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Steve Maxwell   

Maxwell’s rant: Why government spreads

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The Ontario College of Trades, with its mandatory annual fees for plumbers, electricians, etc., is just the latest example of how governments naturally keep spinning tighter and tighter webs of regulation.

As necessary as government and bureaucracy are, there’s a flaw at the heart of both. The imposition of the Ontario College of Trades is a case in point, and to understand why you need to stop and think about things from the other side.

Imagine you’re a government bureaucrat.  You’ve just been promoted to a new job with better pay, more responsibilities and a corner office. The work isn’t too difficult, so you have time to think about how you might leave your mark on the bureaucracy. Perhaps there’s something new that could be added to your role. Maybe there’s some previously-unnoticed regulatory function that could be filled. Then there’s always the temptation to create the perception of a need, then rush to the rescue as a hero and fill it. Even in corridors of government power, there still sometimes exists a spark of initiative, some urge towards accomplishment, and maybe even the impulse to advance things beyond the status quo.

All this is the dynamic behind the process that makes government spread and expand its regulatory influence over time. Government + Time = Regulation. Do we need regulations? Yes, absolutely. Does government have a vested interest in creating regulation beyond genuine need? Yes, the temptation exists, and it’s one reason why Canada has been in a long-term downtrend for decades.

For anyone who has a warm, fuzzy sense that Canada is on an upward climb economically, an appeal to the facts should set things straight. Some of the most telling of these facts apply to young people.  In 2010, Statistics Canada reported the median annual income for people between 20 and 24 was $13,800. Back in 1976, this same age group enjoyed an income of $23,400 adjusted for inflation – nearly 10-grand more. Even Canadians up to their mid-40s are measurably poorer today than they were decades ago, as measured in real dollars. Why has this happened? I doubt anyone has the complete answer, but one thing’s for sure. Regulation is the opposite of productivity. The more regulation you have in a society, the slower, poorer and more falteringly the economic engine runs. Are we more regulated as a society now than in 1976? Is all of this regulation really serving a productive purpose? How, exactly, will the construction business be better off with another layer of watchdogs on duty?

What Canada really needs is a government that kicks into action when no other method of making things happen exists – and not a moment before. This sort of idea is not popular, I know, but sometimes good medicine is bitter. The last thing any country needs is a ruling class populated by people pursuing power, wealth and a cushy professional life in a low-expectation arena. The extent to which a critical mass of people can resist the impulse for selfishness in the government arena is the extent to which Canada will succeed.

Unlike most areas of our world, there is no natural limit to the slow advancement of government. Free market activities are subject to the guiding hand of supply and demand, but what governs government? In a democracy it’s supposed to be the informed will of an involved voting population. But where are the democratic limitations on government when the most far-reaching decisions are created and handed down by non-elected bureaucrats or judges? What do you call a democracy where democratic guidance runs only as deep as the paper-thin, 1/64”-thick birch veneer on a sheet of cabinet-grade plywood? The Ontario College of Trades and a hundred other layers of regulation and over-sight are leaving the producers of this country over-burdened, over-governed and over-regulated.

There are no shortage of Canadians who see and feel that things have gone too far in this country, but we do have one dangerous flaw in our national character. We’re way too complacent, even in the face of new regulations that look a lot like selfish bureaucratic motivations hiding behind manufactured needs.

There’s an old saying that’s worth remembering: “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Paraphrased a little, this wisdom applies just as much to good-old, over-regulated Canada: “When you’re a government, everything looks like it needs a guard rail.”

Will things change? I have my doubts. But at least let’s be fully aware of the source of the added hardship that’s about to fall on the men and women who build, renovate and create if the philosophy behind the Ontario College of Trades spreads. Maybe we might even work up the courage to do more than complain over coffee.


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11 Comments » for Maxwell’s rant: Why government spreads
  1. Debra Myers says:

    So how do we change the system?

    • Robert Koci says:

      That is the big question. The only mitigating force on growing bureaucracy is our vote. There are other possibilities. Limits on spending that can only be exceeded by a plebiscite is one. Giving the Auditor General at both the federal and provincial level power to garnishee the bank accounts of ministries that show irregularities in spending is another. Probably most effective is to de-certify public service unions.

    • Danio says:

      Become active politically and support candidates who support real change. If you don’t have one in your riding, become one!

