Tom Spanton runs his business according to the rules. As owner of Leaside Plumbers, he needs to continually increase his plumbing staff. Sometimes the rules make it difficult.
“We can only have one or two (apprentices) at a time,” he said. “They generally ride along (with other plumbers). It takes a couple of years on the job until they’re of much value to you.”
The Ontario College of Trades (OCT) is an independent, industry-driven body that promotes the skilled trades. The legislation that created the OCT was passed in October 2009 and it determines how the province regulates the skilled trades workforce.
“(Before the OCT) we were governed by the provincial and municipal government licensing,” Spanton said. “They supervised the businesses and apprentices.”
He added that only letters have been sent to his business, leaving little information about what the college will do.
Earlier this month, Progressive Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North), presented a Private Member’s bill that would have abolished the college. He feared that new licensing fees, which have increased from $20 to $120 (plus HST) for businesses, and $60 for each tradesman and apprentice, would force consumers to pay higher prices for the trades. The bill would also have lowered the ratio of apprentices to skilled tradespeople to 1:1. The bill did not pass.
“Someone’s going to have to pay the tradesperson,” Dunlop said. “(The college) is making a very substantial increase in the fees.”
Dunlop travelled around Ontario and found many of those in the skilled trades did not know of the college.
Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Brad Duguid (Scarborough-Centre) feels the OCT fees are lower than other provincial regulatory agencies, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“There’s not a tradesperson or business in the province that would change the way they do business over a $120 charge,” Duguid said. He implied that OCT fees would not encourage under-the-table payments to the trades.
Duguid pointed out what he sees as benefits to consumers in the new regulations and fees.
“Tradespeople will be registered. Consumers will have a place to determine if someone has the qualifications and ability to do the work,” he said.
Both Duguid and Dunlop both see the increased need for the skilled trades in Ontario.
“We need to promote the trades to young people as a viable first choice profession, that can lead to a good level of income and good quality of life,” Duguid said.
Dunlop sees promoting the occupations as the job of the government.
“We would like to see the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities do a good job of promoting the skill trades right back in elementary and secondary school,” Dunlop said.