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Stakeholders react to Ontario College of Trades proposed membership fees

Kelly Lapointe

The Ontario College of Trades is seeking feedback from the province’s trades community about membership fees but many are opposing the fees. The president of Merit Ontario called the membership fees taxation without representation.

The current proposed fees range from $50 to $600 annually, depending on if the member is an apprentice, journeyperson, tradesworker or employer/sponsor.

“We want to get an idea from apprentices, journeypersons, and employers alike on what their expectations are and to use that information to develop a membership fee structure that can be lived with by everybody in the trades,” said Ron Johnson, College governors’ board chair.

In addition to annual membership fees, other Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) transactional fees will apply and are yet to be determined. These will include exam and assessment fees, penalties, etc.

“This represents an enormous increase in costs for our member companies,” said Stephen Sell, Ontario Electrical League president, in a release. “We see no value from these fees and are strongly against them.”

The goal is to have the College become financially independent from the MTCU on Jan. 1, 2013, when it opens its doors to members, said Johnson. The College is receiving interim funding from the MTCU for 2012 for its start-up costs.

Some in the construction industry say the College should not be self-funded, but Johnson said that was determined when the College was legislated in 2009 as a response to one of the recommendations in the 2008 Compulsory Certification Project Review by Tim Armstrong.

“The reality is it is going to be a self-funded entity and that’s going to require financial support from the membership. It’s our job to show our potential members the value proposition of the College of Trades,” he said.

“They need to understand the fact that they have self-determination and control their own trade, that sort of self-governance does in fact come with a cost, unfortunately. Today it’s a cost that’s being handled largely by government.”

During the May 7 Question Period in the Ontario Legislature, MPP Garfield Dunlop, Progressive Conservative critic for skilled trades and apprenticeship reform, called the new fees, which could increase to $200 for a tradesperson, “completely scandalous.”

“The College has had virtually no dialogue with the tradespeople of Ontario,” he said.

Frank Viti, Merit Ontario president called the membership fees “taxation without representation.”

“Ontario’s tradespeople have had no say as to who sits on the board of the College of Trades,” he said in a release.

During the same Question Period, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Glen Murray said that Johnson has put forward a “very dynamic agenda,” adding that the College democratically engages apprentices, business and labour leaders and associations.

As a not-for-profit organization, Johnson said he believes the College’s audited financial statements will be available to the membership.

The deadline for comments is June 3.

When fully operational, the College will represent 150 skilled trades and is expected to be the largest regulatory body in North America with between 400,000 and 600,000 members. Its mandate includes promoting the skilled trades to youth and ratio reviews.

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