Chet Greason email@example.com
Former Ontario cabinet minister and current CEO of the Ontario College of Trades, David Tsubouchi, was in Stratford last Wednesday to address concerns being raised by the Stratford and Area Builders Association (SABA).
The former Progressive Conservative politician was Minister of Community and Social Services, Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, and Solicitor-General under Premier Mike Harris, and chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Minister of Culture under Ernie Eves. Following his tenure in politics, he returned to his former job as a lawyer, and accepted the position at the College of Trades this past September.
Tsubouchi spoke at SABA’s monthly dinner meeting at the Queen’s Inn.
The Ontario College of Trades is a regulatory body, introduced in 2009, which began imposing membership fees last April. It oversees training of trades in the province, from plumbers and electricians to mechanics and hairstylists.
SABA past president, John Meinen, says the apprentice/journeyman ratios it enforces on trades like cement finisher and floor cover installer put small operators at a disadvantage and will lead to less young people working in the trades.
“The College forgot that 98 per cent of the industry is mom and pop operations,” he observed at last week’s meeting.
Chuck McShane, past president of the Niagara Home Builders Association, who also spoke at the meeting, said the OHBA was opposed to the College of Trades.
He accused the College of being “dominated by Toronto businesses and unions,” and stressed the importance of one-to-one apprentice/journeymen ratios. He used the example of a trucking company that could potentially take on an apprentice.
“It would cost more to put a second truck on the road, because now I have to have two journeymen (plus the apprentice) instead of just one. So I’m not going to do it.”
For the most part, Tsubouchi didn’t disagree with the points brought up by SABA members. He admitted the College had “a bad start” and “communication was poor.”
“You cannot not meet with stakeholders,” he said.
He added the College needs to improve its transparency, and provide its trade board minutes to the public.
Mostly, though, he pled with SABA members to join the College’s board of governors.
“We need someone who’s not afraid to give their opinion; someone who’s part of the industry.”
Tsubouchi further attempted to quell concerns from SABA members that the College is shutting down work sites found in non-compliance with its standards, saying his organization is not concerned with shutting down legitimate businesses.
“We’d be looking for repeat offenders, grey industries, people who prey on seniors, or have no skills at all.”
Some members had heard horror stories of the College threatening to revoke tradesmen’s red seal of approval, while others are worried registering with the College will put them on the radar, leaving them open to surprise audits while unregistered, underground companies go unbothered.
“If you hear about these things, let me know,” he answered. “If we know about them, we can fix it.”
In closing, Tsubouchi once more implored SABA to join the College in order to bring their expertise to decision making processes.
“We don’t want to create more red tape,” he said. “Nobody wants more paperwork.”