August 2, 2012
ONTARIO CONSTRUCTION EMPLOYERS COALITION
New campaign rises against Ontario College of Trades
With five months before the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) opens its doors, the Ontario Construction Employers Coalition (OCEC) is ramping up its efforts to shut it down with a new campaign.
“The campaign is focused on making tradespeople and trades employers in the province fully aware of the Ontario College of Trades and its implications on our industry,” said Sean Reid, OCEC chair.
“We want them to clearly assess the value or lack of value that the college is bringing.”
To help achieve that goal, the OCEC has launched the website,which has sections such as “Top 10 Reasons to Abolish the College” and tips on how to take action against it.
“The more companies and contractors and employers learn about the College of Trades, the less they like about it. We are continuing as a coalition to grow, adding new associations almost on a weekly basis now and we’ll continue to do so over the course of the next weeks and months until we’ve shut this College of Trades down,” said Reid.
The College was legislated in 2009 in response to one of the recommendations made in the Compulsory Certification Project Review by Tim Armstrong.
The OCEC is calling for an abolition or complete overhaul of OCOT and Reid said legislation is not a large barrier.
“The Ontario government is entirely capable of shutting down the College of Trades if it wants to. Governments do that all the time,” he said.
“They consolidate agencies, they close them down, it’s entirely possible for them to do that and that would be the right thing for them to do in this case.”
OCEC says the college’s membership fees will amount to $84 million in annual revenue and is calling it a “double tax.” OCOT board of directors chair Ron Johnson has said the OCOT budget is $17 million for 2012 and is projected at $20 million in 2013 and once it is running at full capacity the annual budget will be approximately $30 million.
“There’s a huge difference between budget and revenue. What they plan to spend is entirely different from what they plan to receive from the industry,” responded Reid.
“The College itself says it’s going to oversee 500,000 tradespeople and up to 30,000 employers right out of the gate. It’s not hard to do the math and figure out that this is going to be a highly costly bureaucratic boondoggle.”
Other main concerns for the OCEC include an “inevitable push” by OCOT to have more trades become compulsory, which, they say, will make these trades more difficult to work in and drive up construction costs and could lead to a Quebec-style construction model. It is also concerned that the college will become an “expensive and unwieldy” organization as it will be the largest regulatory body in Ontario, representing 157 skilled trades in the construction, industrial, motive power and service sectors.
Johnson responded that OCOT’s entire infrastructure already exists in the government.
“Government has done, quite frankly, a poor job of managing trades in the province and promoting trades and managing an apprenticeship system,” he said. “When you turn something over to the private sector, to industry itself to manage, you’re going to find efficiencies that you wouldn’t find otherwise in government.”
Johnson said the website is full of mistruths, such as the $84 million in revenue claims and describing college fees as a tax.
OCOT has encouraged organizations to get involved to help shape the college, but Johnson does not view this campaign as part of the discussion. He called it counterproductive.
Johnson acknowledged that OCEC is gaining members and growing the opposition movement against the college, but said it’s important to keep it in perspective.
“They still represent a very, very small percentage of the stakeholders in Ontario.”
The reality is that OCOT has a responsibility to reform the system, said Johnson.
“We’ve been assured that government is committed to pushing ahead with the college and ensuring its success. So I take my cues from that. I’m fairly confident that we’re going to be successful. The reality is you’re going to get opposition to any type of change, regardless of what it is, so this is no surprise.”
OCOT is slated to begin accepting memberships on Jan. 1, 2013.
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