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November 19, 2012

Ontario trades college membership fees unveiled

Membership fees have been set for the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) and will range from $60 to $120 annually.

“We’re very hopeful that over time we are able to persuade significant amounts of tradespeople in voluntary trades to participate, to be members in good standing of their professional regulatory body. We believe it will certainly elevate the trades,” said Bob Guthrie, OCOT registrar and chief executive officer.

The membership classes of apprentices, tradespersons and journeyperson candidates will pay $60 annually. Journeypersons and employer/sponsors will pay $120 a year. The college is expected to begin accepting membership on April 8, 2013. It will represent 157 skilled trades in the construction, motive power, industrial and service sectors.

In some categories, these fees are significantly lower than the proposed membership fees released in the spring, which ranged from $50 to $600 a year. The Ontario Construction Employers Coalition (OCEC) said the new fees changes nothing.

“This is still going to cost our industry and our tradespeople dearly and what are they doing to get in return? Nothing,” said Sean Reid, OCEC chair and regional director for Ontario for the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada.

Over the next year or two, the college hopes to fulfill two of its mandates, to promote the skilled trades as a viable career option and enforce compulsory trades.

“There is a perception out there that’s very widely held in the industry that there’s not been rigorous enforcement of compulsory trades in the past so we hope to do better. We intend to do better,” said Guthrie.

He assumes that shortly after the date that it begins accepting membership, OCOT will have the regulatory authority to enforce the Ontario laws pertaining to compulsory trades.

Reid says it’s too late to begin touting the value adds of the college.

“One would think that when they first conceived this legislation over five years ago that they would have had some idea what value they would bring to people and industry and still after five years we have nothing.”

The proposed membership fees were open to stakeholder consultation in the spring. Guthrie said there were several hundred replies to the consultation, which ranged from supportive, neutral and opposed to fees at any level. It was also influenced by OCEC’s “Stop The Trades Tax” campaign.

“The fact that there were organizations out there that were suggesting that our fees were going to be much higher and that they were a tax and so on certainly motivated us to be as efficient as possible. When we set the fees, we set them at the lowest rate we could in order to generate the revenue we needed to deliver the value of the college,” said Guthrie.

OCEC and many of its member organizations participated in the membership fee consultation.

“We’ve been participating in good faith in the consultation process on the College of Trades since its inception,” said Reid.

“We believe we’ve put forward on countless occasions constructive ideas that will be good for our industry, but what has happened over time is it’s become increasingly evident that the college and the Dalton McGuinty government were uninterested in taking our feedback to heart,” he added.

“All of our suggestions were ignored and at some point you can only be ignored so often and then at some point you have to say enough is enough.”

The original proposed fees for employers ranged from $100 to $600, depending on the size of the employer.

“We basically couldn’t justify in our analysis or any process that would support a sliding scale of membership fee,” said Guthrie.

“That’s not to say there wouldn’t be at some point in the future.”

OCOT has adopted a “one member, one fee” principle, so skilled tradespeople with multiple Certificates of Qualification will only pay one membership fee.

Guthrie said the college achieved its goal of having the lowest fees of any regulatory body in the province.

Transactional fees such as examinations will be separate from the membership fees.

All apprentices, even those in voluntary trades, will have to pay membership fees.

Those in voluntary trades will have a choice if they wish to continue their OCOT membership after their apprenticeship is complete.

The province is currently conducting consultations about exempting participants in the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program from having to pay membership fees.

OCOT’s 2013 budget and business plan are currently going through an approval process.

Guthrie said the budget will be approximately $22 million for the first year, which will continue to operate with provincial funding until it begins accepting membership fees in the spring of 2013.

The 2014 budget is estimated to be about $30 million, though OCOT has not done a formal budget exercise for that year yet.

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