PICKERING, Ont. - Ontario's trades-regulating body is a job-killing bureaucracy that he would abolish immediately on becoming premier, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Tuesday.
Speaking in a hair salon east of Toronto, Hudak attacked the Ontario College of Trades as a self-serving creation of the Liberals to reward their union friends.
"We don't need an expensive government bureaucracy to tell people where to get their hair cut," Hudak said.
"It's nothing more than a giveaway to the power brokers and union bosses."
Hudak did not say who would ensure tradespeople, such as bricklayers, carpenters, or hazardous materials workers, were in fact qualified to do their work in the absence of the college.
The college's CEO is Hudak's former Conservative cabinet colleague, David Tsubouchi, and its board chairman, Ron Johnson, is a former Tory politician who has called the PC leader's view of the college offensive.
On hand for Hudak's campaign event was Kailan Ambrose, 30, a seven-year hairdresser, who has failed six times to pass a college-mandated written test at $169 a shot because of a learning disability.
As a result, she could lose her licence, despite her customers' satisfaction.
"The college should be abolished, totally," Ambrose said.
"They're ruining people's lives."
Ambrose, a mother of a three-year-old, called the prospect of losing her licence "frightening."
The college, which speaks for close to 160 different skilled trades including call-centre operators, cooks, electricians and bakers, is an industry-driven body designed to protect the public.
Like other self-regulating bodies, it certifies the qualifications of members, establishes apprenticeship programs and the scope of practice for trades.
At the moment, college membership is only mandatory for about 150,000 workers in 22 skilled trades that require certification.
The Liberals initially set up the college, with a budget of about $20 million a year, in the fall of 2009 following two in-depth reports on the regulation of skilled trades in the province.
It is run by a 21-member board of governors comprising employer and employee representatives.
Both the Liberals and New Democrats have defended it as necessary to ensure the safety of consumers, and argue it needs to be given time to see how well it functions.
Premier Kathleen Wynne acknowledged concerns with the college and said a re-elected Liberal government would conduct a special advisory review.
"It's a very new entity," Wynne said in Sudbury.
"Figuring out whether the scope of its authority is the right scope and, in the interim, putting a moratorium on any more compulsory trades being identified while we do that review - that's the responsible thing to do," she said.
Hudak calls the college a tax on those who use their hands, and said he would not replace it with another kind of regulatory body if he's elected June 12.
The expensive new bureaucracy made up of "job-blocking bureaucrats with political motivation," Hudak said, would be part of the cuts he would make to the public sector.
He did promise to stick to the Liberals' minimum wage raise to $11 an hour and then keep it tied to inflation.