The Pattullo Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey is due for replacement. (Black Press files)

Non-union builders protest exclusion from B.C. public projects

Premier John Horgan announces new Crown corporation for public works

Premier John Horgan has announced a new Crown corporation for public construction, in an agreement with the B.C. Building Trades unions.

Horgan announced the Pattullo Bridge project will be the first of the province’s new “community benefits agreements,” in reference to local hiring and apprenticeship quotas for government infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and hospitals. The Pattullo project agreement includes priority hiring for women and aboriginal people, Horgan told a news conference at the B.C. Institute of Technology Monday.

Four-laning of the Trans Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border will also be subject to the new agreement with the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council.

Non-union construction companies warn that restricted bidding for those projects will push up costs, pointing to previous NDP-union projects such as the Island Highway construction in the 1990s.

Horgan first announced his intention to move to union-only projects in March, with the decision to accelerate replacement of the Pattullo Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey. He called the bridge replacement “the perfect template” for a province-wide policy for public construction.

RELATED: Horgan vows union public construction

The location of Monday’s announcement is significant. Horgan and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena chose the Ironworkers training facility at BCIT, a nod to the union that is key to bridge construction.

The B.C. local of the Ironworkers International gave a high-profile endorsement to former premier Christy Clark in the 2017 election, after breaking with its traditional ally the NDP over Horgan’s rejection of a bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel connecting Richmond and Delta.

RELATED: Ironworkers endorse Clark, rap B.C. Fed

Since forming a minority government, Horgan has also ordered B.C. Hydro to return to union-only construction for its infrastructure. The Site C dam project on the Peace River became the utility’s first open-shop project under the B.C. Liberals, opening up contracts to local aboriginal companies and others not aligned with the B.C. Building Trades Council.

Chris Gardner, president of the non-union Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, says the “rebranding” of union project labour agreements won’t make them work better.

“They require union memberships for non-union workers, antiquated union-hall hiring, and they deliver windfalls to the favoured unions involved,” Gardner said.

He notes that since 1981, the traditional trade union share of B.C. construction work has fallen from 90 per cent to 15 per cent.

Critics of the union-only approach point to the Island Highway project, a series of upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway between Victoria and Campbell River in the 1990s. The project was completed after a series of cost overruns and reduction in scope, including replacement of interchanges with traffic lights.

One of those, at McKenzie Avenue north of Victoria, is finally getting an interchange installed now.

RELATED: Province to speed up traffic at McKenzie Interchange

Just Posted

Ocean “Blob” returns to North Coast of B.C.

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

CCRD Candidates detail their election platforms

More candidate profiles to come….

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

B.C. passenger caught smoking weed in a car issued $230 fine

Saanich police did a field sobriety test on the driver and deemed it safe for him to drive

Payette invites critics to ‘come and spend a few days’ with her

Governor General Julie Payette made her first official to B.C. back in March

More pot stores expected in B.C. in coming ‘weeks and months’: attorney general

Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth visited the new BC Cannabis Store in the province’s Interior

Telus launches charitable foundation to help vulnerable youth

The Telus Friendly Future Foundation complements other social initiatives by the company, including Mobility for Good

Police say suspicious death of B.C. artist ruled a homicide

Patrick Zube Aylward’s body was found in a residence on a rural road outside of Seton Portage, west of Lillooet, B.C.

Temporary roads being built in areas affected by landslide in northern B.C.

Emergency Management BC news release says Disaster Financial Assistance is available to eligible residents of the Peace River Regional District who may have been affected by the landslides

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

Most Read