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Dealer’s Voice: Stop the College of Trades

Published December 14, 2012

In this column, the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA) has written frequently about the need to recruit young people to the auto industry.

As baby boomers begin to retire or move into management positions, there will be a growing need to fill the ranks with new workers. Other trades (plumbers, electricians, drywallers, carpenters) face similar challenges.

To address this expected shortfall of workers, the TADA has been proactive for many years, forming strategic partnerships with post-secondary institutions (Centennial College and the Automotive Business School of Canada at Georgian College in Barrie); introducing scholarships; sponsoring an annual skills competition among automotive students; and reaching out to high schools.

Together, these efforts at raising awareness about the opportunities for employment have been working. Young people are heeding the message that the auto industry offers challenging career opportunities for those willing to invest the time and work hard. But a new, massive government bureaucracy will soon undo this progress.

In 2009, the Ontario government decided to address the expected shortfall of workers in all of the trades with the introduction of a new program called the Ontario College of Trades (collegeoftrades.ca).

The Ontario College of Trades was conceived as a new regulatory body aimed at “giving industry a greater role in governance, certification and training.” What sounded like a good idea in theory has quickly turned into a bad idea in reality.

The Ontario College of Trades would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to the process of recruiting and training new workers, and it would add an annual membership tax of $60 for apprentices and $120 for licensed tradespeople.

For example, a mechanic pays $60 for a Certificate of Qualification that lasts three years. Soon, they will pay $120 per year — a 500-per-cent increase, with no benefit of belonging to the College.

It is estimated that this new Trades tax would add an extra $84 million to the provincial coffers — costing tradespeople and employers millions, kill jobs and drive up the cost of services such as home renovations, car repairs and getting a haircut.

The TADA, Canada’s largest provincial automobile dealers association, representing more than 1,000 new-car dealerships and 10,000 tradespeople, is strongly opposed to the Ontario College of Trades.

Not only would this tax be a financial burden on apprentices, tradespeople and employers, but it would discourage people from pursuing a career in the automotive sector and in other trades. In other words, it would do more harm than good.

The government claims that this additional layer of bureaucracy and taxation will help to raise the profile of, and promote involvement in, skilled trades. It suggests that the trades working in Ontario are in need of more policies and procedure for the trades.

To help put a stop to this blatant tax grab, the TADA has lent its support to a campaign called Stop the Trades Tax (stopthetradestax.ca).

This campaign was launched by the Ontario Construction Employers Coalition in response to plans by the provincial government to impose a new tax on Ontario apprentices, journeypersons and employers, starting this spring.

The automotive sector (and other industries that employ skilled tradespeople) have a tough enough time attracting and retaining people without the looming prospect of another level of taxation.

The Ontario College of Trades is a huge step backwards for all trades operating in Ontario. With enough support, the TADA is confident that the provincial government will recognize how hurtful and unpopular such a tax would be for the economy and move to scrap it.

As president of the TADA, I urge readers and concerned citizens to get involved with this campaign: write to your MPP, write the media, tell your friends, visit the Stop the Trades Tax website and lend your support to this important cause before it’s too late.

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