The Ontario College of Trades celebrated its first anniversary Tuesday, and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says if he has his way it won't mark a second.
Hudak, accompanied by Tory Garfield Dunlop, continued his campaign against the regulatory body and unions, arguing that the college is little more than a bureaucratic front for organized labour.
The self-regulating college, with a budget of $20 million a year, is similar to those for doctors, teachers and lawyers. It has both its vehement detractors and defenders.
"Who benefits from this so-called College of Trades? Well, it's a union leader named Pat Dillon. You know him. He runs the Liberal negative ad machine as chair of the Working Families Coalition. And he has a stronger bargaining position when there is a shortage of trade people," he said.
Dillon is the business manager and secretary treasurer of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario.
The college, created by the Liberal government, is supported by many unions, but not all, while employers in many sectors, including construction, have railed against the red tape created by the college.
"As the Ontario College of Trades hit its one-year anniversary we see nothing but problems. It has become an incredibly expensive bureaucracy with the power to tax and putting up new obstacles to young people getting jobs," Hudak told reporters at Queen's Park.
The annual college fees range from $60 per apprentice and tradesperson up to $120 per journeyperson (certified tradesperson) and employer. However, joining the college is voluntary for employers.
The Tories want to see the responsibility for regulating skilled trades to be sent back to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Hudak said it is unfortunate that Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath "are standing with the special interest and preventing young people from getting the job" and added that his millions jobs plan would include eliminating the College of Trades.
Wynne defended the college.
"There are very good reasons to have the College of Trades. It is doing work that establishes trades as professional entities around the province," Wynne said.
"The purpose of the College of Trades is to make sure skilled trades are certified to do the work they're performing," she said.
The college, which regulates and promotes skilled trades, prior to December had been fending off opposition from a mostly employer-backed Stop the Trades Tax campaign, but it was dealt an unexpected blow when the Labourers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) withdrew its support.
If all 700,000 skilled trades workers joined the College of Trades it would be the largest of the province's 45 regulatory colleges. To start off, membership is only mandatory for the 150,000 who work in the 22 trades in which certification is compulsory, such as electricians, auto mechanics and sheet metal workers.
John Grimshaw, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario, said in a statement that consumers want to know that the person working with electricity in their homes knows exactly what he or she is doing.
"By enforcing compulsory trades, the college is ensuring the people doing dangerous jobs have been trained to provincial standards, which protects us all from danger and liability," he said in a statement.
James Hogarth, of the Ontario Pipe Trades Council, said making sure that trades peoplehave the proper training can hardly be seen as a "regulatory burden."
The Tories' Dunlop has spearheaded the campaign to get rid of the college.
"It is the worst thing in the history of construction in Ontario if you compulsory certify that particular trade," he said, referring to carpenters.
He said a homeowner would require 11 different trades to do a home renovation.
"It is complete insanity. This is Ontario. It is not Nicaragua or some bloody place like that. Let's get back to reality here and get rid of this College of Trade," Dunlop told reporters.