OCOT Has Been Extremely Open and Transparent, says Dillon

The following article from The Daily Commercial News is a response to the March 19, 2013 article by Clive Thurston entitled, Stopping “The Trades Tax” Necessary, says Thurston.

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to the March 19 contributed column entitled “Stopping the trades tax necessary, says Thurston,” in the Daily Commercial News. It is somewhat disheartening to read the establishment of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) described as part of a “hidden agenda.”

As Business Manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, an organization representing 150,000 workers throughout our province, I must say that the years’ long process which led to OCOT has been more than open, transparent and accountable to the tradesmen and women whom it serves.

Tim Armstrong’s exhaustive report entitled “Compulsory Certification Project” which recommended the establishment of a trades college was the result of provincewide industry consultations that included no fewer than 111 stakeholders sharing their views on how the trades ought to be regulated.

I need not remind you that the Ontario General Contractors Association was one of the organizations that provided feedback under that consultation.

It is also imperative to note that tradespeople holding Certificates of Qualification (CofQs) already paid membership fees to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in order to practice their trades and the recent transition of paying them to OCOT empowers them to now make their own decisions on a host of workplace issues, through their respective trade boards and divisional boards.

Moreover, the College will also better serve Ontario’s tradespeople who are a reflection of our workplace diversity and economic sophistication.

Describing the need to match technological changes with corresponding regulations in a balanced way as a “massive new bureaucracy” is unfair to the needs of our economy.

To call the College’s membership fees a “tax grab” is absolutely misleading, especially considering the fact that 50 per cent of Ontario employers are not paying into the College and yet have a say in its governance. Our Building Trades Council has been, and continues to be of the view, that only members who pay into the College should have a say in how it is governed.

Just like any other self-regulated profession, Ontario’s trades finally have an opportunity to bring workers and employers together to make decisions impacting their respective industries in the construction, motive power, service and industrial sectors.

They are finally doing so without political interference, and without relying on taxpayer money.

This includes decisions concerning skilled labour shortages, the need to attract women, youth and Aboriginals to the trades and the need to remove the negative stigma of the trades as a viable career option for young Ontarians.

I sincerely hope the author will overcome their short-term “hidden agenda” and narrow view of the College as an institution that will leave tradespeople with “less money in their pockets” and that they will seize this opportunity to help empower Ontario’s employers and workers by endorsing the College’s mandate.

Let’s work together to elevate the status of the trades so that we can secure a brighter future for the industry as a whole.

Patrick J. Dillon Business Manager Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario

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