Critics of the Ontario College of Trades are calling the new organization an $84-million tax on tradespeople and an unnecessary intrusion on their independence.

The college was introduced in January. Membership is mandatory for the trades it oversees.

Supporters, including the provincial government, say the college is a necessary way to regulate tradespeople and protect consumers.

“Sometimes people are not happy with the work they get done at their home. This gives them a voice,” says Gail Smyth, the executive director of Skills Canada Ontario and an advisor to the college.

But tradespeople aren’t so happy about the new layer of regulation.

Kitchener electrician Mark Dunbar says he’ll be charged $120 per year in college membership fees – well above the $22 per year he had been paying for certification.

“Most trades like to be individuals,” Dunbar tells CTV.

“They like to run their own shops the way they feel fit, and they just feel this is an encroachment on their independence.”

As far as consumers are concerned, Dunbar says the college won’t look out for them as well as consumers can themselves.

“If you really want safety as a consumer, you should ask your electrician, your tradespeople, whether they have a license,” he says.

Thirty-three different trades, employing 150,000 workers, are tested and certified by the Ontario College of Trades.