Ontario College of Trades a ‘Tax Grab’?

tax increases

A collection of construction employers has decried a new proposal that would see Ontario skilled trades workers and employers forced to pay increased membership dues as a simple tax grab.

The Ontario Construction Employers Coalition (OCEC) has called for a proposal brought forth by the provincial government’s Ontario College of Trades to be scrapped, arguing that it will essentially take $84 million out of the pockets of companies and workers.

“This is a huge amount of money the [Dalton] McGuinty government wants to pick from the pockets of Ontarians who work hard to make their living in the skilled trades,” said OCEC chair Sean Reid.

The college of trades, which was introduced by the Liberal government in 2009, has taken the role of the Ministry of Labour when it comes to tradespeople. While the college’s role is to promote and advocate for tradespeople, critics of the new proposal say it could result in a massive hike in fees. Instead of paying $60 for three-year certificates of qualification, tradespeople could be on the hook for fees of as much as $200 per year.

Under the fee system, apprentices and tradesworkers would pay between $50 and $100, journeypersons would pay between $100 and $200 and employers would pay anywhere from $100 to $600 depending on the size of the organization.

The college is asking for feedback on the proposed changes by Sunday, June 3.

OCEC vice chair Karen Renkema said the benefits supposedly created by the Ontario College of Trades “[don't] even come close to justifying an $84 million price tag for Ontario tradespeople and their employers. The Ontario College of Trades has yet to demonstrate any benefits to our industry that don’t already exist today without the College.”

OCEC added that $84 million is a low-end estimate for the amount of money the college will bring in. As it stands, OCEC said, there are hundreds of thousands of skilled tradespeople in the province who lack registration and who would add to the province’s coffers should the college get a chance to apply the membership fees to them.

The coalition argued that many of the services and benefits the college purports to offer are already available to tradespeople through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

“While the College’s benefits are highly questionable, the College’s future as a job killer is certain,” Reid said.

The coalition has written to the college, expressing concern and displeasure over what they say is a blatant lack of transparency and information suurounding the college and its budgetary needs, future business plans, and ways in which the college will be held financially accountable.

“Without transparency, accountability, or explanation of any real benefits to the skilled trades sector, the College is in no position to impose a new $84 million tax on Ontario trades workers and employers, and we’re in no position to accept it,” Reid said. “This entire process is flawed and that’s why this membership fee proposal must be scrapped.”

By Mark Schafer
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