Renovators, Plumbers Line Up Against College of Trades

Renovators, Plumbers Line Up Against College of Trades

Key associations representing home renovation and plumbing services have joined other Ontario construction industry lobby groups in lining up against the controversial Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).

The Canadian Association of Renovators and Home Services (CARAHS) and Plumbing and Heating Cooling Contractors – Ontario Trades Association have become the latest groups to oppose the College, which is set to begin accepting memberships in April.

“Our association was created to help small business and home renovators,” said CARAHS founder Alec Caldwell. “We’re supporting them now by doing everything we can to stop this needless tax that will ultimately cost jobs.”

Created through legislation passed in 2009, OCOT is a regulatory institution created to take a leadership role in provincial decisions regarding training across a range of apprenticeship categories in 157 skilled trades.

The College has been the subject of intense opposition from employer groups, however, who have criticized it for charging annual membership fees and for a perceived lack of accountability.

Under the new arrangements, apprentices and tradespeople will be charged a compulsory annual membership fee of $60 while employers and journeypersons will be charged $120.

Those fees, which many industry members have derided as a tax grab, spawned the establishment of the Ontario Construction Employers Coalition – a body with whose membership has grown to 31 industry associations, more than 8,000 businesses and 130,000 skilled tradespeople.

renovator working

The Coalition is running a Stop The Trades Tax campaign aimed at securing commitments from policy makers and candidates in the next provincial elections to scrap the fees.

In addition to the fees, which employers say will discourage apprentices from entering trades, the coalition says the College has failed to lay out a vision for what tradespeople will get in return for their ‘tax’, has failed to consult with industry on journeyperson/apprenticeship ratios and has skirted accountability and transparency through practices such as putting news releases out late on Friday afternoons.

Such opposition, however, is unfair according to Bill Nicholls, President of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario.

Nicholls said in a statement last August the College represents a much-needed development within Ontario’s trade system and that references to the membership fees as a tax were misleading because the fees apply to members of the college rather than taxpayers as a whole.

Nicholls says a disciplinary function of the college for its members will enable it to protect consumers and hold unscrupulous operators to account for shoddy workmanship.

By Andrew Heaton
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