Kailan Ambrose wants to keep earning a living.
But after more than seven years of cutting hair professionally, the mother of a young son is being ordered by the Ontario College of Trades to pass a written test by July — a task she struggles with although her employer and clients have no doubts about her skills.
Without a certificate of qualification, she can no longer legally do her job.
“I love what I do,” Ambrose said. “I’m going to keep on fighting … and I want to work.”
During a campaign stop at a First Choice Haircutters in Pickering Tuesday, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak promised a crowd of hairstylists that his plan for small business includes a commitment “to get out of your hair” by chopping the college.
“It’s not really even a college; it’s not an educational institution,” he said. “That’s just a phony name for an expensive new bureaucracy that Dalton McGuinty, Kathleen Wynne, the Liberals and the NDP set up to reward powerful special interests.”
The college was set up by the Ontario Liberals in 2009.
Opponents argue it gives new powers to unions to control who can do what on a job site.
Lynda Murphy, president of First Choice Haircutters, said the college’s $120 annual fee, which is 600% higher than the fee it replaced, creates needless bureaucracy and could push some hairstylists into the underground economy.
The industry’s customers and employees are already protected by inspectors who enforce the building code, labour laws and public health rules, she said.
The college sends inspectors, who include retired police officers and a former fry cook, to enforce the fee, she said.
“The cost to set up an average salon of this size in excess of $150,000,” Murphy said. “The salon owner, whoever that happens to be, wants to make sure that they have qualified people that understand the trade working behind the chair or you won’t have customers walking back through the door.”
A Liberal campaign spokesperson said in a statement that the government established the college to promote trades to young people and give tradespeople decision-making power over their careers.
“In the past, decisions about the future of the hairstyling industry were made in the back rooms at Queen’s Park and Tim Hudak wants to return decision-making power there,” the statement says. “Now, if the industry wants to make changes to their designation, the College of Trades gives them the ability to do so through an open and transparent review process.
“It’s the college’s goal is ensure that tradespeople, including hairstylists, are certified in the work they are performing,” the Liberal statement said, adding that a deadline for obtaining a certificate of qualification ensures someone doesn’t remain an apprentice at lower wages for a significant period of time.