Liberals and NDP team up to retain Ontario College of Trades

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Opposition Day measure fails, but opponents vow to fight on

Barrie Construction News staff writer

An opposition day motion to create a democratic representation system for the Ontario College of Trades failed on April 23 when Liberals and New Democratic Party MPPs voted down the resolution drafted by Simcoe North Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop.

In a note to Orillia Construction Association members on April 28, Dunlop’s constituency assistant Heather Thompson forwarded copies of his news release, an Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) newsletter and a “petition (against the College of Trades) which is available in Garfield’s constituency office in Midland and Orillia.

“Garfield is assuring everyone that this fight is far from over,” she wrote.

Dunlop, the PC critic for skilled trades and apprenticeship reform, reported in his news release that he had tabled a private member’s resolution concerning the appointments council of the College of Trades.

The motion introduced in the Ontario legislature on April 24 reads as follows:

“That in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario and its Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities should immediately take steps to abolish the appointments council of the Ontario College of Trades; and furthermore, to allow all tradespeople, who are required by law to be members of the Ontario College of Trades, the ability to democratically elect their own Board of Governor in an open and transparent manner.”

“The Ontario College of Trades is not a real “college” like the College of Teachers or the College of Physicians and Surgeons,” said Dunlop. “Those “Colleges” are governed by a democratic vote. No Ontario trades person has ever had a vote to decide who will sit on the College of Trades governing body. Its governing body has been appointed by the McGuinty-Wynne Liberal Party, and not surprisingly, is dominated by special interests who have financially contributed significant amounts to the Ontario Liberal Party.”

Dunlop has been touring the province for the past year and has met with many skilled tradespeople and stakeholders who see no benefit in having a College of Trades or in paying the trades tax imposed by the College of Trades.

“Tradespeople are extremely upset that the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals are raising tradesperson’s fees by 600 per cent,” Dunlop said. “It is ironic that they are expected to pay high fees imposed on them by the college yet they do not have a say about who sits on the board of the Ontario College of Trades.”

The Ontario College of Trades has been opposed by the PC caucus since its creation in 2009.  It was forced through the Ontario legislature with limited debate and the use of a closure motion. The Ontario NDP and the Ontario Liberals both support the College of Trades and the trades tax and two weeks ago defeated an Opposition Day motion by Dunlop to abolish the College of Trades.

Meanwhile, the OHBA reported that industry representatives from Quinte, Brantford, Hamilton-Halton, BILD, Grey-Bruce, Niagara, Simcoe County, Waterloo, Peterborough, Haldimand-Norfolk and Guelph had Dunlop in support of his Opposition Day motion to abolish the College of Trades.
“OHBA has consistently opposed the College of Trades since its creation since 2009,” the association reported in its The Builder Advocate newsletter. “Unfortunately, the vote was 35-48 against the motion to abolish the college.”

“ Despite this result, OHBA will continue to work with all members of provincial parliament to improve the College of Trades and to build Ontario’s skilled-trades workforce.

The OHBA says the College of Trades will not solve the growing skilled-trades workforce gap in Ontario. “The current structure does not take advantage of the potential and opportunities the residential construction sector can provide in growing Ontario’s economy and building a modern skilled-trades workforce,”the association says.

“The reality is that competing provincial jurisdictions like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have already modernized their apprenticeship system to tap into the potential of all construction employers and provide more apprenticeship opportunities than Ontario. Homebuilders, professional renovators, trade contractors and installers welcome the opportunity to provide apprenticeships and help build Ontario’s skilled-trades workforce. It is time for this government to refocus on the best outcome for Ontario and that is to ensuring that every capable employer can fully participate in providing apprenticeship opportunities.

“OHBA supports a one-to-one journeyperson-to-apprenticeship ratio as a practical solution to Ontario’s skilled-trades gap.”