Opposition to the Ontario College of Trades (OCT) has been fueled by misinformation and the college will continue in its current form, said Ron Johnson, chair of the college’s board of directors.
The college has garnered criticism from some industry members, who have suggested the college works essentially as a cash grab. In an interview with DesignBuild Source, Johnson said such criticisms could not be further from the truth.
Johnson said the OCT will serve in its intended capacity to increase advocacy and improve training for tradespeople and serve to protect consumers. His comments came after some organizations, including the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), spoke out against the college and the fees it would levy against those working in the trades.
Johnson said the college would allow tradespeople to come to the table and help govern their own industry, suggesting that those opposed to the college “would rather have a bureaucrat at Queen’s Park regulate the trades.”
Johnson added that those who said the college was essentially a tax on those working in the trades were out of line. Johnson said the fees are not a tax, as they go to the college itself and not the government. The college, he said, is an independent arm’s length regulatory body tasked with governing the trades, ensuring those working in the fields have the proper qualifications, setting and enforcing training and certification standards, advocating for those working in skilled trades and promoting the trades to young people.
The latter, he said, is a crucial component of the college’s mandate.
“Ontario will have a need for several hundred thousand skills tradespeople in the coming years that we won’t have, and we want to address that,” he said.
Johnson also pointed out that many professional industries have governing bodies to which they pay dues and that the OCT would add accountability to the industry while providing support and advocacy for its members. He said
He said reports that the college of trades would collect $84 million in dues from members were false.
“Our entire budget for 2013 is $20 million,” he said. “(Opponents are) just making up numbers to fit their argument.”
Another key element to the OCT that Johnson said has been frequently glossed over has been the fact that it offers consumer protection. Qualified tradespeople will have their credentials posted online and consumers will be able to verify that anyone hired for a job has the proper training and qualifications.
“If you’re letting someone into your home to do work, you want to know they’re qualified to do that work,” he said.
The college came under fire recently when OGCA president Clive Thurston resigned from its Roster of Adjudicators. Johnson said Thurston attended one ratio review meeting before speaking out against the college and pointed out that the OGCA has spoken out against the college from the get-go.
He said opponents of the college comprise “a very, very tiny percentage” of those working in the trades.
“There are 600,000 to 700,000 tradespeople in Ontario and this group represents a tiny fraction of that,” he said.
Johnson said for the majority of workers, membership will be voluntary. He pointed out, however, that the college aims to be proactive in dealing with issues relating to the skilled trades and that those who join will be able to steer the direction of both their industry and the college itself.
“An adversarial approach will accomplish nothing for (opponents of the college,)” he said. “I would suggest they get involved in the college and help shape the college. It’s a chance for people to have a seat at the table when it comes to decisions about their industry,” he said.