Scrap the job-killing College of Trades tax

By MPP Toby Barrett

Across Haldimand-Norfolk a group of hard-working people cut our hair, install and repair our electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems. They build our houses, replace our roofs and keep our vehicles in good running order.

These local tradespeople keep everything working for us – they are there when needed most – and do it with integrity, competency and trust.

However, the recently-created Ontario College of Trades will hammer the skilled trades with membership fees that add up to, at minimum, $84 million a year. It’s a huge tax grab, with no clear benefit, no transparency and no accountability. Many in the trades already pay for licenses and countless other fees to government bodies.

New regulations mean each apprentice, journeyperson and employer would have to pay hundreds of dollars in new annual fees, most of which will be passed on the customer. Compulsory certification of trades such as carpentry, drywalling and painting will force many tradespeople into the classroom despite having years of experience. This is time they can not afford to take from work or businesses. As well, restrictive apprenticeship ratios restrict hiring.

The Carpentry Trades Board, a department within the Ontario College of Trades, applied to the college’s directors to make carpenters a compulsory certified trade. If approved, this would force construction workers to return to school and take an apprenticeship. It wouldn’t matter if they have years of experience. Such a move would drive construction workers out of the province, cripple the industry and drive up costs.

The newly-formed Ontario Hairstylists Association has recently launched to fight the $120 fee they must pay to the college annually. This is a 600 per cent increase!
The Ontario Contractor and Small Business Association was formed because of the College of Trades. Founder Doug Leitch says members have no say with respect to the fees, the organization’s budget, or who is on the board as board members are government appointees. As he said, “The Ontario College of Trades 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.”

The College of Trades is shaping up to be a boondoggle that’s going to drive people out of skilled trades and drive up costs for consumers. It’s not just a tax on the trades, it will affect the public. Anyone hiring a tradesperson – an electrician, a mechanic, a hairdresser – will pay more. It’s yet another tax grab, and no one will be exempt.

Last month, the college celebrated its first anniversary. Opposition leader Tim Hudak said if elected premier, there won’t be a second anniversary. The College of Trades is supported by some, but not all unions, and many employers are fighting it with the assistance of my colleague MPP Garfield Dunlop.

Ontario’s economy and job situation needs all the help it can get. It doesn’t need more bloated bureaucracies that discourage business investment and scare away jobs. Our first concern should be Ontario’s economy and its people, not adding to bureaucracy and expanding the influence of unions.

Our area and many others are still struggling with high unemployment rates. Government is trying to attract people to the skilled trades but bureaucracy suffocates. The Ontario College of Trades is a job killer!