings, the guys who do the fine trim on houses — they’re all classified as carpenters,” Dunlop said. “The college has already said there would be no grandfathering (of trades people).”

    “Homeowners doing renovations could feel the impact in their wallets because only licensed carpenters would be allowed legally to do carpentry, much like how only certified electricians can do wiring”

    “The bigger problem will be finding certified carpenters” Dunlop said.

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