More than a dozen professional associations now speaking out on regulatory institution
The list of professional associations is growing in the fight against the Ontario government’s recently established Ontario College of Trades.
With the addition of Grand Valley Construction Association (GVCA), the Ontario Construction Employers Coalition is now made up of 15 organizations campaigning against the regulatory college the Province of Ontario implemented with the mandate of modernizing its apprenticeship and skilled trades system.
Describing the institution as a “bureaucratic boondoggle,” the Coalition—led by the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA)—has been opposed to the College of Trades since it was legislated in 2009, officially coming together in the fall of 2011.
“The College is nothing more than an $84-million tax on tradespeople and their employers,” said Coalition chair and PCA Ontario regional director Sean Reid. “There’s no demonstrable value that it’s bringing to the industry.”
The College of Trades—similar to the Ontario College of Teachers or Doctors—will oversee the industry when it launches in late 2012 or early 2013, and will be funded through membership fees.
“It’s nothing like those institutions,” Reid said of the comparisons to the province’s college of teachers or doctors. “First of all, those institutions serve one particular professional group (and) this institution will serve 157 different professional groups.”
Reid also described the governing bodies of Ontario’s educators and physicians as “democratic,” while calling the College of Trades secretive and non-transparent.
But according to Ontario College of Trades CEO and registrar Bob Guthrie, the college is exactly like the aforementioned regulatory bodies, and he doesn’t quite understand why the institution is facing so much opposition before it even gets off the ground.
“That doesn’t make sense to me, because the College of Trades is essentially an industry self-regulatory organization,” he said. “There are dozens of other professional regulatory organizations in Ontario (and) they all do more or less the same thing.”
Guthrie said the College of Trades is being introduced to protect a public interest and to promote the skilled trades as a first choice career path for young people in the province, as well as to give industry—including employers, employees and associations—an opportunity to direct their own trades.
According to the College of Trades website, the non-training institution is an independent, industry-driven body that places decision-making control in the hands of professionals and gives industry a greater role in governance, certification and training.
But the Coalition disputes this statement and claims the membership fees are nothing more than a tax on skilled trade workers that was established without any input from industry.
While membership fees have yet to be determined, Guthrie said the college has set out to have the lowest such fees of any regulatory institute in Ontario.
“We believe we’re going to meet that objective,” he said. “We’ve done the research and sort of benchmarked our college against all the other ones (and) the number to beat is $138 a year.”
Another issue at hand for the coalition is a looming skilled labour shortage in the province, one which Reid said may only be perpetuated by red tape brought in by the College of Trades.
“We are staring down a shortage of trades labour in this province,” Reid said. “We will not have enough workers to meet the demand adequately.”
In order to respond to this projected shortage efficiently, Reid said barriers need to be removed to attract skilled workers to the trades.
“We cannot have the broad-based compulsory trade certification that the college wants,” he said.
What’s more, Reid said the group of associations he represents feels that certification will raise the cost of construction dramatically.