by Christina Blizzard
It’s tempting to call it a shocking new tax, but the new fee that’s being imposed on electricians will hike the cost of electrical work to consumers — and that isn’t funny.
Worse, say electrical contractors, they can’t get a straight answer as to what’s being done with the cash they’re being gouged for.
The Liberal-created Ontario College of Trades will soon require journeymen electricians and electrical contractors to pay an additional $200 and $600 respectively annually to the College for unspecified services.
Stephen Sell, is president of the Ontario Electrical League, a group representing 6,000 electricians — most of them non-union.
He says this is just an unnecessary tax on his members — and a duplication of a process that’s already in place.
They’re already paying for licences, so it won’t enhance safety one scrap, he says.
“They’re adding all these extra layers where we already have a functional system and they’re not telling us what this will actually do,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday.
He’s written to the college pointing out that these fees will provide an extra $24 million to the College of Trades — money he suspects will simply go to fund that body without providing any services.
Tory critic Garfield Dunlop called on the government to scrap the college. In the Legislature Tuesday, he called it a “banana republic agency.”
It’s easy to understand the Tory angst over that body. Patrick Dillon, a spokesperson for the so-called Working Families Coalition, a group that ran an expensive negative advertising campaign targeting the Tories in the last three elections, was appointed by the Liberals to the college.
“You’ve instituted this large, unnecessary body without consulting with Ontario’s skilled trades workers or employers,” Dunlop told training minister Glen Murray.
“Now you’ve decided, instead of taking financial responsibility for your growing boondoggle, you’re now going to implement a new tax — and this is what it is, a new tax — on the backs of hard-working trades people and their employers.”
Sell said this new tax, as well as the government’s restrictive apprenticeship ratios, are causing a problem with labour supply in the industry.
Currently, government ratios require three journeymen to supervise one apprentice electrician. Sell says that could easily be changed to one apprentice to one journeyman.
“We’ve had scenarios where a journeyman retires, it puts you over your ratio, so you have to lay someone off.”
You could open up employment for 6,000 young people in the trades by a simple change in the ratio, he says, and one apprentice to one journeyman makes more sense because they can work as a teaching team.
Murray told Dunlop he could sit down with him, “over a cup of coffee and explain the difference between a licence and a College of Trades, because there’s a difference between buying an apple and a bushel and he doesn’t understand the difference.”
Well, if you put it that way, neither do I.
What I do see is a government that created an unneeded and unwanted bureaucracy, then rewarded one of their key supporters with a position in that agency.
The result is that hard-working tradespeople have to pay more for the right to work — with no discernible benefit to anyone.
If this government were truly serious about finding meaningful employment for young people in high-paying jobs in the trades, they should stop putting archaic and meaningless hurdles in the way of legitimate professionals who are just trying to make an honest living.