Jones finds mixed views on shutting College of Trades

May 21, 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Tabitha Wells – With the campaigning period for the June 12 provincial election now under way, politicians are taking the time to speak to the people they hope to represent about the hard issues.

Last Wednesday morning, Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones did just that, paying a visit to Erskine’s Service Centre to discuss the Progressive Conservative Party’s plans to shut down Ontario’s College of Trades.

“This is a step backwards in the trades industry,” said Steve Hinbest, Operations Manager at Erskine’s Service Centre. “The lack of regulation provided prior to the College of Trades has caused an increase in the number of unlicensed tradespersons doing business, which is drastically affecting those who are licensed.”

During her visit at Erskine’s, Ms. Jones was treated to a tour of the shop, met with some of the technicians and discussed the largest issue of concern for mechanic shops in town, which is the oversight of the College of Trades.

The College of Trades was a Liberal government initiative to provide oversight for the trades, ensuring that technicians in their respective fields are licensed, and working toward shutting down operations of people who lack the proper certification. The college has come under criticism by Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who has called it a tax grab and a blockade preventing young people from getting jobs in the trades.

“My issue with the College of Trades is not that there isn’t a need for oversight, but that the oversight has been done historically through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and you still have the oversight of the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Environment, the MTO,” said Sylvia Jones, during her visit.

Depending on who you talk to, the issue is a sensitive topic. For many, the college’s charge of $150 a year for firms to retain their trades license is egregious, especially considering many trades persons are making less than they should be. For others, the College is doing exactly what the four ministries who have oversight of the trades have failed to do – regulating the trades so that only licensed and official apprentices can work in a business.

“Our biggest concern lies with the lack of regulation,” said Mr. Hinbest, Operations Manager of Erskine’s Service Centre. “With the College of Trades, they regulate people being licensed in the trades. If there are people out there that are uncertified doing the work, then they are taking work away from the people that are legitimate, and that is our biggest concern.”

He added that a lot of the technicians are not making nearly the wages that they should in the industry, because there are too many unlicensed techs taking the business by offering their services more cheaply than  a licensed tech can. It also means the quality of the services are not being regulated, which leads to a number of safety issues.

“When you have licensed people in our trade, you’re going to start to get rid of the unlicensed people, because they’re not going to pay the $150 when they don’t have a license to back the fee,” explained Erskines owner Mike Hinbest.

“You’re not going to have unlicensed people working in the shops, and so the vehicles leaving the shop are safer.”

Ms. Jones was in complete agreement that the trades need more regulation, but stands with her party on grounds the College of Trades should not be the regulator.

“There is a consumer awareness component that is critical, and people have to understand that there is a cause and effect if they are choosing that off-brand or that unlicensed technician,” she said. “If there are garages operating like that, the Government of Ontario – before the College of Trades and after they are gone – still has the responsibility to enforce the need to be licensed, not the college.”

She added that another part of the problem with the College of Trades, which feeds into the feeling that it is more of a tax grab and less of a necessity, is their attempt to increase the regulated number of trades from the current 22 to include more, such as hairdressers, who would have to pay the annual licence fee.

“The thing is, then it’s taking it away from the original safety issue that this was supposed to be about,” she said. “If I get a haircut I don’t like from a hairdresser, I won’t end up in the hospital, I just won’t go there again. Not like the issue surrounding many of the trades, which is getting away from the point of having the college.”

Despite the disagreement on whether the College of Trades should remain in operation, both the Hinbests and Ms. Jones agreed that changes need to be made to the oversight, whether it’s to look at restricting what the college can do, or whether the ministries need to create a task-force that is more diligent in the way it regulates the trades fields.

“That’s where I want to have a conversation – what are the things that can happen legislatively?” she asked. “We need to discuss what needs to happen legislatively and through a regulatory option that keeps the vehicles safer and protects the people who have worked hard to earn their licenses in their fields.”

The College of Trades issue is just one of many the Conservatives intend to tackle during the election period, as Ms. Jones continues campaigning to be re-elected.

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