Glen Walter barber refuses to pay new trades fee

Glen Walter barber refuses to pay new trades fee
Chris Bourgon cuts the hair of a customer at his Glen Walter barbershop.

Chris Bourgon says he'll close his barbershop before agreeing to pay new membership fees to a trades college he wants no part of.

The Glen Walter small businessman is caught up in what is becoming a provincial battle between tradespeople and a newly created fees scheme created by the Ontario College of Trades.

The college will begin collecting membership dues Jan. 1 - which for Bourgon means about $680 a year.

It might not sound like much when spread over 365 days, but Bourgon argues it adds up to nearly four days of work. And he still hasn't been told what he's getting for his hard-earned donation to the college.

“It's money that is taking food out of my kids' mouth,” he said, adding he'd rather close than pay it. “I'm flat-out not going to pay for this...and they can come to my front door looking for it if they want.”

One can't find a smaller business than Bourgon's. It's 132 square feet of nostalgia with one barber chair and six seats for customers to wait. Bourgon is a third-generation barber who charges the same thing he did seven years ago: $12.75 a haircut.

“What they're going to create is an underground industry,” said Bourgon, who argues others in his profession will simply open basement operations to hide from prying eyes. “There'll be a secret knock on the door and they will be in business.”

According to its mandate, the College of Trades has been created to issue licences and certificates, set standards for training and certification, and support apprenticeship and certification policies.

Trades sectors across the province are concerned with the potential impact of the agency.

Karen Renkema, the Ontario Road Builders’ Association Director of Government Relations, has a concern over the transparency and accountability of the college and said there is little information being shared with stakeholders.

“There is a direct interest in the college to expand the number of compulsory trades because that would increase the membership of the college,” said Renkema earlier this year. “That would increase the funding of the college by having the majority of the members on both the board of governors and the divisional board representing either compulsory trades or those that are in favour of compulsory trades.”

Ron Bergeron, President of Bergeron Electric is equally concerned.

“This agency has already targeted 22 compulsory trades and that includes hair stylists and most of the automotive sector,” he said prior to a meeting convened by the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce concerning the college. “There are a total of 135 additional trades that could be declared compulsory and the tradespeople in each of the sectors will be forced to pay an annual fee and their employers will be even harder hit.”

- With Seaway News files

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