Straight Talk
CHRISTINA BLIZZARD - Businesses over-taxed by province of Ontario

Kevin Hodges is upset with the new government regulations regarding skilled trades.

Credits: Julie Jocsak/ St. Catharines Standard/QMI Agency

CHRISTINA BLIZZARD | QMI AGENCY

Electrician Kevin Hodges thought he’d got his wires crossed when he heard the news.

As of Jan. 1, the St. Catharines, Ont., small-business owner is going to have to pay Workplace Safety and Insurance Board premiums on his own income.

Until now, like all small-business owners, he’s been exempt. Next year he’ll have to pay 3.1% on his salary.

Also in the new year, the mandatory requirement for him to join the new College of Trades kicks in — so he’ll be forced to cough up another $100 a year to pay for that.

“I’m not one of these angry business owners who’s allergic to taxes and who doesn’t think I have to pay my fair share,” Hodges said.

“I understand what taxes do and I generally support them, but we’re getting to a point where someone in Ontario needs to take a step back and take a look at the tax load, because they’re starting to mathematically eliminate small businesses,” he said.

He employs two to three people, depending on his workload. Between the federal and provincial governments, he pays $100,000 annually in taxes and licensing fees.

His annual employee deductions are around $48,000 and he pays $32,000 a year in HST.

On top of that, he has to pay provincially mandated inspection fees and inspection costs to the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA).

“Between the fees and other add-ons they charge me for, I’m at about $15,000,” he said.

“My WSIB premiums are $5,000 a year — so you’re at $100,000 in a small, three-person business.”

WSIB fees and ESA inspection fees are going up more than 3% in January. And the College of Trades is the seventh — yep, seventh — professional licence or certificate he has to hold in order to do business.

Here’s the breakdown:

-Ontario business licence — $60 every three years
-Registration with WSIB
-309a electrical licence — $60 every three years
-ESA electrical contractor’s licence
-He not only has to be an electrician, he has to be a registered contractor — $380 a year — and going up 3%.
-To own a business, he has to be not only a licensed electrician and an electrical contractor, but now also a master electrician.
“That cost me $1,000 in night school classes and my annual renewal is $80,” he said.
He holds an ESA certificate, which means he’s achieved a certain level, so gets less onerous inspections — but that’s $200 a year.

Now he has the College of Trades at $100 a year on top of that — and there are still regular workplace inspections of licences.

“It leaves me precious little to operate on,” he said.

He resents the WSIB payment.

“I pay $120 a month for private insurance coverage — disability, sickness, accident 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

The WSIB insurance covers him only for disability, eight hours a day, five days a week, while the private insurance gives him round-the-clock sickness and accident coverage on top of disability.

It’s all fuelling an underground economy. Homeowners can get their own permits and pay what Hodges calls the “trunk trade” — unlicensed workers who work out of the trunks of their cars and who don’t pay taxes and insurance. Instead of putting the squeeze on hard-working tradespeople, perhaps it’s time to pull the plug on a government that’s forcing them out of business.

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