‘Trades tax’ to increase building owners’ costs: Ottawa electrician

Building owners should brace themselves for higher contracting bills as a result of a new Ontario regulatory body tightening provincial certification requirements for tradespeople, a local electrician warned Tuesday.

The recently established Ontario College of Trades possesses industry oversight powers similar to those organizations governing the province’s teachers, doctors and nurses. Advocates say it places decision-making authority in the hands of those in the industry who understand the issues best.

There are currently 157 categories of tradespeople in Ontario. Certification is compulsory for 22 of those trades, such as electricians, auto workers and plumbers, while the remainder have the option of joining the college.

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Previously, it was up to the government to determine which trades required a licence. However, the new college has introduced a mechanism that allows tradespeople to apply to change a trade’s status from voluntary to compulsory, and vice-versa.

That’s aroused the suspicion of some employers, including Walter Pamic, vice-president of Power-Tek Electrical Services Inc., who gave a speech Tuesday to the local chapter of the Building Owners and Managers Association.

He said increasing the number of compulsory trades will mean hiring multiple specialized workers to do the work currently done by “jacks-of-all-trades,” such as building technicians who are apt at making myriad repairs.

“When these trades are all compartmentalized, and you can only do work in your trade, this will kill the handyman industry in the province of Ontario.”

As an electrician, Mr. Pamic noted he commonly performs tasks that may fall under the purview of other trades. For example, he may cut a piece of plywood, affix it to a wall and apply fire-retardant paint before installing electrical equipment.

Currently, that’s not a problem because the certification of carpenters is currently voluntary. If that were to change, he may not be allowed to handle the piece of wood.

“This changes the whole dynamics of what you do and how you do it,” he said.

“This will do nothing but raise costs.”

Mr. Pamic said he’s already been notified that the average annual cost of renewing his licence will increase from $20 to $120.

More than 30 industry organizations, including the Ottawa Construction Association and the National Capital Heavy Construction Association, have launched a campaign calling on the provincial government to abolish the College of Trades.

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