Opposed to Bill 183 and role of Ontario College of Trades.
Garfield Dunlop, MPP for Simcoe North and Progressive and Conservative critic for skilled trades and apprenticeship reform, speaks about the moves advocated by the newly-formed Ontario College of Trades. In the background, during Friday’s roundtable at the Renfrew Royal Canadian Legion, is Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
The philosophy of the new Ontario College of Trades, and its membership fees, will play havoc with the job market.
That was the word during a skilled-trades roundtable at the Renfrew Royal Canadian Legion last Friday. The event was hosted by Progressive Conservative MPPs John Yakabuski of Renfrew-Nippissing-Pembroke and Garfield Dunlop, the party’s critic for skilled trades and apprenticeship reform, who represents the riding of Simcoe North.
Helping to answer questions and express their opposition to the newly-formed Ontario College of Trades were Walter Pamic of Power-Tek Electrical Services in Stittsville and Eric Glahs of Lorne’s Electric (Arnprior) who is also past chairman of the Ontario Electrical League.
Glash said he’d hopeD for a turnout of about 100 tradespeople. Total attendance, including members of the media, was close to 40.
The bill, which was passed in 2009, is scheduled to take effect in January 2013, but Yakabuski says it’s still not too late to voice opposition and convince the government that the bill is not good for the Ontario job market.
The regulations revising trades qualifications and the establishment of the Ontario College of Trades are found in Bill 183. The bill has been enacted as Chapter 22 of the Statutes of Ontario, 2009. The bill was passed in October 2009.
If elected to power in 2015, Dunlop and Yakabuski said the Conservatives would kill the College of Trades. Both say the proposed regulations will cost contractors more money and be passed on, in most instances, to the customer.
“Nobody knows anything about it (the college),” said Yakabuski, “yet it is going to have huge implications on everybody who has a trade, on everybody who owns a small business that employs tradespeople, and everybody who is an apprentice or planning to get into the trade through the apprenticeship program.”
In a period of skilled-trades shortages in this province, Pamic, Glahs and the two MPPs said their issues of concern include compulsory certification (for trades that are now considered voluntary) and increased fees for all compulsory trades. These, they say, might many trades that are not classified as voluntary. Those voluntary trades include drywallers, hair dressers, bartenders, barbers, carpenters, bicycle repairmen and painters.
EXPONENTIAL JUMP COMING IN COMPULSORY TRADES?
Trades that are compulsory include plumbers, crane operators, refrigeration and air conditioning specialists, sheet metal workers, and steam fitters. But the number of compulsory trades could jump exponentially, said the two MPPs.
The accusation is unfounded, said Ron Johnson, chair of the College of Trades board of governors, when contacted by The Mercury. In fact, he said any particular trade would have to request a review by the college before any change from voluntary to compulsory.
Regulations regarding apprentice-to-journeymen ratio in Ontario companies aren’t likely to improve under the new college of trades, either, suggested Yakabuski.
“There’s a shortage of skilled trades in this province, and it’s getting worse because the age of our tradespeople is getting up there,” said Yakabuski.
“There’s a lot of people working in the trades who would like to get out of it (and retire) but they have nobody out there qualified to take their place, and one of the reasons is they can’t get enough apprentices through the system.”
The College of Trades and its regulations are not going to keep more young tradespeople in the province to learn their trades, indicated Yakabuski.
Johnson deflects that criticism, noting that the College of Trades has recently reviewed a few journeymen-to-apprenticeships ratios. Two remained unchanged, while the ratio for the voluntary trade of resilient floorers was changed, said Johnson.
At present, Yakabuski says Ontario companies can hire fewer apprentices per journeymen, compared to much better ratios in western Canadian provinces. For electrical journeymen, for example, the Ontario ratio is basically three journeymen per one apprentice, whereas in western Canadian provinces it’s 1:1, 1:2 or no restrictions, as in the case of British Columbia.
Nor will those ratios improve in Ontario, suggested Yakabuski, if there’s increased pressure to have certain tradespeople pay larger or new fees.
“To suggest the college is keeping ratios high is laughable,” Johnson told The Mercury, noting the ratios didn’t change when the Conservatives were in power.
Dunlop, who is also a certified plumber, says the College of Trades’ arrival is ironic. He says tradespeople’s work in Ontario is improving by the year and that there is no need for additional certification.
“You don’t need any more oversight; you don’t need any college of trades … they won’t train anybody at the college of trades,” said Dunlop. “It’s a huge bureaucracy, with already 50 people working there.”
Another issue of concern is the apprenticeship system at a time when Ontario’s ratio of permitted apprentices to journeymen per business are lower than they are in western Canada.
MPP Dunlop estimated this is the 70th meeting he has attended over the last year and a half to warn about the negative ramifications of the bill.
Dunlop has continuously lobbied for reforms to the skilled trades system, but he says this doesn’t include the kind of reforms proposed under the umbrella of the College of Trades. In fact, he calls the new college a “huge boondoggle” and says the college and the fees should be scrapped.
Efforts need to be made to remove barriers in the skilled-trades system and to help create more jobs, said Yakabuski, stressing that jobs are definitely not being promoted by (more than) tripling the cost of fees for skilled trades and creating certification that were previously not required for other trades.
Glahs said “we’re are concerned with the College of Trades’ new membership fees, and feel there will be no benefits that will come from collecting these fees.”
Without the fees there wouldn’t be a college, except for the government’s $12- or $13-million in startup fees, said Johnson.
Johnson, was actually a Conservative MPP in the mid 1990s, says the college should bring in $17- to $20-million in 2013, whereas fees received in 2014 should be about $30 million — not the $84-million figure quoted by some PC critics.
MEMBERSHIP FEES AND CERTIFICATES OF QUALIFICATION
“The decision was made a long time ago, when the legislation was drafted, that this would be a self-funding body,” said Johnson.
The membership fee structure is misunderstood by many people, but Johnson said basically the certificates of qualification will sharply increase in cost, but be membership fees that include the former cost of certificates of qualification.
Previous fees were about $20 per year, but will now be about $120. Yet they will still be the lowest of any regulatory body in the province, says Johnson.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Construction Employers Coalition has launched a grassroots campaign that urges the Ontario government to shut down the College of Trades and stop the trades tax. To join the petition, visit www.stopthetradestax.ca. However, Yakabuski encouraged opponents to the ‘tax’ to write the premier and the Ministry of Trades, Colleges and Universities, since those letters or emails tend to have more impact. Build the pressure, Yakabuski told Friday’s audience.
Scott Yemen, co-owner for Yemen’s Electric in Renfrew, didn’t like what he heard at the roundtable.
“It (the college) needs to be gone,” said Yemen. “John (Yakabuski) spoke very well about it. It just needs to go. It’s nothing but bad news and bureaucracy.”
“Who’s asking for it?” said Pamic. “I have yet to meet a tradesperson who is asking for the College of Trades,” said Pamic. “I have yet to meet an employer who wants this type of organization … What are its goals? It’s power and control; it’s very simple. It’s going to create compulsory certification of any trades and Quebec-style construction.”