NDP says new framework benefits workers and communities; BC Liberals call it gift to union friends

A new, landmark agreement for key public-sector infrastructure projects in B.C. will deliver good-paying jobs, better training and apprenticeships, and more trades opportunities for Indigenous peoples, women and youth around the province, Premier John Horgan announced on Monday.

“British Columbians rightfully expect B.C. projects to benefit B.C. workers, families and communities. Our new Community Benefits Agreement will help deliver those benefits,” said Horgan.

“With this agreement, we’re not just investing in roads, bridges and other infrastructure, we’re investing in good jobs and new opportunities for people who live in B.C. And with our focus on expanding apprenticeships for young British Columbians, we’re helping build B.C.’s next generation of construction workers.”

Highlights of the agreement include:

* A targeted approach to maximizing apprenticeship opportunities on major public-infrastructure projects.

* Focus on priority hiring and training of Indigenous peoples, and women.

* Co-ordinated access to existing training programs, while identifying and addressing skills gaps.

* Priority hiring for qualified individuals who live within close proximity of the projects.

* Hiring flexibility for contractors, who can request named hires.

* Wage alignment to prevailing industry rates to promote good wages for all employees.

The first projects to be delivered under the new community benefits framework are the new Pattullo Bridge, and the four-laning projects on the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops and Alberta. The request for qualifications (RFQ) for the Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project has been released.

“British Columbians deserve the opportunity to work on major government projects being built in and near their communities,” said Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “This Community Benefits Agreement will put local people first in line for good jobs building the roads, bridges and other infrastructure we need.”

Under government’s new Community Benefits Agreement, a diverse and qualified workforce will be supplied for select major public infrastructure projects through a newly created Crown corporation, BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. (BCIB). BCIB will hire the project’s construction workers, and will work with unions and contractors to dispatch labour, as well as manage payroll and benefits.

“We continue to work with Indigenous groups and women in trades to expand apprenticeship and employment opportunities,” said Tom Sigurdson, Executive Director, BC Building Trades. “Under a Community Benefits Agreement, these initiatives will translate directly into apprenticeship completions, which, in turn, will allow B.C. residents to support their families, to invest in their communities, and to build the B.C. economy.”

Signatories to the Community Benefits Agreement are BCIB, and the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council (AIRCC), which represents many of B.C.’s building trades. Contractors representing B.C.’s construction industry played an important advisory role as the agreement was developed.


THE BC Liberals responded to the announcement by accusing Horgan of prioritizing the well-being of his union supporters.

They said the so-called “Community Benefits Agreements” amounts to little more than a political payoff at the taxpayer’s expense. The NDP is also once again trying to pull the wool over British Columbians’ eyes with the deceptive labeling of an initiative that costs more money and only benefits their biggest political champions.

BC Liberals said the announcements claws back freedoms for our construction industry, and it forces workers into union memberships. As they have done repeatedly in the past, the NDP once again chooses to give British Columbian taxpayers less, for more.

“We’ve seen how the NDP has managed project labour agreements in the past — costs of the project go up, and taxpayers are ultimately on the hook,” said Jas Johal, BC Liberal Jobs Critic and MLA for Richmond-Queensborough. “If history is any indication, this move will provide yet another example of the NDP not being very good at spending British Columbians’ hard-earned money.”

For example, the Project Labour Agreement model increased the cost of the inland island highway by 38 per cent and resulted in delays and a scaled-back project.

“Excluding qualified companies from bidding on government contracts is unfair, causes needless delays, and inflates costs,” said John Martin, BC Liberal Labour Critic and MLA for Chilliwack. “British Columbians deserve better than this, for projects they care about and are paying for. A deal that is a payoff for past donations to the NDP is simply wrong. We need to see the best price, not payoffs.”

As B.C. approaches the official first anniversary of this government, this announcement confirms that the NDP is bad for hardworking British Columbians, the BC Liberals claimed.