Saturday, June 7, 2014

So Why Does Tim Hudak Want to Kill the Ontario College of Trades?

Every Ontario Conservative is singing from the same Hymnal. "Close the Ontario College of Trades, close the Ontario College of Trades .... Hallelujah, Hallelujah."

Seemed strange to me because before they starting singing about it, I'd never heard anyone wanting to make this an election issue.

I've been following Canada's Neoconservative movement long enough to know when something is up. And it didn't take long to discover what it was.

The driving force behind this, is a group calling themselves Stop the Trades Tax. Anytime a "grassroots" movement opposes some kind of tax, you can be sure that they are short on grass but long on roots, and those roots usually lead back to a lobbyist and an industry or corporation.

Stop the Trades Tax was the brainchild of Karen Renkema, former Vice-President of Council of Ontario Construction Associations. In 2007, it was announced that Renkema would be leaving that job and going to Queens Park to act as a lobbyist for one of their members.

Renkema is now also the Chair of a group Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance, which some believe is simply a proxy for the construction industry.

According to Jeff Koller
[Ontario Skilled Trades Alliance] call for reduced journeyperson to apprentice ratios (where have we heard that before?) and oppose any new compulsory trade certification, saying that those things kill jobs and inhibit economic growth.
Koller disagrees, but you can see where Hudak got his talking points.

We know from Randy Hillier's "leaked email" that the PCs were going after the construction industry for funds, on a promise to allow them to hire non-union workers. And what better way to lure campaign funds, than the commitment to cancel a program that is impeding the industry's ability to increase their profit margin, and eliminate competition from smaller firms.

And Renkema is clear.  She will not compromise, and even the hint of a mere review, has her steaming mad. In fact, in most of their press releases, they bash the Ontario Liberals for allowing The Ontario Trades College to exist.

Now you can't google Stop the Trades Tax without generating a myriad of PC MPPs and candidates signing a pledge to get rid of it. (Yes those dreaded pledges)

I wanted to find out what actual trades people thought of this and found on a Carpenter's union website, a list of reasons why the Ontario College of Trades was important:
Consumer Protection: Consumers will have access to a membership registry that will display the member’s standing with the college to inform their decision to hire skilled trades people. Consumers will also be able to voice complaints to the [OCOT]

Self-Governance: Skilled trades practitioners in Ontario deserve the same respect as teachers, doctors and nurses in this province. All of these professions have a regulatory college and trades people deserve the same respect for their industry.

For the first time in North America, apprenticeship ratios will be determined by members of the skilled trades. This ensures that the skilled trades industry is able to respond to market demands while ensuring a safe working environment for apprentices and journeypeople.

Promoting Skilled Trades to Youth: The College has a mandate to promote the skilled trades to youth. Attracting youth is essential to have a thriving skilled trades industry in Ontario.

Cracking Down on the Underground Economy: Enforcement officers from the college will be fining trades people practicing a compulsory trade without the appropriate license. These efforts protect consumers from inferior and unsafe work and protect members of the college from illegal competition.

Worker’s Health and Safety: The College will ensure that all members, apprentices and journeypeople, have the proper training and support to practice their trades
And says Unifor national president Jerry Dias, Hudak is misleading the public about the Ontario College of Trades.
“The College of Trades is good for the trades. The decisions affecting the skilled trades are being made by the trades for the trades, and not by politicians like Tim Hudak,” he said.

“It’s about time the Conservatives quit bashing the college and rather embraced the structure and worked with all the stakeholders to make it a successful body.”
I'm at a bit of an advantage because I know how to speak Neocon.

Cutting red tape - deregulation leaving consumers and citizens vulnerable

Eliminating bureaucracy - Handing decisions over to lobbyists.

Trim the fat - cut public services for we the public

Choice - Privatization

Hudak promised transparency and he's delivered it. We can see right through him.


  1. I have trade certifications and work as consultant in the construction industry... the college of trades provides many benefits and should remain. Another reason not to vote for Hudak's conservatives

  2. Thank you for the excellent outline of an important question – one of the more important issues in this election - that has been ignored in discussion. This issue is far too complex for the involvement of anyone with such limited workplace experience as Hudak. He is obviously following orders and he is in way over his head.

    The project to abolish the College of Trades is an anti-regulatory wage-supressing measure that highlights the special relationship that has developed between the provincial PCs, anti-union contractors, knee-jerk advocates of deregulation and the “Warehouse College” industry.

    This seems to be a plan that Hudak is proposing to assist in glutting labour markets and dispensing with the formality of workplace regulation and trade certification simultaneously. Typically, professors working at institutions formerly specializing in the “Medical Assisting” or “Chinchilla Ranching” educational fields are going to train 200,000 “pre-apprentices” in the “skilled trades” at a cost to the student or to OSAP of $7,000 for a 24-week course. The course will qualify the aspiring “entrants” to attempt to find employers who may start them on actual apprenticeships. In some cases the colleges have what appear to be casual business relationships, consisting mainly of mutually-supportive endorsements, with employers and organizations professing to be “unions”. These companies and organizations have sometimes advertised the possibility that they might assist the trainees in this endeavour once they have completed the “pre-apprenticeship” training. This is a procedure that Hudak seems to be endorsing:

    "Career colleges have been ahead of the curve for so long because you are connected to the marketplace, you know what the demand is, you know what the jobs are..."

    It’s certainly a departure from long-standing traditional practices in a formal indentured apprenticeship. No party has promised to “faithfully train” the potential “entrant” nor even made an offer of employment prior to accepting the seven grand (or the amount on whatever price tag is attached to the particular course).

    Take a look at these links:

    Karen Renkema appears to have moved on from the Ontario Road Builders Association or perhaps she has just taken on a bigger client. Note that on this twitter page she is described as “Senior Manager of Public Affairs for the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA)”:

    See also:

    The PCA describes itself as “the voice of progressive unionized employers in Canada’s construction industry”. What that means is that the PCA’s member contractors generally operate under special relationships with worker associations of the type that were once referred to as “yellow-dogs”. The interpersonal relationships that develop under these circumstances can be very incestuous in the organizational sense.


    It is often the case that personal career associations within the right-wing government relations and political advocacy network in which Ms. Renkema has been employed are facilitated through having attended or been otherwise engaged with religiously-affiliated educational institutions or through personal connections within the faith network.


    There is much more about this particular Hudak project that should be subjected to public discussion but the other parties seem to have ignored the issues that it raises.

  3. What upset trades people is the cost born by the individual journeyperson. The fees went to yearly instead of every 3 years. Even I didn't know they were tax deductible until I checked today. Going to have to make sure I put my payment receipts with my tax pile from now on.

    1. In the case of hair salon professionals, how about using some of the tips you don't claim to pay the fee? I wouldn't be drawing too much attention to the costs of doing business - just makes Canada Revenue take notice .... just saying ...