Daily Commercial News and Construction Record
KELLY LAPOINTE – Staff Writer
Construction employers from around the province are calling for the abolition or overhaul of the Ontario College of Trades, citing issues of governance and transparency.
“The Ontario College of Trades must not move forward in its current form,” said Sean Reid, of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCAC) and co-spokesperson for a construction employer coalition.
“The next provincial government must act fast to either overhaul or abolish the College of Trades and engage in a collaborative, open and transparent process with all stakeholders in the sector to address the serious issues affecting skilled trades in Ontario.”
The coalition consists of various construction employer associations and echoes some of the concern expressed in a study about the College, by Hamilton-based think-tank Cardus, called College of Trades: An Impossible Institution.
According to the study, the Ontario College of Trades “is an impossible institution, which provides no evidence to suggest that it will solve Ontario’s very serious issues with its trade and apprenticeship system.”
The College was founded in 2009 by the Dalton McGuinty government to modernize the province’s skilled trades, focusing on key issues such as compulsory certification and determination of ratios.
The Cardus report raised concerns about the transparency of the governance structure concerning these issues. According to the report there are four key design flaws to the College.
The first flaw is that it was founded on the premise that a self-regulating body would solve the very real issues in Ontario’s skilled trades sector with no research-based evidence to support this claim.
A second flaw identified by Cardus is that the College is poised to become a massive bureaucracy to support 157 trades in Ontario with a significant financial cost which will ultimately be funded by Ontario taxpayers, businesses and skilled tradespeople.
Cardus also stated that its governance structure is dominated by representatives of compulsory certified trades in Ontario, to the detriment of uncertified trades which form the majority of skilled tradespeople in the province.
The last flaw stated by Cardus is that the College’s role is redundant as skilled tradespeople in Ontario are already well regulated by other regulatory bodies.
The College’s governing structure will include over 600 positions at various levels and the report cites concern that this will take significant amount of industry support to keep these committees running smoothly.
“The sheer size and complexity cast serious doubt on the ability of the College of Trades to achieve its mandate and the administrative support required to make this governance structure function effectively will require large financial resources to be paid for by taxpayers, employers and tradespeople,” said Clive Thurston, Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) president.
The Cardus review found that the governance structure is unrepresentative of non-compulsory trades.
“The College of Trades governance structure has a built-in bias towards representatives of compulsory certified trades to the detriment of non-compulsory certified trades which are the majority (74 per cent) of tradespeople in Ontario,” added Frank Viti of Merit Ontario.
“From the start, the entire process for appointing members to the various governance bodies at the College of Trades has been shrouded in secrecy with little or no public consultation with the skilled tradespeople it will be regulating.”
Opponents of the College also added that it could potentially be a costly waste of taxpayers’ money.
The Cardus report says it’s unrealistic that the College will be financially self-sufficient based on its membership, meaning “either the costs for individual workers will increase significantly or that the College will have a self interest in expanding the number of compulsory trades, not for public interest reasons, but because the resources for its own infrastructure require it.”
Rob Bradford, Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) executive director, said the next provincial government must take action on the College. “The College of Trades, in its present form, will do nothing to address the critical issues, such as the shortage of qualified tradespeople in Ontario,” he said. “In addition, it will impose a financial burden on taxpayers, businesses and tradespeople.”
The employer coalition includes the Heavy Construction Association of Toronto, Merit Ontario, Ontario Electrical League, Ontario Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association, PCAC, RESCON, OGCA and ORBA.