The following article is an op-ed written in response to "Supporting the economy means supporting the trades," an op-ed by Ron Johnson, Chair of the Ontario College of Trades, that appeared in early March. You can see the original article at this link.

By Frank Notte, Director of Government Relations at the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association
 
Toronto, Ontario -- April 1, 2013 -- Ontario is facing a huge skilled labour shortage, with an estimated 100,000 new tradespeople needed in the next ten years. It is critical that we work to expand Ontario’s skilled labour force to fill that need. But I take issue with the assertion that we need to build a massive new bureaucracy to do it. 
 
The College of Trades is Ontario’s newest bureaucracy that the government claims will promote skilled trades and increase consumer protection. In order to do so, the Ontario government is planning to tax both tradespeople and employers hundreds of dollars a year in “membership fees.” Does this tax give tradespeople better access to tools to perform their job? Does this tax help businesses more easily on-board apprentices? Does this tax help attract new people to the skilled trades? 
 
No, it doesn’t. Tradespeople and business owners will still be doing the same jobs, with the same challenges, but with less money in their pockets. 
 
I’ve heard lots of justifications for the College. Recently Ron Johnson, a former politician and head of the College, said its purpose is to attract more young people to the trades. 
 
So let me get this straight: in order to attract more young people to the trades, the College is going to make it more expensive for them to apply for work by charging them a trades tax. Furthermore, the government will make it more expensive for businesses to hire them by charging a separate employer tax. Only the government would come up with a plan to create jobs by making it more expensive and difficult for people to qualify for a job. 
 
Johnson has also compared the creation of the College of Trades to the Ontario College of Teachers, saying it is “industry-driven” by tradespeople and employers. But the truth is, the College will impact over 500,000 tradespeople and 30,000 business owners in Ontario, and 99 per cent of those people didn’t even get a vote on who leads the College or what the College does with their money. Furthermore, many, possibly even most, haven’t even heard of the College.
 
The most infuriating part for me and other small business is the huge amount of red tape the College of Trades will create. John Notte, my father, was an auto body repairer for 30 years. For 20 of those years, he owned and operated East Port Auto Body, a full service collision repair facility in Port Colborne, Ont. I grew up in the family business and saw first hand the huge red tape burden placed on his small business.
 
For my dad, dealing with the countless and sometimes ridiculous pieces of red tape and bureaucracy from three levels of government often took him away from his number one priority to running his business - fixing cars. Often, he would joke saying he felt like he worked part time for himself, and full time for the government based on all the time he spent dealing with red tape.
 
Automobile dealers and collision repair shops have numerous rules and regulations to comply with: The Motor Vehicle Dealers Act, the Consumer Protection Act, the Employment Standards Act, the Highway Traffic Act, WSIB, environmental regulations and countless others. The College of Trades and their supposed mandate to “protect the consumer” will duplicate many of these regulations. Rather than update or utilize existing legislation – the government thought it would be best to re-invent the wheel. And by extension – that means higher taxes on tradespeople, those who employ them and consumers to fund the College of Trades and their massive bureaucracy.
 
That is why the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, and the 10,000 automotive technicians who are part of our association, support the Stop The Trades Tax campaign. I feel passionately that the College will only hurt tradespeople. The Stop The Trades Tax campaign represents 130,000 tradespeople – including 10,000 auto technicians. It also includes 8,000 small, medium and large employers from auto dealers to construction companies.
 
But this is more than just a tax on tradespeople. It’s a tax on families. It’s a tax on businesses and employers. It’s a tax on everything a tradesperson touches from haircuts to collision repair. The bottom line: it will make life more expensive. And that’s something we cannot afford.
 
The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and our campaign partners are going to keep fighting to stop the trades tax, because we think it’s the right thing to do. We want to urge organizations and associations who have not yet taken a stand on this issue to do so. Stand up for tradespeople and join the Stop The Trades Tax campaign. Find out more at stopthetradestax.ca and view Trillium’s two minute video on the College at tada.ca.
 
Frank Notte is Director of Government Relations at the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. He also works with the Stop The Trades Tax Campaign. 

 

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