Garfield Dunlop speaks out against the Ontario College of Trades

Posted by on Oct 12, 2012 in News | 0 comments

The direction being taken by the Ontario College of Trades will lead to an over-regulation of hundreds of thousands of skilled trades and create a barrier to employment, especially for young people, a PC MPP told Niagara builders Tuesday night.

Addressing the Niagara Home Builders’ Association at its annual general meeting, MPP Garfield Dunlop, PC critic for skilled trades and apprenticeship reform, said when he was given the file by party leader Tim Hudak just over a year he knew of only some of the issues.

However, he did have a keen interest.

A plumber before he entered politics, Dunlop said he was particularly interested in positioning trades as a viable career pursuit for young people, and he hoped the new College of Trades might help in providing opportunities for them.  “That was my primary concern going into this,” he said.

What he found, though, is a governing body for the province’s apprenticeship and skilled trades system, which has the power to make licensing compulsory, forcing costly fees upon workers and businesses.

“What this is, in my opinion, is another kind of bureaucracy growing wild,” he said.

And so Dunlop has travelled the province since last spring, holding talks such as the one he did Tuesday to inform key stakeholders about the coming changes.

The Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act passed third reading in 2009 but has not yet been implemented. Today there are four certified trades in the residential housing sector: plumbers, electricians, sheet metal workers and crane operators, each paying $60 every three years. Under proposed changes, the fees would jump to $120 per year, Dunlop said, and could see certification requirements for a much broader swath of the skilled trades sector.

The effect, he said, would see the ‘jack of all trades’ eliminated, creating a scenario whereby 11 tradespeople would be needed to renovate a bathroom. What will happen, he said, is much of this work will move underground.

Dunlop told the audience that most people aren’t aware of these proposals, as there’s been little consultation with the public.

“People don’t know this is coming at them,” he said.

He said his party would abolish the College of Trades and instead work on reinforcing the already working community college system in Ontario. His party would also gradually lower the journeyman to apprentice ratio from 3:1 to 1:1.

After his presentation, Dunlop sat on a panel for a question and answer session with NHBA president Jon Whyte, government liaison Chuck McShane and Ontario Home Builders’ Association government relations rep Stephen Hamilton.

McShane said the move towards licencing is being pushed by unions, who have seen membership drop and are trying to build their strength back up. When arguing against lowering ratios, the unions point to supposed safety concerns.

“They’re tugging at the heartstrings,” he said. “They’re not worried about quality (of the product), they’re worried about the safety. That’s the selling point.”

However, he said, he defies anyone to find safety problems at the work sites of any of the home builders in the room.

When asked what could be done to change the proposals, all said the best course of action now is a political one: write your MPP, sign a petition, and, most important, spread the word.

“The more people understand the implication of this, the better chance we have of stopping it in its tracks,” Whyte said.

Dunlop said it’s important not to underestimate the effectiveness of such action.

“Believe it or not, it’s slowly working,” he said.


Source: Niagara This Week