The construction business in Canada has been booming for years now, with few signs to suggest the good times will be abating any time soon. Anyone who’s ever tried to track down and hire skilled workers to renovate their home in boom times like these understands all too well that there's a shortage of capable contractors out there, and good money to be made for those who can rise to the occasion.
If you're a skilled labourer yourself and thinking about becoming a licensed contractor, you probably already know that this is an excellent time to get started. Yet as attractive an option as it may be, launching any formal commercial endeavour in the construction industry typically requires specialized equipment, commercial financing, and a substantial amount of licensing paperwork.
Laws and regulations vary slightly from province to province, but for the most part they all adhere to the same guidelines. Here are some key points to consider.
The first thing you'll need to do is name and register your business in the town and province where you're located. This is also a good time to determine if you want to retain a sole proprietorship or incorporate your company.
Both options have their pros and cons. Briefly, when you incorporate your business it becomes its own entity and has its own liability risk separate from you as an individual, limiting your personal liability. Plus, there can be tax advantages to incorporating, whereas with a sole proprietorship your business is automatically considered part of your personal tax account.
There are other factors to consider that we won't get into here, one being that it's more expensive to incorporate than it is to acquire a simple business license for a sole proprietorship, but these are the primary differences.
Once you have your business registered, there are a series of licenses and permits you'll need to secure before you can start soliciting work. The following lists the various contractor and trade license requirements you'll need to meet in each Canadian province and territory.
In Alberta prepaid contractors must be licensed by Service Alberta while all tradespeople in “designated trades” (gas fitters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) must have their Certificate of Qualification, which is acquired through Alberta Advanced Education.
Some municipalities require electricians to secure additional licensing and permits. Building permit requirements vary according to the rules outlined in the Alberta Building Code, Gas Code, and Plumbing Code.
The Industry Training Authority in British Columbia regulates and monitors trades in the province. As in Alberta, all BC tradespeople in "regulated trades" must have their Certificate of Qualification while electricians, gas fitters, refrigeration/air conditioning mechanics, and residential builders are all required to have their own specific licenses to work in their respective fields.
If your company will be building houses from top to bottom, as a Licensed Residential Builder you will need to secure a BC building permit and mandatory warranty insurance for each individual project you take on.
Compulsory trades (bricklaying, electrical, plumbing, refrigeration/air conditioning mechanics, oil burner mechanics and others) are regulated under the Apprenticeship and Certification Act, while all Journeypeople are required to have a Certificate of Qualification and the respective licenses required to work in their specific field.
Some municipalities demand tradespeople obtain specific wiring, plumbing and building permits in order to work in their jurisdiction.
New Brunswick doesn't require licenses for most tradespeople outside of electricians, plumbers, and pressure gas workers. However, Certificates of Qualification are required for all trades.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The Apprenticeship and Trades Certification Division regulates and monitors trades in the province and requires Journeypeople to hold a Certificate of Qualification and the appropriate license to work in their respective fields.
Electricians must have their Contractor's Registration Certification and an electrical permit in order to work in the province. Some municipalities have their own additional permit requirements.
Northwest Territories and Nunavut
The Department of Education, Culture and Employment regulates trades across the Northwest Territories, while the Department of Family Services Apprenticeship Unit is responsible for Nunavut. People working in compulsory trades are required to have their Certificate of Qualification.
Additional licensing is required for electrical and refrigeration/air conditioning mechanics as are permits for individual projects. Permit requirements (building, occupancy and plumbing) are contingent on municipal bylaws.
The Labour and Workforce Development Office regulates and monitors the trades in Nova Scotia. Journeypeople (bricklayers, oil heat system technicians, plumbers, refrigeration/air conditioning mechanics, construction electrical workers, gas fitters) must have their Certificate of Qualification and Certificate of Apprenticeship in order to work in the province.
Gas fitters and electricians need additional licenses and permits before any work can begin. Construction permits vary by municipality.
The Ontario College of Trades (OCT) regulates and monitors trades in the province and is responsible for issuing Certificates of Qualification to compulsory trades, although the Electrical Safety Authority and the Electrical Contractor Registration monitor electricians within the province.
The OCT actively pursues and penalizes unregistered or uncertified tradespeople. All tradespeople must have their Certification of Qualification while electricians require a valid Electrical Contractor's license. Some plumbers must also be licensed. Municipal bylaws dictate permit requirements for individual projects.
Prince Edward Island
The Government of P.E.I. oversees all trades in the province. All workers in compulsory trades must have their Certificate of Qualification while construction electricians and plumbers must be licensed, certified, and hold the appropriate permits before working in their respective fields. Heat tank installers and refrigeration/air conditioning mechanics must also be certified and licensed.
The Régie du bâtiment Quebec and the Corporation des maîtres mécaniciens en tuyauterie du Québec regulate trades across the province in conjunction with the Commission de la construction du Quebec and Emploi-Quebec. Each organization regulates and certifies different trades.
Journeypeople working in compulsory trades all require a Certificate of Qualification and license specific to their trade. Certified and licensed trades include: electrical, gas fitting, plumbing, and refrigeration/air conditioning mechanics. Permits are contingent on municipal bylaws.
The Ministry of Government Relations certifies gas fitters and electricians while the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission regulates all other trades in the province.
All people working compulsory trades must have their Certificate of Qualification, while construction electricians, plumbers, and refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics must be certified by both bodies. Electrical, gas, and building permits are contingent upon municipal bylaws.
The Ministry of Education certifies trades in the Yukon, where all tradespeople are required to have their Certificate of Qualification. Regulated trades include gas fitting, electrical, and oil burner mechanics. Gas fitters must be licensed. All contractors must have a valid Contractor's License.
Building permits (which include plumbing) are required throughout the territory. Electrical permits are required, but are accessible to both professionals and qualified homeowners. Permit bylaws are specific to individual municipalities.
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