  2. Clayton S says:

    ” we do have one dangerous flaw in our national character. We’re way too complacent”
    This is wrong. Canada’s biggest problem when dealing with changes we don’t like…. is too much distance, too few people and not enough income to afford taking time off to do rally together. Many times my friends and I would love to travel to Ottawa for a demonstration… but it is too far away, and we can not afford to take the time off work. Many of us care and will do whatever we can, but are not ready to lose our jobs, homes and/or family to do what so many others can not do as well. The College of trades is a complete farce. they will make no difference what-so-ever. If they want to make things better, stop the people that work under the table, or unlicensed trades people. I called the COT and asked how they were going to accomplish this? They told me that somebody will have to call them and inform them of the problem… in other words, turn honest hard working tradesmen into “RATS”. They have 150 “trades police” to cover all of Ontario…. over paid, non-qualified %#@@& driving around in new cars, staying in hotels when on the road… how much is this going to cost the country? Another question, as a tradesman, I was never informed of an electoral process in which I got to vote for this College of idiots, and I did not get to vote for the board members. All of whom I would love to see their certifications, and a list of actual work experience as well. If you don’t have 30+ years in a trade… you are not qualified to govern that trade. That does not mean “I have had my license for 35 years but only worked for 2 of those years”. Yes this whole thing upsets me and my fellow workers. I have talked to many people in many trades, and have not found ONE that agrees with this COT.

    • Jim Blackett says:

      Very well stated set of views! I have been feeling and voicing the same opinions expressed with your text in regards to this being another unnecessary layer of bureaucrats taking care of bureaucrats. These government buffoons wouldn’t know an honest days work if it bit them! I have been a Red Seal Electrician for over 35 years, and collectively what the government is turning this trade into is breaking my heart. Gone are the days of true pride and quality of trade.

  3. albert sedore says:

    The only way to stop this shit show is NO ONE renew or pay the hi-jack tax.,What are they going to do about it?Wait until the dealerships have no mechanics then watche what the big dealers do to the government!.

  4. Brazeau B says:

    The truth of the matter is this affects all trades not just the mechanics and the electricians but Hairdressers, plumbers ,millwrights, welders… The list goes on and on. I like what Mr Sedore suggests. Nobody pays, what will they do? For far too long Canadians have been taking it from bureaucrats because we are too trustworthy. I like this post by Steve Maxwell. Well said indeed. Like it or not this country is heading for a revolutionary crisis to the likes no one has ever seen before. The O.C.O.T. Has singlehandedly managed to upset the millions of trades people who help this country function. Let’s go back to the industrial revolution and re- examine the power of the people. All it takes is for the right person with the right message to motivate the group. “Our facebook group” PETITION AGAINST ONTARIO COLLEGE OF TRADES. We’re growing.

  5. Danio says:

    Vote Libertarian!

  6. Derek Dilabbio says:

    My direcly emailed respoinse to this “profesional” insult:

    Subject: Ignoring your “ransom” demands

    To whichever thief it may concern.

    As a “Certified General Carpenter” for well of 25 years, I hereby notify this fiasco of a “College” that I will not pay any of the blatant ransoms you depict as “fees” to your Illegal organization that is neither ”industry led”, industry backed, nor industry / socially beneficial to any Canadian.

    I am a craftsman who will always be a Certified General Carpenter and there are no threats your “cheap” organization can make, nor any “lawful” actions you could attempt, to stop myself and fellow tradespeople, from continuing our crafts and presenting ourselves as who we are (CERTIFIED!).

    Point Blank, take your “college” and shove it!

    With utmost disrespect.

    Derek James Dilabbio

  7. Derek Stewart says:

    This is exactly what the government wants, to keep the masses confused and poor, so we cannot achieve the real power that we the people need to make changes in our society. This sort of thing has be going on for hundreds if not thousands of years. We, the people need to wake up and not settle for everything, because the government will keep getting away with anything and that’s why our way of living has not gotten any better but worse and will continue along that path. People, how much more will we have to endure. To make changes for the goodness can never be an easy task.

  8. Don says:

    I don’t trust the government! Even if I was running it I would not trust it.
    We have lost so much in thirty years. I feel sorry for the kids who want to get into a trade business because of all of the government red tape.
    I sense that it will all collapse one day. The growing monster that is called government bureaucracy is too big and cannot sustain itself. They are looking for more and more revenue (taxes in any other name) and the pot is limited. It would be interesting to see if the fees will go into the general fund of the government to be lost in the system.

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